Academic journal article Military Review

Listen to the Airman

Academic journal article Military Review

Listen to the Airman

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

All Army officers need to read Shortchanging the Joint Fight? An Airmen's Assessment of FM 3-24 and the Case for Developing Truly Joint Doctrine, a monograph recently published by the Air University Press. In this 115-page piece, Major General Charles L. Dunlap Jr. provides an airman's insights into the U.S. Army's new counterinsurgency manual, FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency. We soldiers should not dismiss Dunlap because he is an Airman; in fact, we should listen closely to what he has to say in this most important argument.

Dunlap pointedly addresses the underlying assumptions of FM 3-24 and how these assumptions have been turned into principles and then into immutable laws that cannot be challenged. Why, for example, he asks, must the people always be the so-called center of gravity in a counterinsurgency (COIN) operation? Clausewitz teaches that a center of gravity is something to be discovered. The authors of FM 3-24 have done the discovering for us; we seem to be blindly obeying. This is not to say that in a given COIN operation the people might be the center of gravity, thereby requiring a large contingent of boots on the ground; but counterinsurgency does not always have to be fought that way.

After almost five years of COIN operations in Iraq and even longer in Afghanistan, the U.S. Army's operational doctrine no longer comes from FM 3-0, Operations; it comes from FM 3-24. We have become a COIN-only force. The dominance of COIN thinking in the Army has also made us dogmatic, diminishing our ability to think creatively about strategy and operations. We are in an FM 3-24-built box and are unable to see out of it.

Consider this example. In "operation mountain lion: CJTF 76 in Afghanistan, spring 2006" (Military Review, January-February 2008), brigade commander Michael A. Coss writes about his experience conducting COIN operations in Afghanistan. …

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