New Report: Rise in Counterinsurgency

By Peter Katel, September 5, 2008

Will new tactics weaken the military?

U.S. troops are using new tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead of trying to defeat the enemy by brute force, they are focusing on counterinsurgency – protecting civilians and relying on them to provide information on enemy activity. But some military experts argue that too much emphasis on “winning hearts and minds” is weakening the skills needed in conventional combat – from rapid infantry advances to accurate artillery marksmanship to tank tactics. Counterinsurgency advocates concede that some of these capabilities may decline, partly because U.S. foes on today’s Third World battlefields don’t have air power or armor. Still, they say no sane enemy would challenge the powerful U.S. military in a traditional, World War II-style conflict. But even battle-hardened veterans of today’s conflicts acknowledge that military forecasting is an inexact science and that the biggest danger can be planning ahead – for last year’s war.

• Is counterinsurgency the next wave of warfare?
• Should the Army form an advisers corps?
• Is the emphasis on counterinsurgency weakening the military?

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