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Marine Corps University
Volume 2, Number 1 Spring 2011
Marine Corps University Press
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Quantico, VA 22134
e views expressed in the articles and reviews in this journal are solely those of the authors. ey
do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organizations for which they work, Marine Corps
University,the U.S. Marine Corps, the Department of the Navy, or the U.S.Government.
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Table of Contents
President’s Forward..........................................................i
Understanding Insurgent Intelligence Operations ...................1
by William Rosenau
Doctrine for Irregular Warfare: Déjà Vu All Over Again? .....35
by Wray R. Johnson
Crossing the Lebanese Swamp: Structural and Doctrinal
Implications on the Israeli Defense Forces of Engagement in
the Southern Lebanon Security Zone, 1985–2000 ................67
by Tamir Libel
e International Response to the 2010 Pakistan Flood: An
Interview with Michael Young of the International Rescue
Committee .............................................................................81
Edited by Kenneth H. Williams
Book Reviews
Command and Development ........................................................100
Moyar, A Question of Command: Counterinsurgency from the
Civil War to Iraq
reviewed by Charles D. Melson/100
Morton, Men on Iron Ponies: e Death and Rebirth of the
Modern U.S. Cavalry
reviewed by David E. Johnson/103
Jablonsky, War by Land, Sea, and Air: Dwight Eisenhower
and the Concept of Unified Command
reviewed by Ingo Trauschweizer/106
Bailey, America’s Army: Making the All-Volunteer Force
reviewed by Janet G. Valentine/108
Marine Corps University
Volume 2, Number 1 Spring 2011
Cloud and Jaffe, e Fourth Star: Four Generals and the Epic
Struggle for the Future of the United States Army
reviewed by Nicholas J. Schlosser/112
Woodward, Obama’s Wars
reviewed by Robert G. “Butch” Bracknell/116
Echevarria, Clausewitz and Contemporary War
reviewed by Frank G.Hoffman/119
Historical Context .........................................................................122
Moyn, e Last Utopia: Human Rights in History
reviewed by Daniel J. Sargent/122
Immerman, Empire for Liberty: A History of American
Imperialism from Benjamin Franklin to Paul Wolfowitz
reviewed by Joseph A. Fry/125
Springer, America’s Captives: Treatment of POWs from the
Revolutionary War to the War on Terror
reviewed by Richard E. Holl/129
McMeekin, e Berlin-Baghdad Express: e Ottoman
Empire and Germany’s Bid for World Power
reviewed by Jeremy Best/132
Foster, Projections of Power: e United States and Europe in
Colonial Southeast Asia, 1919–1941
reviewed by Andrew Goss/135
Limbaugh, Tungsten in Peace and War, 1918–1946
reviewed by Fredric L.Quivik/138
Brands, Latin America’s Cold War
reviewed by Vanni Pettinà/141
Kaplan, NATO and the UN: A Peculiar Partnership
reviewed by Joyce P. Kaufman/144
Gordon, Invisible War: e United States and the Iraq Sanctions
reviewed by Kimberly Ann Elliott/147
Current Areas of Interest and Engagement...................................150
Barfield, Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History
reviewed by Amin Saikal/150
Hardy, e Muslim Revolt: A Journey through Political Islam
reviewed by Michael G. Knapp/153
Vidino, e New Muslim Brotherhood in the West
reviewed by Mohamed Nimer/156
Zaeef, My Life with the Taliban
reviewed by Matthew Collins/159
Andreas and Greenhill, eds., Sex, Drugs, and Body Counts:
e Politics of Numbers in Global Crime and Conflict
reviewed by Andrew G. Reiter/162
Marine Corps University Journal
MGen omas M. Murray, USMC
Col Paul L. Damren, USMC
Chief of Staff
Dr. Jerre W. Wilson, Col, USA (Ret.)
Vice President, Academic Affairs
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Vice President, Student Affairs and Business Operations
Dr. Kurt A. Sanftleben
Vice President, Instructional and Research Support
Dr. Sidney C. Atkins
LtCol John M. Butterworth
Dr.omas R. Fedyszyn
Dr. Paul D. Gelpi Jr.
Dr. Peter H. Liotta
Dr. Edward C. O’Dowd
Dr. Richard H. Shultz Jr.
