You are on page 1of 25

Go Goliath!

America, Light Footprints, and the Challenge of Asymmetric Warfare

Cole Pinheiro1

There are two ways to fight the U.S. military—asymmetrically and stupid. Future

enemies will not be passive; they will make every effort to avoid U.S. strengths, emulate

advanced U.S. capabilities, and disrupt U.S. advantages.

- LTG H.R. McMaster, “Continuity and Change” (2015)

In 2014, the United States spent over $610 billion on defense, more than the next seven

countries combined.2 This disparity in military spending creates vast inequalities in terms of

military power – a modern David and Goliath situation. As long as these inequalities exist, we

should expect less powerful actors to employ the “weapons of the weak”: terrorism and

insurgency.3 We should also expect strong states to protect themselves and counter actors that

attempt to challenge the status quo.

Over the past decade, the United States used population-centric counterinsurgency

strategies in Afghanistan and Iraq with limited success. Both campaigns sought to secure the

The views expressed in this article are personal and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United
States Military Academy, Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the United States government.
Peter G. Peterson Foundation, “The U.S. spends more on defense than the next seven countries combined”,, April 13, 2015.
Martha Crenshaw, “The Causes of Terrorism,” Comparative Politics, Vol. 13, No. 4. (Jul., 1981), 387.


population and build local support for the new governments.4 These conflicts were tremendously

expensive in terms of blood and treasure, but neither produced a definitive victory for the United

States. Domestically the wars generated political, military, and public aversion to large-scale,

American-led counterinsurgency operations. Consequently, many continue to question the

efficacy of America’s counterinsurgency doctrine. After Iraq and Afghanistan, it is not clear

whether powerful states have learned how to overcome asymmetric threats to their power.

Many U.S. policymakers learned from Iraq and Afghanistan that it is best to avoid

counterinsurgency campaigns altogether. But policymakers are not always free to choose which

conflicts will arise. The era of transnational threats persists; religious extremism, organized

crime, ethnic and sectarian rivalry, poor governance, failing states, and other drivers of terrorism

and insurgency continue to grow.5 Asymmetric threats – actors that attempt to avoid a state’s

strength and attack where the state is weak in order to achieve a political aim – are likely to

remain a central concern for U.S. foreign policy. This paper intends to frame the central

questions facing policymakers as they grapple with these sorts of threats. Given current political

and fiscal realities, how should the United States structure their military force? Is it possible to

use counterinsurgency strategies to intervene successfully against contemporary threats like the

Islamic State (IS)? What other asymmetric threats loom on the horizon?

David Comes of Age: The Evolution of the Modern Asymmetric Threat

Asymmetric War refers to a conflict involving a sizeable power gap between two rivals.

This power disparity refers mainly to military capability, but can also include economic,

Joseph J. Collins, Understanding War in Afghanistan (Washington D.C.: National Defense University Press,
2011), 54-55.
T.X. Hammes, “The Future of Counterinsurgency”, Foreign Policy Research Institute, Fall 2012,, 586-587.

and political power.the source of recruits. 88. trans. the insurgent must focus on controlling and organizing the population. 43. “troops should have a precise conception of the political goal of the struggle and political organization to be used in attaining the goal. shelter. 10 Tse-tung. urban warfare.that a guerilla fighter relies on the support of the people . Samuel B Griffith (New York: BN Publishing.remains central to understanding asymmetric war today. and proxy warfare. 93. Mao prescribes a peasant mobilization to defeat the ruling authority. On Guerilla Warfare. intelligence. Mao argues that guerillas cannot survive without the population. 8 Tse-tung. MaoTse-tung was the most influential theorist and practitioner of this form of warfare.”11 Propaganda educates the masses. Chaplin. 73. reform society. On Guerilla Warfare. and weakens the enemy.9 Thus. Asymmetric war encompasses multiple categories of sub-state violence including: insurgency. His central premise .6 In the protracted campaign he argues that popular will and political factors are supreme. On Guerilla Warfare. and freedom of movement. 9 Tse-tung. 2007). 2003). According to Mao.12 The key is to “link the political mobilization for the war with developments in the war and with the life of the soldiers and the people. 46. supplies. . guerilla warfare. and make it a 6 Mao Tse-tung. terrorism. On Guerilla Warfare. it cannot live. Terror: The New Theater of War: Mao’s Legacy: Selected Cases of Terrorism in the 20 th and 21st Centuries (New York: University Press of America. Mao’s Contribution Mao’s concept of revolutionary war combines traditional guerilla warfare with political mass movements. On Guerilla Warfare. “like a fish out of its native element. 93. 7 A. On Guerilla Warfare.”8 The people are “the fountainhead of guerilla warfare” . 7. 11 Tse-tung. 12 Tse-tung.”10 Asymmetric war is as intensely psychological as it is political. and alter economic conditions. disciplines the troops. 3 diplomatic.7 The insurgency must pursue political objectives that “coincide with the aspirations of the people.

