5.Dec.2009 at 5 | David Ucko
Maj. Niel Smith, formerly of the US Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center, has written a very important article for the Small Wars Journal on the integration of counterinsurgency in the Army’s professional military education (PME). In it, he argues that:
Counterinsurgency instruction remains uneven in quantity and quality throughout Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) institutions, which have failed to define standards, competencies and outcomes for COIN education.
The piece illustrates once again the ambivalence of the U.S. Army’s reorientation toward counterinsurgency. Maj. Smith makes the case that counterinsurgency must be better integrated in the Army’s PME, both to help soldiers process and learn from their operational experiences, and to guarantee a better ‘linkage between doctrine and application’ in the field.
There is a need, in other words, to make difficult trade-offs if the Army is in fact serious about adapting to the contemporary operating environment. Yet as Maj. Smith concludes:
Integrating COIN does not require divestiture of conventional warfare competency. If the Army is serious about implementing the “full spectrum” concept, it must reform its educational base to provide a full spectrum education covering both conventional warfare tasks and prepare for irregular warfare. This instruction must emphasize the “how” to think, to understand the differences and similarities between the two environments and to apply the right approach in the right context at the right time.
In combination with the last post on the need to change U.S. Army force structure for irregular operations, this article by Maj. Smith should be required reading for those out there suggesting that the Army is now an ‘COIN only’ force. It should also be read more widely for its very valuable recommendations on how to reform Army PME to better integrate counterinsurgency. Some might say its long overdue…
Dr Mark Moyar weighs in Maj. Smith’s article, adding some insight from his experience as course director at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College. Some of the key take-aways,
- if teaching of counterinsurgency is to be made more uniform, so must the exhortation toward adaptation to local circumstances — (so ‘conform to non-conformity’)
- the factors militating against change in PME curricula: resistance within schools to outside interference; limited number of course hours and need for trade-offs; professors who are unconvinced of the ‘COIN fad’.
- need to emphasise history in counterinsurgency-related education
- move away from lecture toward seminars and other more interactive means of learning
You can read the whole of Dr Mark Moyar’s text here.