Dr. Charles P. Neimeyer
Director,Marine Corps History Division
Information on the press and journal, as well as submission guidelines, can be found online at
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Mr. Kenneth H. Williams
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Managing Editor,MCU Press
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MCU Press
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President’s Foreword
One can read many a journal that claims to provide wide-ranging or
“international” perspectives on issues of world affairs and security but that only
includes the opinions of writers from a relatively narrow circle. But as Wray
Johnson details in his article in this issue, organizations risk learning the wrong
lessons and even forgetting what they already know if they rely too heavily on the
collective wisdom of only a few well-placed thinkers.
is point made, I am pleased to note that two of the four features in this
issue are by internationals:Tamir Libel,a fellow at Kinneret College in Israel, and
Michael Young, a regional director for the International Rescue Committee. Yet as
their pieces show, the issues on which they are working are interconnected with
those closer to home.Libel’s article on the Israeli Defense Forces documents many
parallels of doctrinal myopia that are echoed in Johnson’s piece on the U.S. military.
In his interview, Young discusses how the U.S. military and State Department
played key roles in flood relief in Pakistan in 2010.All four pieces, including those
by Johnson (of our faculty) and William Rosenau (of the Center for Naval Analyses
and Georgetown University), also touch on the challenges of dealing with nonstate
actors, from al-Qaeda and the Taliban to Hezbollah and the FARC.
In launching this journal and Marine Corps University Press,my predecessors
in this position, Major General (Ret.) Donald R. Gardner and now-Lieutenant
General Robert B. Neller, sought publications that would provide broad
perspectives on international affairs and security.ese works are instructive to our
students at the university and also have relevance far beyond the gates of Quantico.
e articles,interview, and book reviews in this issue provide an array of scholarship
that benefit the military,academic, and policy communities.It is our hope that the
issue will be widely read and discussed.
I thank all the people who wrote, edited, and designed this issue, as well as
those who oversaw the work of the editors and designers, for their contributions
to this impressive publication.
omas M. Murray
Major General, U.S. Marine Corps
President, Marine Corps University
Illustration by Vincent J. Martinez.
Understanding Insurgent Intelligence
by William Rosenau
Writing in 1996, Lincoln B. Krause observed that despite near-
universal agreement among practitioners and theorists that insurgent
success requires effective intelligence,“almost no specific writings on
guerrilla intelligence exist.”1Nearly 15 years later, consensus about
the importance of such intelligence remains, and so does the gap in
the literature. Authors such as David A. Charters have explored the
acquisition and use of intelligence by individual armed groups, but
with the exception of the work of J.Bowyer Bell and, more recently,
Graham H.Turbiville Jr., there have been no systematic attempts to
consider insurgent or“underground” intelligence from a comparative
Addressing this analytical shortfall is of more than passing
theoretical interest, given the increasing U.S. emphasis on irregular
warfare, the strategic importance of which is equal to that of
conventional war, according to Secretary of Defense Robert M.
Gates.3Understanding how intelligence contributes to the sustain-
ment and success of insurgencies should be seen as an essential step
Marine Corps University Journal Vol. 2 • No. 1 • Spring 2011 1
Rosenau is a senior research analyst in the Stability and Development Program, Center for Naval
Analyses,Alexandria,VA, and an adjunct professor in the security studies program of the Walsh School
of Foreign Service, Georgetown University.He holds a doctorate in war studies from King’s College,
London.e author thanks Nathaniel Shestak of the RAND Corporation for his invaluable research
assistance, Afshon Ostovar for helpful comments on a version of this article, the members of the
RAND Insurgency Board, and the anonymous reviewers for the journal.
1Lincoln B. Krause, “Insurgent Intelligence: e Guerrilla Grapevine,”
International Journal of
Intelligence and Counterintelligence
9 (1996): 291.
2See, for example, David A. Charters, “Eyes of the Underground: Jewish Insurgent Intelligence in
Palestine, 1945-47,”
Intelligence and National Security
14 (Winter 1998): 163–77; J.Bowyer Bell,“e
Armed Struggle and Underground Intelligence: An Overview,”
Studies in Conflict and Terrorism
(1994); and Graham H.Turbiville Jr.,
Guerrilla Counterinsurgency:Insurgent Approaches to Neutralizing
Adversary Intelligence Operations
, JSOU Report 09-1 (Hurlburt Field, FL: Joint Special Operations
University, 2009).