Hammes.19 Mao exported his doctrine and provided a successful template to aspiring revolutionaries. the insurgents shift to a conventional offensive to defeat the military and usurp the regime. This requires a vanguard. 14 Bard O’neill. and strategic offensive. insurgents build clandestine infrastructure. 103. . On Guerilla Warfare. tempt. 224. However. The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21 st Century (Saint Paul: Zenith Press. On Guerilla Warfare. and 13 Bruno Shaw. Sarkesian (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers. separate the people from the government. 15 Tse-tung. 16 Tse-tung.16 Small unit tactics “deceive. and survive. 18 O’neill. Sam C. 2006). 2d Edition (Washington DC: Potomac Books. He understood that “strategic theory has meaning only in terms of the concrete political.14 In the strategic defensive phase. “Selections from Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung” in Revolutionary Guerilla Warfare: Theories. and conduct protracted warfare. 4 continuous movement.”17 Guerillas attack the enemy’s vulnerabilities and spread fear through sabotage. Mao never intended his theory as a universal blueprint. Guerillas avoid decisive battle and remain mobile to survive. establish administration. gain sympathetic support. On Guerilla Warfare. and he emphasized the need for variation. 2005). an elite group of leaders capable of building a political and military organization. Units require secure bases for training and force generation.15 In the initial phase leaders enmesh the people’s grievances with political ideology and the revolution’s objectives. 52-53. ed. strategic stalemate. 50 -51. 2010).X. 19 T.”13 Propaganda and ideology achieve unity of effort. Doctrines and Contexts. they isolate the people from the government. 50. and confuse the enemy. 44-45. Insurgency & Terrorism.18 Mao’s greatest contribution was his emphasis on guerillas building political support amongst the people to change the correlation of forces against a superior enemy. Finally. INC. Mao’s protracted war strategy consists of three sequential phases: strategic defensive. 57 17 Tse-tung. In phase two. strategic stalemate. making every person a resource to support the guerilla and oppose the enemy. social. Insurgency & Terrorism.

22 Hammes. 56. instead of political organization.25 Today. 24 Ernesto Che Guevara. these insurgent leaders innovated and used a variety of techniques. ed. evolved from Mao’s strategy. The Sling and the Stone. Collier. terrorism. 1-40. 54. termed 4th Generation Warfare (4GW).26 To gain popular support. Mini-manual of the Urban Guerilla. urban combat. 23 O’neill. (June 1969). 21 Shy and Collier. esoteric and exoteric appeals.23 Che Guevara advocated a military-focused strategy in which martial action. Insurgency & Terrorism. Peter Paret (Princeton University Press: New Jersey. 4GW uses superior political will to convince the enemy’s 20 John Shy and Thomas W. Guerilla Warfare. “Revolutionary War”.”20 As a practitioner. 25 Carlos Marighella. Insurgency & Terrorism. 26 O’neill. 838-839. al Qaeda and its associates follow a transnational military approach that uses attacks against America and ‘apostate’ regimes to generate support. including charismatic attraction. (1991). General Vo Nguyen Giap. he believed ultimately in bridging the gap between theory and practice. Insurgency & Terrorism. “Revolutionary War” in Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age. provocation of government repression. 1. 21 Insurgents of all flavors have studied the Maoist approach and innovated to form conflict- specific strategies. and terrorism to provoke government overreaction and galvanize support for revolution. 1986). coercion. 98-109.27 Mao’s Students TX Hammes argues that contemporary insurgency. . 27 O’neill.24 Carlos Marighella pioneered an urban guerilla strategy that combined protests.22 The Shining Path in Peru and the Union for the Total Independence of Angola preferred to weaken their rivals’ economies before confronting their military forces. and demonstrations of potency. 65-67. for instance. 5 international circumstances at the moment in which theory is being elucidated. 844. would mobilize the masses against a despotic regime. internationalized the Vietcong’s guerilla war to destroy America’s national political will.

