Failure shall be the constant companion of a conventionally trained and organized army trying to fight an unconventional war. It is not enough for us just to be unconventional; we must outwit and bewilder the enemy to such an extent that he never knows in what guise we might appear next.” Lt. Col Ron Reid Daly

Counter-Insurgency. COIN. The last 13 years have passed with the finest minds of military science observing, assessing and drawing up battle appreciations for fighting and eradicating insurgencies. Yet, most would say that at best, the tide was temporarily stemmed. Conventional, set piece battle plans have been put aside to teach the most basic rifleman how to operate in a COIN environment. With the wars winding down, only time will tell if the doctrine and implementation of America’s strategies and tactics will bear any fruit.

Oddly enough, this country went through a counter insurgency war called Vietnam. No amount of ordinance could quell the enemy. He would methodically rise from the ashes and continue South. Initial concepts of cutting off the enemy from the populace in the Marine Corps CAP plan yielded little fruit against the Viet Cong. Many transformations of COIN continued on, ending with the Phoenix Program. It cut some major arteries but the beast still lived. The problem became, as with most insurgencies, that there was little way to tell friend from foe, day to day. Even with our high tech forensics and surveillance methods on today’s battlefield, Rules of Engagement and Risk Aversion allow the enemy to walk free or if captured and released, doomed to a life of recidivism.

Each war, each insurgency is unique in its characteristics. From the combatants on both sides to the terrain in which they fight. Most importantly may be the culture from which it is born and raised. It is from that which it draws its strengths, weaknesses and understanding. Too often, we westerners assume that people think like we do. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even reading a well-meaning Analyst’s rundown of cultural paradigms can lead to a false sense that we now know the enemy. We must have the knowledge of the enemy and ourselves. But is knowledge the same as wisdom?