3U.S. Department of Defense, Directive 3000.07, 1 December 2008, 2.
in devising strategies and policies for countering the violent substate
groups that play so prominent a role in ongoing conflicts in South
Asia, the Middle East, and the Horn of Africa.
A brief consideration of intelligence at its most general level and
a review of the “disciplines” of foreign intelligence, counter-
intelligence, and covert action, as employed by sophisticated state
services, will be addressed first. is discussion will be familiar to
intelligence specialists, but it provides a necessary context for the
subsequent analysis, which explores how, and for what purposes,
insurgent groups employ these disciplines.e article will conclude
with a set of thoughts about what policies the U.S. government
should consider as part of any thoroughgoing effort to counter
contemporary insurgencies.
Before beginning, two caveats are in order. First, each of the
armed groups that play a particularly large part in the discussion on
insurgent intelligence—namely, Lebanese Hezbollah,the Provisional
Irish Republican Army (PIRA), and
al-Qaeda—have at one time or
another been labeled as“terrorist,and
so some readers may object to their
categorization here as “insurgent”
groups. While acknowledging that
this terminology is problematic (as
discussed at the beginning of the insurgent intelligence section
below), it is hoped that readers will accept their inclusion, if only for
the sake of argument.4
Second,and more importantly, this article does not purport to offer
comprehensive treatment of the subject. Quite simply, there is much
that we do not know about insurgent intelligence activities.Relatively
“glamorous” features of insurgency, such as the use of violence,
Marine Corps University Journal
Quite simply, there is
much that we do not know
about insurgent
intelligence activities.
4For a discussion of the use of language by incumbents during one counterinsurgency campaign, see
Phillip Deery, “e Terminology of Terrorism: Malaya, 1948–52,”
Journal of Southeast Asia Studies
(June 2003): 231–47. For stylistic reasons, the terms “armed groups” and “insurgent groups” are used
technology,and propaganda, have commanded considerable attention
from academic and policy-oriented researchers.Like other clandestine
organizations, insurgents make considerable efforts to conceal or
obscure their activities, and this is no doubt a challenge. But, as the
substantial sociological and anthropological literature on organized
crime, cults, and “new religious movements” suggests, researchers are
able to gain access to interview subjects within “closed”organizations.5
Among other aims, this essay is a plea for an analytical
rebalancing that places less emphasis on the sanguinary drama of
insurgency and more on the quotidian aspects of armed groups, to
include their administrative,logistical,
and of course, intelligence structures
and operations. In the absence of
more substantial data, some critical
questions must remain unanswered,
including a central one: what is the
ultimate contribution of intelligence to the “armed struggle”? For the
purposes of this article, we will continue to share the belief among
practitioners and scholars that Krause averred in 1996, namely, that
intelligence is critical to insurgent success.
“Shamans and Soothsayers”
Intelligence has been the subject of academic inquiry for 50 years,
but as David Kahn concludes, the call among scholars for a theory of
intelligence has been unmet, due in large part, in his judgment, to
the fact that no one has proposed concepts that can be tested.6By
behavioralist standards, a theory of intelligence certainly seems
unlikely, given that the secrecy surrounding intelligence activities is
Rosenau - Insurgent Intelligence Operations
Intelligence is critical to
insurgent success.
5See, for example, David G. Bromley and J. Gordon Melton, eds.,
Cults, Religion and Violence
(Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002); and Donatella della Porta, “Left-Wing
Terrorism in Italy,” in
Terrorism in Context
, ed.Martha Crenshaw (University Park: Pennsylvania State
University Press, 1995).