bases and allows fighters to establish Jihadi transferred knowledge and tactics to their affiliates operating in connections.31 Operationally. 2 & 5. to destroy American armored vehicles. The Sling and the Stone. share Afghanistan. “Counterinsurgency Redux”.28 It forgoes attempts to defeat the state’s military forces and leverages new information technology and social networks to reach into the enemy’s population and weaken his political position over time. 31 Kilcullen. “Counterinsurgency Redux”. . 2-4. Although 4GW evolved from Maoist principles.pdf. and train. The Sling and the Stone. transfer knowledge. modern insurgency is transnational. it differs from Mao’s vision in some crucial respects. such as al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). 29 Hammes. 14. 6 decisionmakers that their goals are unachievable. and technology provides some coordination between various groups. 30 David Kilcullen. urban warfare and terrorism are more dominant than rural 28 Hammes. insurgents function “like a self-synchronizing swarm of independent but cooperating cells” rather than well coordinated mass organizations.30 On the strategic level. ideology. The Internet provides a virtual sanctuary that augments physical Figure 1: Insurgent is Iraq used advanced Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). “Counterinsurgency Redux” in Small Wars Journal. 32 Kilcullen. David Kilcullen describes the differences between modern insurgency and Maoist revolutionary war.conflicts that can potentially last decades.32 Tactically. such as this Explosively Formed Projectile (EFP). 6. http://smallwarsjournal. Kilcullen argues that resistance insurgencies sparked by foreign invasion are now more common than revolutionary insurgencies.29 Information dominance is critical to winning these so-called “Long Wars” .

modern asymmetric warriors still require popular support to achieve a political objective.36 Indeed. 5) Resolve the heretical Shia situation. 38 Octavian Manea. “Counterinsurgency Redux”. 34 Kilcullen. “The War of the Ether.”38 Al Qaeda’s leaders clearly understand the importance of leveraging the population. For example. 8. Dr. 2) Mobilize the Muslim people and transform al Qaeda from an organization into a self- perpetuating ideology and movement.34 Even so. in 2002 Abu Ubayd al-Qurasi. terrain and administer it… it has embraced the Maoist concepts and used the very vocabulary. 8.35 In “War of the Ether” he argued that al Qaeda must use technology to internationalize the jihad in order to destroy U.” 36 al-Qurashi. Abu Ubayd. leaders focus on perception management and media exploitation. popular support. Osama bin Laden’s strategy was an evolution of Maoist doctrine. Bin Laden advocated a sequential guerilla campaign: 1) Provoke the United States into a protracted war. lamented in Knights under the Prophet’s Banner that al Qaeda had failed to adequately mobilize Muslim 33 Kilcullen.S. an al Qaeda strategist. the importance of a central political objective. 37 Michael Scheuer. Accordingly.” Al-Ansar. these are peoples’ wars. Abu Ubayd. Deputy to Osama bin Laden and now the leader of al Qaeda. Petraeus” in Small Wars Journal. 2011). 8.37 General David Petraeus sums up Mao’s pervasive influence: “al Qaeda is trying to control populations. “Reflections on the ‘Counterinsurgency Decade’: Small Wars Journal Interview with General David H. 3) Exhaust the United States psychologically and economically to force it to withdraw. 112. . Osama Bin Laden(New York: Oxford University Press. “Counterinsurgency Redux”. 7 campaigns. violent groups continue to study and implement Maoist strategy. published a series of articles on Maoist revolution and contemporary guerilla warfare. 20 November 2002. Again. 35 al-Qurashi. Ayman al-Zawahiri.33 In the information age. In “Revolutionary War” al-Qurashi highlighted guerilla warfare tactics. and the need to dedicate equal effort to political and military lines of operation. http://smallwarsjournal. 4) Overthrow Arab apostates regimes and destroy Israel. “Revolutionary Warfare. 1 September the-counterinsurgency-decade-small-wars-journal-interview-with-general-david.

