WHY COUNTERINSURGENCY FAILS
The latest Field Manual (FM 3 – 24) Counterinsurgency, was recently released by the U.S. Army to all its training and field units. (see attached COIN Manual which though officially restricted for circulation, we are democratically circulating ) . This 220 page Counterinsurgency Manual shows why counterinsurgency often fails when employed by an invading, occupation force. Or when used as a guide by a local despot’s puppet army that is propped up by foreign military assistance and directed by foreign military advisers . Culling the experiences of previous counterinsurgency campaigns, this latest Field Manual was ostensibly released as a guide for the U.S. occupation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Field Manuals such as this, used by the U.S. Army, are also often alsoused as training and operational manuals by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency is a manual in counterinsurgency planning, combat training techniques in unconventional warfare and historical analysis. It makes reference to the so-called successful counterinsurgency campaigns that the U.S. conducted during the Philippine-American War (referred to in the Manual as “Philippine Insurrection”) and the anti-Huk campaign in the ’50s. It brags about the U.S. Army’s success in a counterinsurgency war against local “insurgents” who were in fact Filipino freedom fighters in the early 20th century. But as in Iraq and Afghanistan today, the U.S. Army in 1899 in the Philippines was an invading and occupation force, which after smashing the constitutional government & Filipino Army of the Republic led by the first Philippine president Emilio Aguinaldo, set up a puppet government and a puppet army under its thumb and absolute control.
Can an invading foreign army or a despotic ruler hated by the people isolate freedom fighters from the civilian population when every member of the civilian population are themselves ready to take the place of freedom fighters killed in battle? Can the counterinsurgent’s bloody work of neutralizing, capturing or killing freedom fighters and their sympathizers defeat their cause that may be rooted in the invasion and occupation of a nation and unjust socio-economic conditions? The counterinsurgent’s body counts of Vietnamese guerrillas or the CIA’s Operation Phoenix program of murdering suspected unarmed supporters and sympathizers of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (NLF-SV) could not defeat the resolve of the Vietnamese people to defeat U.S. aggression and rid itself of the successive corrupt, puppet governments of Nguyen Cao Ky and Nguyen Van Thieu.
But how could the U.S. Army in its latest counterinsurgency manual claim that their pacification campaign in the Philippines was an American counterinsurgency success? Now, in the first decade of 21st century , American counterinsurgency specialists and U.S. Special Operations Forces still operate in the Philippines, which has the longest running armed insurgency in the world. As a political force, the people’s liberation movement against U.S. occupation and later day neo-colonialism was never defeated strategically. It lost battles, experienced internal struggles that sapped its gains and advance, but because the people never lost their aspiration for freedom and independence, the people’s resistance forces were never really annihilated.
Counterinsurgency fails when the counterinsurgents are an invading, occupation force who think that they can defeat the guerrilla armies of the poor and “pacify” the local population. Counterinsurgency fails when the foreign occupation forces rely on –as their most reliable allies — the local puppet army and corrupt leaders who do not have the trust and confidence of the people. Counterinsurgency fails when the root causes of insurgency — landlessness, mass poverty, and lack of social justice — are never really addressed. That is why counterinsurgency never really succeeded in the Philippines.
FM 3-24 falsely claims that in counterinsurgency, “Political power is the central issue.” In reality and on the ground, it is a political struggle. The counterinsurgents’ fundamental problem is that they cannot win a political battle if they are an invading, occupation force. The freedom fighter’ cause , to fight for the liberation of their homeland from a foreign power that has desecrated its soil, is the IDEA of a political struggle that cannot be extinguished from the hearts and minds of the people and the generation that follows. Vietnamese nationalist leader Vo Nguyen Giap rose from being a history schoolteacher to being the Vietminh resistance general who routed the French & later the American armies led by the best graduates of St. Cyr and West Point, respectively. In their War for Independence, the American frontiersmen and the national army of George Washington knew that from the very beginning, their cause was just and worth dying for and would ultimately win from a politically strategic standpoint, even as the British utilized their best counterinsurgency tactics implemented by their best counterinsurgents from the Sandhurst Royal Military Academy.
You cannot kill or annihilate an idea with counterinsurgency tactics.
* Article by Roland G Simbulan – For a full professional background of Professor Roland G. Simbulan (Click Here)