Rise in Counterinsurgency

September 5, 2008 • Volume 18, Issue 30
Will new tactics weaken the military?
By Peter Katel

Introduction

An Iraqi boy talks with a U.S. soldier in central Baghdad in October 2006. Military planners are seeking to elicit more cooperation from Iraqi civilians by using counterinsurgency tactics.  (AFP/Getty Images/Ali Al-Saadi)
An Iraqi boy talks with a U.S. soldier in central Baghdad in October 2006. Military planners are seeking to elicit more cooperation from Iraqi civilians by using counterinsurgency tactics. (AFP/Getty Images/Ali Al-Saadi)

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.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
U.S. Military
Sep. 23, 2011  Military Suicides
Sep. 05, 2008  Rise in Counterinsurgency
Aug. 31, 2007  Wounded Veterans
Nov. 19, 2004  Treatment of Veterans
Jun. 25, 2004  Privatizing the Military
May 30, 2003  Reforming the Corps
Apr. 26, 1996  New Military Culture
Jun. 08, 1990  Downsizing America's Armed Forces
Jul. 20, 1966  American Forces in Europe
Jan. 15, 1964  American Troops Abroad
May 21, 1958  Military Reorganization
Feb. 28, 1952  Benefits for Korean Veterans
May 12, 1948  Militarization
Nov. 06, 1946  Veterans' Bonus
Jul. 17, 1946  War Veterans in Civil Life
Nov. 27, 1941  Government Aid to Ex-Service Men
Sep. 27, 1932  The Bonus After the 1932 Elections
Oct. 06, 1930  Veteran-Aid Policies of the United States
Jan. 07, 1924  Congress and the Bonus
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Defense Technology and Force Planning
Military Training
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