42 Osama bin Laden. Conversely.43 The direct.fas.42 large-scale. as envisioned in Field Manual 3-24: Counterinsurgency (2006).S. is expeditionary. 2011.usma. “Letter from al-Zawahiri to al-Zarqawi.pdf.usma. CTC: West Point. 54-55. Bin Laden warned al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) against pressing for an Islamic state in Yemen before establishing tribal support. “large footprint” approach. Zawahiri cautioned Zarqawi against fomenting a sectarian civil war in Iraq because it would endanger the insurgency. .ctc. 43 Collins. or is this a vulnerability that U.39 Abu Musab Aal-Zarqawi. http://www.40 Dr. http://www. and by using brute force to subjugate the people. Subsequently. 2006). The United States conducts combat operations while it develops the host nation’s institutions and security forces. The United States uses two approaches that seek to achieve popular support for the host nation government.41 Documents captured in Abbottabad also revealed bin Laden’s frustration with regional affiliates’ ineptness with the people. CTC: West Point. followed this model. the United States transitions authority and responsibility to the host nation. Letters from Abbottabad: Bin Laden Sidelined?”. and Afghanistan (post 2008). Campaigns in Vietnam (post 1965). “Osama bin Laden letter to Shaykh Mahmud (Attiyah). “small footprint” approach combines Security Force Assistance 39 Peter L. Bergen. The Osama bin Laden I Know (New York: Free 9 July 2005”. policymakers can exploit? Go Goliath: American Counterinsurgency American counterinsurgency doctrine follows Mao in focusing on the population. 1-2. leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Understanding War in Afghanistan.ctc. the Islamic State has become the most advanced jihadist group by co-opting disenfranchised Sunnis in Syria and Iraq. May-June 2010”.org/irp/news/2005/10/letter_in_english. 8 support for guerilla war. the indirect. American-led operations. 40 “The Combating Terrorism Center. http://www. This begs the question: Is it possible for insurgents to maintain popular support through brute force. 389. 2012. Iraq (2003). lost popular support by indiscriminately targeting Shia Muslims and coercing Sunni religious and tribal leaders. 41 Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) (1964-Present).48 Admittedly. “The Future of Counterinsurgency”. Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) (1981- 1991). 9 (SFA) and Foreign Internal Defense (FID) to “develop the capacity and capability of foreign security forces and their supporting institutions.”47 A partial list of successful American advisory missions would include: Greece vs. direct and indirect. Greek People’s Liberation Army (ELAS) (1945-55). Hammes. Thai Communist Party (1950-1970s).46 The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have discredited the direct approach in the eyes of many U. “The Future of Counterinsurgency”. Small Wars Journal.S.”44 Small contingents provide the host nation with funding. Moro Insurgencies (MNLF. Hukbalahap Insurgency (1946-1954). 1. 570-581. Has the indirect or small-footprint approach been similarly discredited? Historical examples suggest. training.X. .com/jrnl/art/aligning-fm-3-24-counterinsurgency-with-reality. The United States defeated the Filipino Insurrectos (1899-1902) using brutal techniques that are unsuitable in the modern information age. American intervention 44 Joint Publication 3-22. At the core of this second approach is the concept that “only local governments can establish legitimacy. http://smallwarsjournal. 46 T. as one source puts it. 566. can be seen as components of a larger strategy.”45 These two approaches. weapons. each conflict requires its own approach.X. in fact. Yet. Foreign Internal Defense. the record is not perfect. Philippines vs. 581. American support was ineffective against Mao’s Communist movement in China and against the Viet Cong in Vietnam prior to 1965.X. Thailand vs. “that comparatively small levels of American security forces can succeed in defeating overseas insurgencies. Hammes. Columbia vs. 47 Stephen L. “Aligning FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency with Reality: The U. but the host nation’s security forces perform combat operations. in the Lead COIN Approach Usually Fails Where Security Force Assistance Could Succeed”. 45 T. 12 July 2010. El Salvador vs. “The Future of Counterinsurgency”. Hammes. 48 T. policymakers.S. MILF). the indirect approach appears to have a better success rate than the direct approach. Melton. and advice. 9 April 2013. Philippines vs. and some conflicts require policymakers to combine elements of each.

49 Walter C. 2 (November 2002). The verdict for Afghanistan is still out. 19. 50 Louis Klarevas.”51 This reinforces host nation self-reliance and limits free riding. Small contingents prevent “impatient Americans from hastily attempting to do the job themselves. Above.3. and it is gripped by violence today. especially when they detect incompetence. Vol. and they do not require a large Department of Defense (DOD) commitment. .50 U.S.52 The military also avoids having to restructure the force for counterinsurgency and can prepare conventional formations for other contingencies. “Supporting Allies in Counterinsurgency”.1. public support eroded as casualties mounted in Vietnam. The host nation’s military and police do the majority of the fighting. 52 Walter C. “The Future of Counterinsurgency”. American efforts in Iraq did not produce sustainable security. Ladwig III. and believe that vital national interests are not at stake. see little military progress. 51 Hammes. No. “The ‘Essential Domino’ of Military Operations: American Public Opinion and the Use of Force.” International Studies Perspectives. American forces avoid direct combat and focus on building capabilities in the host nation’s institutions and security forces. indirect commitment may provide the United States Figure 2: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan forced the Pentagon to task Soldiers with missions that did not align useful leverage against a Pentagon that does with their specialties. No. Small footprint approaches rely primarily on Special Operations Forces and intelligence agencies. “Supporting Allies in Counterinsurgency”. Maintaining low troop levels in an advisory role appears to provide U.S. policymakers with many benefits. Iraq. 10 in South Vietnam (1965-1975) was a failure. and Afghanistan. Consequently. M1A2 Armored crewman prepare explosives to clear a minefield during a dismounted patrol in the Arghandab River Valley. Vol.49 Studies suggest that the American public is casualty-averse. March 2008 (62-88). 571. 80. 80. “a small. Kandahar. Small Wars & Insurgencies. Afghanistan. 417-437. Ladwig III.

