Counterinsurgency is one of the operations that the American armed forces have been involved in since the historical periods. The early counterinsurgency operations did not succeed because the army was not well prepared for the missions. They did not receive enough training on the actions they should carry out during the counterinsurgency operations to ensure their success. This paper deals with the analyzing of the counterinsurgency operations carried out by the American armed forces during the period of 1899-1902. It focuses on the arguments supporting the statement that Success in a counterinsurgency operation can be achieved only if the force fighting the insurgency is patient and prepared for a lengthy operation in which you must gain the trust of the citizens. It also focuses on the counter arguments of the same statement. This paper can be utilized by today’s leaders in seeing how different implementation of the same doctrine led to success or failure on the battlefield.
Key words: Counterinsurgency, implementation, arguments, counter arguments.
Counterinsurgency Operations in Cuba and the Philippines
In Analyzing simultaneous counterinsurgency operations in Cuba and the Philippine’s during the period of 1899-1902, today’s leaders can see how different implementation of the same doctrine led to success or failure on the battlefield. Counterinsurgency encompasses armed suppression of an insurgency adopted by forces supporting the government of the country where a conflict is taking place. Counterinsurgency utilizes divide and rule to cut the links between the existing population in the insurgency area and the insurgency itself (Birtle, 1998). Distinguishing between an insurgent, the non combatant insurgency supporter and the members of population that are not involved is difficult. In this case, counterinsurgency operations by the military are difficult and are based on a relativistic distinction between the noncombatants and the insurgents. Counterinsurgency can be carried out through paramilitary, economic, political, civic, military and psychological actions which point to the elimination of insurgency.
Thesis or Argumentative Statement
Success in a counterinsurgency operation can be achieved only if the force fighting the insurgency is patient and prepared for a lengthy operation in which you must gain the trust of the citizens. The force fighting the insurgency must learn the customs, beliefs, morals, and ethics of the nation they are in as well as overcome language barriers. This knowledge along with the support of the citizens is vital for defeating the insurgency.
Reasons that Support the Thesis or Argumentative Statement
Reason/Argument 1 (main point #1)
There is a direct correlation between success in counterinsurgency and the amount of time spent building a trusting relationship with civilians. Incremental changes in a society are far better than fast, forced changes. Patience and dedication is needed to achieve this goal. This is because while the counterinsurgents are working towards closing the societal gaps, the insurgents on the other hand, work towards creating the same societal gaps through educating the society on the disadvantages of trusting the counterinsurgents (Linn, 2000). As such, the counterinsurgents should therefore take their time to understand the domestic population so as to gain and maintain its support. This is by learning their beliefs, morals, customs, ethics as well as their language so that when the time comes for relocating the domestic population in order to expose the insurgents, they will not encounter any rebellion from them.
Before the Second World War, the American armed forces had not been involved in, on the battle field combat, but it had practiced its combat methods during the population management and counterinsurgency actions in Cuba and the Philippines. During this period the Captains, Lieutenants and NCOs were the people involved in the large scale counterinsurgency operations which failed because they did not practice patience in gunning up support from the domestic population in Cuba and Philippines (Schwab, 2000). This was because the army institutional trainings capitalized on training the army on methods of winning the war not on the methods that could ensure the success of the counterinsurgency operations. The American armed forces relied on the military action while neglecting other counterinsurgency actions such as culture, economic and political action.
After the civil war the American armed forces promotion system slowed down such that when it was dispatched to Cuba and Philippines under the counterinsurgency mission it could not succeed because it did not go under prior counterinsurgency training as it was supposed to rely on the institutional military training it had acquired before the cold war. The experienced American armed forces officers were supposed to train the junior officers on the counterinsurgency operations from manuals written by other officers on their experience with counterinsurgency operations (Birtle, 1998). These manuals only focused on the military action, while on the other hand ignoring the important factor of sourcing support from the domestic population leading to the failure of the counterinsurgency operation.