6David Kahn, “An Historical eory of Intelligence,”
Intelligence and National Security
16 (Autumn
2001): 79.
likely to thwart the “observability” requirements erected by
behavioralism. Assessing the epistemological merits of Kahn’s
judgment is beyond the scope of this article; however, it does seem
fair to say that some general propositions about intelligence are
possible, even if those propositions do not meet the formal
requirements of theory. Moreover,as a practical matter,a framework
is essential if researchers are to avoid “death by drowning or,at least,
mental collapse in a sea of information,” as Peter Gill and Mark
Phytian have noted.7
What general propositions about intelligence might usefully be
put forward? e first concerns the purpose of intelligence.Sherman
Kent, a pioneering figure in the development of “analytical
tradecraft within the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA),
positioned intelligence within the behavioralist paradigm that
dominated mid-20th-century American social science and went so
far as to describe it as a branch of social-scientific inquiry.For Kent,
intelligence was a knowledge-generating enterprise intended to
predict future behavior in the international sphere, particularly at
the strategic level.8
Today,few intelligence specialists share Kent’s confidence in the
predictive power of intelligence analysis or, more generally, social
science. However, the promise of a glimpse into the future—no
matter how incomplete, imprecise, or imperfect that glimpse may
be—retains a powerful allure for decision makers.Sir Percy Cradock,
a former chairman of Britain’s Joint Intelligence Committee, put the
matter nicely: “We were members of an older and shadier fraternity,
all those who over the centuries have claimed to read the future for
Marine Corps University Journal
7Peter Gill and Mark Phythian,
Intelligence in an Insecure World
(Cambridge, UK, and Malden, MA:
Polity Press, 2006), 21–22.
8For more on Kent, see Harold P. Ford, “A Tribute to Sherman Kent,”
Studies in Intelligence
1980), accessed 9 September 2009,
collected-essays/1tribute.html. For a critique of Kent’s approach, see Gary J.Schmitt and Abram N.
Shulsky, “Leo Straus and the World of Intelligence (By Which We Do Not Mean
),” in
Strauss, the Straussians, and the American Regime
, eds. Kenneth L. Deutsch and John A. Murley
(Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1999), 407–12.
their masters: the shamans and soothsayers, sybils and readers of
entrails, Macaulay’s ‘pale augurs muttering low.’”9
Intelligence, then, has (or should have) a fundamentally practical
purpose, namely, the ability to help policy makers anticipate future
behavior and events. Ideally, such foreknowledge bestows a relative
security advantage over a nations adversary or adversaries.10 Intelligence
should be seen as a weapon to be wielded along with diplomatic,
political,economic, and military instruments in a nation’s struggle with
its adversaries, which were states in Kent’s era, but today increasingly
are transnational and nonstate actors.
Unlike pure scholarship, intell-
igence is not an end unto itself, but
rather a means to an end. As
mentioned above, the “customers” for
this knowledge are individuals in
positions of power (in Kent’s time,the
U.S. president above all others, but
today, a much broader set of civilian
and military figures). Moreover, intelligence is predictive knowledge
of a specialized kind. In its ideal form, intelligence is “targeted,”
“actionable,” and designed explicitly to service the demands of its
intended audiences.11
Finally, a few words are required on the role of secrecy in
intelligence. Open-source information plays a role in the analytical
process of state services. But those services are expected to provide
something unique to their political masters. Many individuals,
including journalists and academic specialists,can provide penetrating
analytical insights, but only intelligence services can generate analysis
that is derived in large measure from information that target countries,
Rosenau - Insurgent Intelligence Operations
9Percy Cradock,
In Pursuit of British Interests:Reflections on Foreign Policy under Margaret atcher and
John Major
(London: Murray, 1997), 37.
10 Gill and Phythian,
Intelligence in an Insecure World
, 1.
11 Andrew Rathmell, “Towards Postmodern Intelligence,”
Intelligence and National Security
(Autumn 2002): 88–89.
Intelligence should be seen
as a weapon to be wielded
along with diplomatic,
political, economic, and
military instruments.
as well as nonstate groups, commit vast resources to protect, namely
secrets. As will be discussed in more detail below, open-source
information plays a role in the analytical process, but the collection
and analysis of information that one’s opponents wish to keep secret
is an intelligence service’s unique added value. Acquiring (or less
politely, stealing) and processing information that national opponents
are attempting to keep hidden is the extent that the CIA, Britain’s
MI6 (officially, the Secret Intelligence Service), or any other state
service contributes to policy making and national security.
Intelligence Disciplines
To provide a more detailed framework for analyzing under-
ground intelligence activities,the following section offers an overview
of two of the primary disciplines of intelligence: foreign intelligence
and counterintelligence.12 is section also explores covert action,an
associated or “allied” activity that is to some degree separate and
distinct from the “core” missions of foreign intelligence and
counterintelligence.ese three elements are discussed in the context
of state intelligence services, and this section is intended to serve as
a baseline to be used during the subsequent analysis of insurgent
intelligence operations.