59 It is extremely difficult for host nations to succeed without legitimacy.”56 Advisors also stay long enough to develop local expertise and fight the long war. small footprint missions can also prove attractive. 582. “Aligning FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency with Reality”. U. 11 not favor a counterinsurgency campaign. 6. September 6.54 Small footprint counterinsurgency is more likely to survive multiple political administrations because it is less costly. “The Fallacies of Big Expeditionary Counterinsurgency: Interview with T. advisory missions do not exhaust the military or the economy. Hammes”. “The Future of Counterinsurgency”. is interested. 59 Hammes. 58 Melton. “The Future of Counterinsurgency”. so long as U. A large military presence distorts the political and economic reality and damages the state’s ability to govern.” 58 This risk is usually more pronounced in large rather than small-scale interventions. 56 Octavian Manea. Edwin counterinsurgency-interview-with-tx-hammes. 571. Small Wars Journal. Colombia. eds. and train specialized units. Hammes.”55 This produces consistency in American foreign policy and provides “the long term support the host nation needs to make the difficult political. 54 Hammes. (Oxford: Westview Press.” 57 Max G. 1992). 55 Octavian Manea. and Africa. “The Future of Counterinsurgency”.S. Properly executed. and economic changes necessary to neutralize the drivers of an insurgency. Corr and Stephen Sloan. update doctrine. advisory missions in the Philippines. they may prove more sustainable than the alternative.X. 12. 2013. “The Fallacies of Big Expeditionary Counterinsurgency: Interview with T. http://smallwarsjournal.S. Unlike large footprint counterinsurgency operations. Low-Intensity Conflict: Old Threats in a New World. social. “Aligning FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency with Reality”.60 Large-scale interventions can also generate 53 Hammes. 60 Melton. 4. “Uncomfortable Wars: Toward a New Paradigm of Low-Intensity Conflict”.X. . For the host nation. for instance. forces protect the host nation’s sovereignty and legitimacy. 586.”53 Small footprint strategies do require the military to maintain a FID capability. Manwaring. and they cannot achieve legitimacy if they are occupied by a foreign power.57 American-led operations always risk undermining “the legitimacy of the government we are attempting to support. managed to “stay small enough so that no one in the U.S.

62 The war of ideas and the insurgents’ narrative are paramount. 64 Joint Publication 3-22.” Critics argue that the United States created proxy governments in South Vietnam. 12 “accidental guerillas. The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One. “The Future of Counterinsurgency”.e. It is a “multinational and interagency effort. and the ability to coordinate 61 David Kilcullen. 63 Melton. can prove important in asymmetric war.61 Modern insurgencies forgo attempts to defeat the state’s military forces and use information technology to weaken the state’s political will. The Sling and the Stone. Messaging shapes both domestic and international support..” i. 14.” and reduce the host nation to a “puppet regime. 62 Hammes. 584 . whether or not it is true. cause otherwise peaceful people to join the fight. 12 July 2010. Military occupation can validate the enemy’s narrative. 34-38. military. police. Figure 3: An IED detonates in Southern Baghdad as an American armored column moves to establish security at a voting center for Iraq’s first “legitimate. paint the United States as “Crusaders. Iraq. 5. requiring integration and synchronization of all instruments of national power. “Aligning FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency with Reality”. economic.” and “fair” parliamentary elections in December 2005. legislative. administrative structure.”64 The United States assists the political.63 The mere perception that this is so. then used military power to defend them from their own countrymen who opposed them. Oxford University Press. and intelligence functions of the government. 2009.” “Occupiers. Foreign Internal Defense. and Afghanistan.” “free.65 Therefore.” or “Imperialists. Small footprint counterinsurgency has important limitations. 65 Hammes. judicial. advisory missions require a standing government with some political capacity.