Reason/Argument 2 (main point #2)
There is a direct correlation between success in counterinsurgency and the empowerment given to citizens at the grass roots level. The middle and lower class citizens of a nation must be empowered to make changes and led to take responsibility of the future state of their nation. The insurgents garnered support from the domestic citizens at the grassroots level by convincing them that they would focus on solving their grievances (Linn, 2000). On the other hand the American armed forces focused on sourcing support from the existing government leaders who could not support them in accessing support from the domestic population at the grassroots level. The American armed forces on the other hand, were interested with securing their safety during the operation in Cuba and Philippines instead of securing the safety of the middle and lower class citizens.
They should have focused on providing safety for the middle and lower class citizens, as they would also provide safety for the military to some extent thus enlightening them on the importance of taking the role of ensuring the safety of the state without relying on the military force only (Schwab, 2000). The American armed forces did not focus on the rehabilitation of the insurgents back to the society. This contributed to the failure of the counterinsurgency operations as it was one of the reasons that made the domestic population not to support their operations. If they would have taken this action then the citizens would have been encouraged to rehabilitate the insurgents back into the society. This would empower the citizen in taking responsibility of the future state of their country as they would discourage any form of insurgency through rehabilitating the insurgents.
Counter Arguments and Responses to Them
The American armed forces should have used military combat to defeat the insurgency in Cuba and Philippines during the period of 1899-1902. Following this would be the withdrawal of its forces from those countries, to allow the government and citizens to fix their nation’s problems and make advances in their society without the help of foreign military forces and governmental agencies (Birtle, 1998). This would not have been a good strategy because the citizens would still need a lot of help during the reconstruction era as well as during the rehabilitation of the known insurgents which would necessitate the aid of the foreign military forces and governmental agencies. If this took place then the government would be converted into a peacetime government which would provide a lot of freedom to the domestic population, leading to the upsurge of more insurgents as freedom of action is guaranteed.
Military action is the best form of action to be taken in counterinsurgency operations because most times the insurgents are outnumbered by the American armed forces but their will to fight keeps them in the fight. in the same line, when the armed forces try to use other forms of action the insurgents would take advantage of this to attack the armed forces when they are not well prepared to fight back leading to their defeat (Linn, 2000). This should not be the case because military action can also lead to the mass deaths of innocent civilians who were not in support of the insurgents. The best method to use in this case is by sourcing for support from the domestic population.
This can aid in the success of the counterinsurgency because the population will be willing to be relocated during the isolation of the insurgents. The security of the foreign armed forces is very vital during the counterinsurgency operations (Schwab, 2000). Thus the American armed forces should not have focused on the safety of the people neglecting their own safety because the insurgents would have capitalized on this strategy to suppress the authority of the American armed forces. This would not have been a good strategy because the population would have interpreted this move wrongly thus providing their support to the insurgents ensuring the failure of the counterinsurgency operations.
Analyzing the success and failure of past counterinsurgency operations and the time spent implementing different approaches used to make changes in the societies of these nations can be applied to our current counterinsurgency operations to help Non-Commissioned Officers make the decisions that will lead to success and stability on the battlefield (Birtle, 1998). The counterinsurgency operations carried out in both Cuba and Philippines during the period of 1899-1902 did not succeed because the armed forces were ill prepared for the counterinsurgency mission. The American forces depended mostly on military actions while ignoring other forms such as economic, political, civic and psychological actions that can culminate into the success of the counterinsurgency operations. In conclusion Success in a counterinsurgency operation can be achieved only if the force fighting the insurgency is patient and prepared for a lengthy operation in which you must gain the trust of the citizens who will not rebel during the isolation of the insurgents.
Birtle, A. J. (1998). U.S. Army Counterinsurgency and Contingency Operations Doctrine, 1860-1941. New York, NY: Center of Military History.
Linn, B. M. (2000). The U.S. Army and Counterinsurgency in the Philippine War, 1899-1902. Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press.
Schwab, P. (2000). In Cuba: Confronting the U.S. Embargo. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Griffin.