Foreign Intelligence
In the broadest sense, foreign intelligence aims at understanding
externally generated threats to national security. It is worth noting,
however, that all types of regimes—democratic,less than democratic,”
authoritarian, and totalitarian—also apply the tactics, techniques, and
procedures of foreign intelligence against domestic “targets. e nature
of contemporary transnational threats has served to erode whatever
“bright line” existed between foreign and domestic intelligence.
Foreign intelligence is often described as a cycle composed of
stages: requirements (i.e., planning), collection, processing, analysis,
and dissemination to civilian policy makers and military commanders.
Marine Corps University Journal
12 Gill and Phythian,
Intelligence in an Insecure World
, 5.
According to a CIA description of the process, “the policy makers—
the recipients of finished intelligence—then make decisions based on
the information, and these decisions may lead to the levying of more
requirements, thus triggering the Intelligence Cycle.”13 Put another
way, foreign intelligence is the product of a system that gathers and
transforms (in a structured way) raw information into a form that is
useful to national security decision makers.
In the broadest terms, modes of collection fall into two categories:
technical and human intelligence. Technical collection includes the
interception of electronic communications, telemetry from missile
tests, and the electromagnetic emanations from military equipment
such as radar transmitters (known collectively as signals intelligence,
or SIGINT), and the gathering of photographic imagery.14 Human
intelligence collection (HUMINT) is in essence the use of agents to
collect information about a target. For most people, this is the
connotation of the term “spying”—the suborning of individuals,
typically those holding a position of trust and responsibility within a
given nation’s civil service,diplomatic corps,or security forces. Falling
outside these two broad conceptual containers is open-source
information (OSINT), such as print and electronic media. Within
the U.S. intelligence community, and within the intelligence services
of countries such as the United Kingdom,the consensus is that open-
source information should (and indeed does) inform analysis, but
that its contribution is necessarily secondary when compared with
technical or human intelligence.15
Rosenau - Insurgent Intelligence Operations
13 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), “e Intelligence Cycle,” n.d., accessed 9 September 2009,
14 For more on signals intelligence, see James Bamford,
e Shadow Factory: e Ultra-Secret NSA from
9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America
(New York: Anchor Books, 2009); and “Special Issue on ‘Secrets
of Signals Intelligence during the Cold War and Beyond,’”
Intelligence and National Security
16 (Spring
15 For more on open-source intelligence and the U.S. intelligence community,see Richard A. Best Jr.
and Alfred Cumming,
Open Source Intelligence
Issues for Congress
, CRS (Congressional
Research Service) Report for Congress, RL342705 (Washington, DC, 2007),
sgp/crs/ intel/RL34270.pdf.
e vast bulk of academic studies on intelligence have focused
on foreign intelligence. Counterintelligence, in contrast, remains
underinvestigated and neglected in the academic world, as well as in
broader policy communities.16 Robert Jervis is surely correct in
attributing this lack of attention to the discipline’s unglamorous and
even seedy reputation; in his view, counterintelligence “smacks of
police work.”17 e contested legacy of James J. Angleton, the CIAs
Cold War counterintelligence chief,continues to resonate within the
U.S. intelligence community and beyond.18 In addition, the very
nature of the craft, with its necessary emphasis on practicing as well
as uncovering deception, has no doubt contributed to its reputation
as a devious, if not altogether tainted, activity.
Undoubtedly,however,effective foreign intelligence is impossible
without effective counterintelligence.
Broadly speaking, the principal target of
counterintelligence is the intelligence
activities of an adversary. As with
foreign intelligence, it includes an
ongoing cycle of planning/ require-
ments, collection, processing, analysis,
and dissemination.Counterintelligence
not only contains passive elements
aimed at protecting personnel and information from rival intelligence
services and rooting out suspected traitors,but it also includes “active”
or “offensive” measures “to degrade the competitor’s intelligence
capability or manipulate the competitor’s decisions to achieve a policy
Marine Corps University Journal
16 See, for example,
Report of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States
Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction
(Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2005),
chap. 11.