69 Hammes. A small contingent of advisors is also inadequate for a failed state. “Going to War with the Allies You Have”. “Supporting Allies in Counterinsurgency”.strategicstudiesinstitute. 67 Collins. Understanding War in Afghanistan. Viii. November 2005. http://www. Washington threatened to withdraw assistance to compel the Salvadorian 66 Ladwig III. National Defense Research Institute. “American Counterinsurgency Doctrine and El Salvador: The Frustrations of Reform and the Illusions of Nation Building”. Counterinsurgency. 81. 68 Daniel Byman. 71 “Supporting Allies in Counterinsurgency”.pdf. The American advisory mission to El Salvador illustrates the advisor’s moral dilemma. Last. (Santa Monica: RAND.70 Reformers within the host nation often require an external impetus to change policies or restructure the government. and the War on Terrorism”. Advisory missions also require some level of political stability in the host country to facilitate the lengthy counterinsurgency process. .71 Advocating reforms may “threaten to alter fundamentally the positions and prerogatives of those in power. 582. America’s reputation depends upon the host nation’s just conduct during the war. 4. for example. American prestige is often tied to our partner’s performance and adherence to humanitarian norms. 72 Benjamin C. 13 actions. “Going to War with the Allies You Have: Allies. as of this writing.68 An insurgency indicates that some state institutions are performing poorly. The country’s leaders may be driven by parochial interests and want to maintain the status quo inside their country. was insufficient because of the lack of established state institutions and security forces.66 A light footprint approach is a poor sequel to regime change.69 Advisors must ensure that the host nation’s plan is sound and leverage America’s support to encourage change. Success usually “requires reform in both political and security arenas” to address societal grievances. Strategic Studies Institute. 70 Ladwig III. 76. 26. the Afghan government may be strong enough to allow Washington to follow a light footprint approach.”72 Despotic rulers. Schwartz. and it is often difficult for advisors to achieve change. corrupt elites. The light footprint in Afghanistan (2002-2004).army. and unruly security forces can hinder success. “The Future of Counterinsurgency”. 78.67 However. The regime must have some right to govern even if its institutions require substantial reform. 1991).

“Going to War with the Allies You Have”. policymakers recognize that democratization and protection of human rights are not always feasible. As domestic support plummeted and the anti-war movement grew. Vice President George Bush (December 1983) and Vice President Dan Quayle (November 1989) engaged El Salvador leaders to establish ethical guidelines for American support. Military Assistance Advisory Group –Vietnam (MAAG-V) was incapable of building sufficient political. It is difficult to force these countries to reform because they know that America has a national interest in their struggle. or is it preferable to accept strategic risks compel our partners to pursue reform? The small footprint approach cannot guarantee that our partners will be victorious. even if it is urging that ally to reform.the gradual expansion of mission requirements.S. 153. the United States supports multiple governments in their fight against Salafist insurgents. Nagl. policymakers must therefore consider the danger of mission creep . U. the Army of the Republic of 73 Schwartz. 28. the United States intervened without a rigorous policy reassessment and committed its first maneuver battalions on March 8.76 The military became mired in a costly protracted war and was not able to defeat the Viet Cong.”75 This begs the question: Should U. 76 John A. “American Counterinsurgency Doctrine and El Salvador”.73 Salvadorian political leaders feared losing American support and suppressed the military vigilantes and death squads.S.74 Accordingly. Currently. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. the “US may be tarred with the brush of a brutal ally. the United States withdrew forces and cut support for South Vietnam. economic. 23-24. 14 government to stop war crimes. 2002). 28. 1965 at Danang. This vital reform reduced grievances and support for the insurgency. 74 Byman. After the Salvadorian military executed six Jesuit Priests in 1989. Consequently. 75 Byman. “Going to War with the Allies You Have”. Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam. Congress halved American financial assistance. . Without external support. and security momentum to prevent the collapse of South Vietnam.

“Reflections on the ‘Counterinsurgency Decade’: Small Wars Journal Interview with General David H. conventional forces on the ground.” . warns that when the indirect approach is not enough. they must be prepared for the possibility of failure and to answer a hard question: Is the government under attack worthy of the American commitment required to save it?77 More Tough Questions for the Big Guy This is not the only hard question facing U. If policymakers engage in small-footprint approaches. Opponents of the current policy question whether host nation forces can defeat IS without U. Pundits also argue that our reluctance to intervene has made the United States appear weak and allowed Iran to become a regional 77 Melton.S. “Aligning FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency with Reality. and what are we willing to do to achieve our ends? The United States continues to grapple with how to best counter the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria. Critics argue that Vietnam shows how footprints have a tendency to increase in size.”78 Is there truly an existential threat present? What U. policymakers. FID. Would a sustained small footprint approach have produced a different outcome? Advocates suggest that the ultimate advantage of the small footprint approach is that we are not locked in a protracted conflict and can easily walk away.S. Petraeus. national interests are at stake? What might be the unintended consequences of our action or inaction? Which states or non-state actors will exploit the situation if we do not intervene? What are we willing to sacrifice.S. General Petraeus. IS remains resilient and continues to control a large territory. an advocate for small footprint strategies. However. “some cold hard calculations and assessments of interests must be made. and coalition airstrikes.” 78 Manea. President Obama initially adopted a light footprint approach that combines SFA. 15 Vietnam (ARVN) could not repel the North Vietnamese offensive in 1975.

