Theodore's World: Army Looks Back At Vietnam For New Field Manual

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March 04, 2006

Army Looks Back At Vietnam For New Field Manual

Army writing new Counterinsurgency Field Manual

Army News
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (March 3, 2006)
By Robby Kennedy

The Combined Arms Center hosted experts from the CIA, State Department and academia last week during a two-day workshop aimed at providing input to authors rewriting the Counterinsurgency, or COIN, Field Manual, FM 3-24.

The intelligence analysts and experts gathered Feb. 23 and 24 at the 35th Infantry Division headquarters on Fort Leavenworth to work at solving what many of them consider an urgent and acute problem facing the U.S. military today: how to respond to an insurgency.

The new COIN FM will contain chapters dealing with operations and operations design, intelligence, indigenous forces, leadership and ethics, logistics and more, said Lt. Col. Jan Horvath, one of the authors of FM 3-24.

Outside experts review draft

“We established that we wanted to do a workshop to bring in some of the best and brightest minds to get input,” said Horvath.

“We tried to write something and get a very accomplished group of people to look at that and tell us what they think of it early on so we can make significant adjustments where they are needed, or adjust and put in nuances,” Horvath said.

An interim COIN manual was penned and distributed to the invitees before their arrival at Fort Leavenworth to give them a chance to consider the suggested doctrine and add their own expertise to the dialogue. Horvath said the participants were invited from widely divergent backgrounds to bring contrasting perspectives, and consequently, impassioned debate.

“We pick up a lot of diverse and differing opinions … sometimes you have two opposing viewpoints,” Horvath said. “There is passion because there is disagreement – that’s why we brought them here, to get a different viewpoint to find out what we’ve missed or what we didn¹t consider. It may not change what we write, but it may.”

FM author: Debate fosters solutions

During the workshop, participants and authors debated or augmented existing ideas, brainstormed new solutions and otherwise expanded the COIN dialogue with the goal of improving the final product to the benefit of Soldiers and commanders in the field, Horvath said.

“What should we cull from what we have? Can we make it better, or should we move one out and put another one in?” Horvath said. “That’s what all the authors are doing with their discussants, as well as other people throughout the seminar.”

With the U.S. military heavily engaged in counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the need for effective guidance is both vital and pressing, Horvath said.

“We’ve committed so much treasure in blood and people to Iraq and Afghanistan, but overall within the Global War on Terrorism – this is a key manual within our efforts while we are at war,” Horvath said.

120 insurgencies worldwide

Horvath and the other FM 3-24 authors are trying to keep the scope of their manual broad so it will continue to have utility beyond current situations.

“There are more than 120 extended insurgencies around the world; that’s a lot of instability,” he said. “Iraq is one insurgency – it’s just one area. We’re going to be involved in insurgencies in other places, so this manual, we don¹t want it to be too Iraq-centric.”

While the COIN FM workshop concluded Feb. 24, the authors will continue to receive guidance and written input from discussants through the mail, Horvath said. The final product is expected to be finished by early summer and should provide immediate guidance for commanders in the field.

“It should provide them (commanders) a framework for thinking … explaining what is an insurgency, what will it look like, what should you expect, in what type of environments will it thrive, how does it develop, how can we contribute to it inadvertently, what is our methodology and what is our way of thinking and assessing, what stage is it, how violent, how widespread in the public, how much support does it have? All those factors impact what method or actions we take,” Horvath said.

Manual will look back at Vietnam

In addition, the manual will incorporate lessons learned from Vietnam and other past insurgencies.

“I think of Vietnam as the gold standard of insurgencies,” Horvath said. “It was very well developed and we never collected any of those lessons. We wanted to capture those and look at other insurgencies … and I think we’re doing that right now.”

As for the success of the workshop, Horvath was enthusiastic.

“I think we had the right people here. We’ve had some tremendous discussion … we wanted to know what we¹re doing well but also what we’ve missed on, what we need to reshape or refocus, and I think we’ve gotten a lot of that,” he said. “It’s been a grand slam.”


My Tribute To Vietnam Veterans

Posted by Wild Thing at March 4, 2006 12:47 AM


Our training in the mid-60's was for a counter-insurgency in VN, even tho' the 1st Cav and other units were engaged in large battles in the highlands. Eddie probably would agree, and the big operations in III Corps in 1966 were sweeps for regimental-sized units. They call that kind of thing a "war". I think Westmoreland had it wrong, for dozens of reasons. S & D was a disaster for our side. You were either using a battalion to kill a couple dozen VC, or a platoon to go find a couple of companies. It was nuts.

But even in 1966 it wasn't a true insurgency (by definition), but an organized military effort to overturn the govt of SVN and terrorize the population. The VC were just the shelf-stockers for the NVA, and they were pretty good at it.

It is LONG past time that we looked at that war dispassionately and learned what happened on the ground. It was, I think, the paradigm for the thing we'll have to face elsewhere in the WOT, from Malaysia and the Phillipines to Africa and in other pockets of Islamism.

Posted by: Rhod at March 4, 2006 11:50 AM

Hi Rhod, I really appreciate your comment on this. When I posted it I was hoping for some input on 'what really was' kind of thing. Thanks again sooo much.

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