17 Robert Jervis, “Intelligence,Counterintelligence,Perception and Deception,”in
Vaults, Mir rors, and
Masks: Rediscovering U.S. Counterintelligence
, eds. Jennifer E. S ims and Burton Gerber ( Washington,
DC: Georgetown University Press, 2009), 69.
18 For a recent scholarly treatment of Angleton, see Michael Holzman,
James Jesus Angleton, the CIA,
and the Craft of Counterintelligence
(Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press,2008).
underinvestigated and
neglected in the academic
outcome.”19 In the realm of offensive counterintelligence, deception
assumes a position of particular prominence.Deception, according to
Abram N. Shulsky and Gary J. Schmitt,
is the attempt to mislead an adversary’s intelligence analysis
concerning the political, military, or economic situation he
faces and to induce him,on the basis of those errors,to act in
a way that advances one’s own interests rather than his. It is
considered a form of counterintelligence because it attempts
to thwart a major purpose of the adversary’s intelligence
operations; in addition, it often involves counterintelligence
methods, such as double-agent operations.20
Successful deception, particularly at a strategic level, is an
expensive, time-consuming, and potentially dangerous activity.
Covert Action
Finally, there is the “discipline” of covert action. e word is
placed in quotation marks to indicate that some controversy exists
about its usage in the present context. In the view of some scholars,
covert action is outside the realm of what should be considered
intelligence. According to Michael Herman, for example,
“intelligence is information and information gathering, not doing
things to people; no one gets hurt by it,at least not directly.”21 Within
the U.S. national security establishment, covert action certainly is
considered an intelligence activity, but the term is rarely part of the
lexicon of in the United States,covert action
is as much a legal concept as it is an operational one. Since 1974,
Congress has asserted statutory control over covert action, requiring,
Rosenau - Insurgent Intelligence Operations
19 Vincent H. Bridgeman, “Defense Counterintelligence Reconceptualized,” in Sims and Gerber,
Vaults, Mirrors, and Masks
, 128.
20 Abram N. Shulsky and Gary J. Schmitt,
Silent Warfare: Understanding the World of Intelligence
, 2nd
ed. (Washington, DC: Brassey’s, 1993), 132.
21 Michael Herman,“Ethics and Intelligence after September 2001,”
Intelligence and National Security
19 (2002): 342. Emphasis in the original.
among other things, that the president formally authorize (through
a “finding”) such activities and notify the relevant congressional
committees in a timely fashion.22 Technically, only the CIA can
conduct covert operations; organizations like the Department of
Defense can only carry out “clandestine” activities, although such
distinctions can sometimes dissolve in practice.
What do we mean, precisely, by covert action? As Herman
suggests, the key word here is “action.” Unlike core intelligence
functions, covert action is not intended to generate predictive,
actionable information for policy makers, although that can
sometimes be a secondary effect. Rather, covert action is meant to
advance national objectives more directly. As defined by Shulsky and
Schmitt, covert action is some secret activity to influence the
behavior of a foreign government or political, military, economic, or
societal events and circumstances in a foreign country.”23 In popular
usage, “covert action” connotes plots to topple foreign governments
(in Iran and Guatemala during the 1950s, for example) or programs
to support indigenous resistance movements (such as the Hmong
“secret army” in Laos during the 1960s and 1970s and the Afghan
mujahideen in the 1980s).In reality, most covert operations have been
far more mundane and have included activities such as intelligence
support to foreign governments, the creation and maintenance of
front groups, and assistance to political parties.24
Insurgent Intelligence
e following section explores intelligence as organized and
practiced by insurgent groups.is analysis draws heavily, but by no
Marine Corps University Journal
22 For a summary of the legislative history and requirements surrounding covert action, see Alfred
Covert Action: Legislative Background and Possible Policy Questions
, Congressional Research
Service Report f or Congress, RL333715 (Washington, DC, 2009),
23 Shulsky and Schmitt,
Silent Warfare
, 85.