What should Goliath do in response? . Asymmetric threats are multiplying. Budgets are tight. Will the current light footprint approach continue after the 2016 presidential election? Or will the U. and time is limited.S. footprint continue to expand until mission creep draws us into another large footprint campaign? The United States will undoubtedly work to maintain its technological advantage and military might. near-peer competitors such as China or Russia may be able to close the conventional power gap with the United States. If we invest heavily in sub-state conflicts. This inequality in military power will continue to drive asymmetric threats and create dilemmas for the United States. Davids are rising and arming themselves with stones. resources are scarce. and simultaneously rival states are modernizing. 16 hegemon.

.army. Bryce Loidolt. Mao Tse-Tung. “Aligning FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency with Reality: The U. David Galula.pdf. Stephanie Pezard. Griffith II. 2013.rand. Samuel B. Stephen L. New Media. with-reality. in the Lead COIN Approach Usually Fails Where Security Force Assistance Could Succeed”. Max Boot. ed. “The Internet. of Illinois Press.pdf. at http://strategicstudiesinstitute. Autumn 2012. Helmus.foreignaffairs. Univ. http://www. 17 Recommended Readings Austin Long. Locals Rule: Historical Lessons for Creating Local Defense Forces for Afghanistan and Beyond. 2d edition. PSI Classics of the Counterinsurgency Era. Todd C. 2006. http://smallwarsjournal. Westport CT:” Foreign Affairs. 9 April 2013. Santa Monica: RAND. and the Evolution of Insurgency. “The Evolution of Irregular War. 2012. January 5. Steve Metz. On Guerrilla Warfare. Small Wars Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice. 2000.S. edited and trans. https://www.

2nd” Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Cold War International History Project Working Paper No. No. 60. Bard E. Ben Connable and Martin C. Ariel Merari. 2nd edition (September 2005).org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2010/RAND_MG965. http://www. www. Ben Connable. . 4 (Winter 1993). et al. O'Neill.pdf. RAND. Potomac Building_and_Counterinsurgency_in_Afghanistan. “The Blind Leading the Blind: Soviet Nation-Building and Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. Libicki (RAND) How Insurgencies End. http://www.html. http://www. Artemy Kalinovsky..rand.rand. Insurgency and Terrorism: From Revolution to Apocalypse. “Terrorism as a Strategy of Insurgency.” Terrorism and Political Violence 5. Money in the Bank: Lessons Learned from Past Counterinsurgency (COIN) Operations RAND OP-185. Embracing the Fog of War..academia. Santa Monica. 18 Additional Readings Angel Rabasa.rand. 2012.

vilaweb. 2nd edition (May et.pdf. . Spring 2005.php?item=04114192001. Inside Terrorism.rand. Central Intelligence Agency. US Government Guide to the Analysis of Insurgency – 2012. at www. Bruce Hoffman .rand.hsdl.pdf. 19 British Ministry of Defence. Colin Columbia University Press. The Vietnamese Communist Will to Persist (Declassified Study). Constantin Melnik (RAND).carlisle.pdf. August 1966.pdf. https://www. Central Intelligence Agency. http://www. al. http://www. (RAND). Christopher Paul. Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Algeria. 1964. Victory Has a Thousand Fathers: Sources of Success in Counterinsurgency. 2006).” Parameters. Operation Banner: An Analysis of Operations in Northern” 2006. “How War Has Changed Since the End of the Cold War.

com/jrnl/art/supporting-rebels-three-conditions-for- success.pdf. No. RAND Monograph. Understanding Proto-Insurgencies. “Westmoreland War Right: Learning the Wrong Lessons from the Vietnam War”. The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One.html . David Kilcullen. “Going to War with the Allies You Have: Allies. “Supporting Rebels: Three Conditions for Dale Andrade. David Johnson. Small Wars and Insurgencies. 2007. David Sterman.” US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute Monograph. 28 February 2 (Spring 2008).” Military Review. Hard http://www. Daniel Byman. and the War on Terrorism. March-April 2006.” Small Wars Journal. http://www. New York: Oxford University Press. 2009. “CORDS/Phoenix: Counterinsurgent Lessons from Vietnam for the Future. Santa Monica: RAND. http://www. 20 Dale Andrade and James H. Willbanks. November 2005. pp. Daniel Byman. .pdf.rand. http://www.

” Military Review. . Vol. 106. George Packer. 2 (Summer 1991)” Parameters. “War in Algeria: The French Experience. Potomac Institute http://www.pdf [12]. “Things fall apart: the endgame dynamics of internal wars. 21 Ernesto Guevara. 28. “Intelligence to Please? The Order of Battle Controversy during the Vietnam War. Guerrilla Warfare: Che Guevara. pp.” The New Yorker. 48-65. et al. 239-263. University of Nebraska Press. Dec 2007. pp. July-August 2005. December 1998. (Summer 2007).” Third World Quarterly. http://www. “The Lesson of Tal Afar.newyorker. James Clancy and Chuck 2 (March 2007).” Parameters. No. No. “Measuring Effectiveness in Irregular Warfare. Gordon McCormick. 51-57. Frank Hoffman. Autumn 2006. 10 April 2006. Conflict in the 21st Century: Rise of Hybrid Wars. Jeffery Record.pdf. James Wirtz.carlisle. “External Assistance: Enabler of Insurgent Success.” Political Science Quarterly. Gilles Martin.

nytimes. http://www. “Counterinsurgency and Common http://www. Collins.carlisle. “Best Practices in Counterinsurgency. 18 October 2009. Univ. Lawrence M. Sepp.” New York at 32(3) (2009).” Military Review. Lewis Sorely. 22 www. January/February 2013. 2005.” Journal of Strategic Studies. The Hukbalahap Insurrection: A Case Study of a Successful Anti-Insurgency Operation in the Philippines.htm. .” Armed Forces Journal. Greenberg (US Army Center of Military History).army. Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam.pdf. Karl Hack. Joseph J. of Chicago Press: Sept. John Nagl.doi. http://www. “The Vietnam War We “The Malayan Emergency as Counter-insurgency Paradigm. 1946-1955. May-June 2005. Keliv

Republican Army Green http://smallwarsjournal. 1972. Parameters.pdf. 36(2) Petraeus” in Small Wars 23 Lou DiMarco “Losing the moral compass: torture and guerre revolutionnaire in the Algerian War”.(RAND). Rod Thornton. 1 September 2013.pdf. Octavian Manea.files. The Malayan Emergency in Retrospect: Organization of a Successful Counterinsurgency Effort. New York: Basic Books. http://tensmiths. http://www. Max Boot. Bureaucracy Does Its Thing: Institutional Constraints on U. Robert Komer.carlisle. “Getting it wrong: the crucial mistakes made in the early stages of . Volumes 1 and 2. “Reflections on the ‘Counterinsurgency Decade’: Small Wars Journal Interview with General David H. http://www. Robert Komer. 2002.S. Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power.

https://jsou.tandfonline. Hendrickson.1080/01402390. Thursday.” Journal of Strategic Studies 33. Joint Special Operations University Report. 3 (2003). http://www. October 2008. “The Ontology of ‘Political Violence’: Action and Identity in Civil Wars. 24 the British Army's Deployment to Northern Ireland (August 1969 to March 1972)”.X. No.” Small Wars and Foreign Policy Research Institute.” Perspectives on Politics. . No. Journal of Strategic Studies. pp. "How North Vietnam Won the War. No 1 (2007). Hammes. 1995. Stephen Young. Vol. Kalyvas. Fall 2012.2010.pdf. Thomas H. August 3. www. “The Future of Counterinsurgency”. 1. T. Stathis N." Wall Street Thomas Rid. 5. Thomas Marks.498259. What Really Happened in Northern Ireland: Revision and Revelation. Vol. “Counterinsurgency and Operational Art.socom. 3. No. 13. “The Nineteenth Century Origins of Counterinsurgency Doctrine.fpri. 475-494.

25 T.S. May 1989 (Army Department Declassification Release).gwu. The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century Saint Paul: Zenith Press. US Army. http://www. William study/icaf_casestudy-1.ndu. www. Army. . 2006. Industrial College of the Armed Forces Case Study. Knowlton. Lessons from the War in Afghanistan. Jr.pdf.pdf. U. Hammes. 2010. The Surge: General Petraeus and the Turnaround in