24 For more on what he terms the “principles” of covert action, see Roy Godson, Dirty Tricks or
Trump Cards: U.S. Covert Action and Counterintelligence (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction
Publishers, 2000), 120–79.
means exclusively, on the activities and organizations of Lebanese
Hezbollah and the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA). An
obvious selection bias is at work here,due largely to the fact that the
intelligence-related activities of these groups have received much
attention from journalists and analysts. Simply stated, open-source
information on Hezbollah and PIRA is more plentiful than it is on
other contemporary armed groups. Despite this selection bias,there
is a compelling reason for drawing heavily on these two
organizations: both Hezbollah and PIRA have been “high-
performance”armed groups that have made considerable investments
in intelligence activities and can be
seen as the“gold standard”of insurgent
capabilities and performance and thus
probably represent the most formid-
able adversaries the United States is
likely to face.
e following analysis also consid-
ers the intelligence-related writings of
violent jihadists associated with al-
Qaeda. Including it in an analysis of insurgent intelligence is
problematic, since al-Qaeda is not universally regarded as an
insurgency. But there are two persuasive reasons for bringing it into
the discussion. First, although no general agreement on the subject
exists, a substantial body of literature argues that components of al-
Qaeda are waging what must be characterized as an insurgency, albeit
in a “nontraditional” (i.e., non-Maoist) form.25 Second, theorists and
practitioners across the al-Qaeda firmament have produced
substantial writings on the subject of intelligence.26 Given the scale
Rosenau - Insurgent Intelligence Operations
25 See, for example, Karen J. Greenberg, ed.,
Al Qaeda Now: Understanding Today’s Terrorists
(Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 3–26; and David Kilcullen,
“Counter-Insurgency Redux,”
48 (Winter 2006–2007): 111–30.
26 See, for example, Abu Bakr Naji,
e Management of Savagery; e Most Critical Stage roughWhich
the Umma Will Pass
, trans. William McCants (Cambridge:John M.Olin Institute of Strategic Studies,
Harvard University,2006), accessed 18 September 2009, publications/naji.asp.
A substantial body of
literature argues that
components of al-Qaeda
are waging what must be
characterized as an
and scope of the violent jihadist challenge to U.S. national security
interests—regardless of whether those threats are strictly
“insurgent”—one would be mistaken to ignore this rich vein of
is section considers in turn the three intelligence disciplines
discussed in the preceding section. Before examining these elements,
however, a few general comments on the purpose, nature, and
requirements of underground intelligence are in order. As with state
intelligence, insurgent intelligence is an auxiliary activity and a means
to an end. Intelligence preparation helps reduce risk and instills
intangible benefits like operational confidence. Within armed groups,
it involves careful, even obsessive,
attention to intelligence planning
and collection, and analysis appears
aimed at satisfying a psychological
requirement for assurance.27 Invest-
ments in intelligence necessarily
entail opportunity costs; funds,
personnel, training, and other
resources that are employed for
intelligence purposes are resources
that cannot be applied to other
important insurgent activities.Intelligence must demonstrate its utility,
and for armed groups, this comes down to two things: identifying and
providing information on appropriate targets, and protecting the
organization, particularly from traitors.
Armed groups require structure if they hope to become more
than tactical irritants to their adversaries. e most sophisticated
insurgent intelligence structures and operations, such as those of
Hezbollah, have been characterized as state-like in their reach and
effectiveness.28 “e emergence of more sophisticated, specialized
Marine Corps University Journal
27 Gaetano Joe Ilardi, “Al Qaeda’s Operational Intelligence: A Key Prerequisite to Action,”
Studies in
Conflict and Terrorism
31 (2008): 1090.
28 Alex Fishman, e IDF’s Long Ear,”
Yedi’ot Aharonot
(Tel Aviv), 19 September 2008.
Intelligence organs of
successful armed groups are
distinguished by their
professionalism, their
ruthlessness, and their
commitment to nonideological
structures, including dedicated intelligence organs, is an indicator
that an insurgency has advanced along an evolutionary path. At their
most robust and formidable, these intelligence structures are part of
the insurgent “para-state,” a parallel underground governance
structure that challenges the state’s Weberian monopoly on the use
of force.29 Groups as diverse as the PIRA, al-Qaeda in Iraq, and the
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) established “guerrilla
states” with robust security intelligence structures at their centers.30
Intelligence organs of successful armed groups are distinguished
by their professionalism,their ruthlessness,and their commitment to
nonideological expediency. “An armed struggle introduces a very
harsh reality to rebel assumptions,”according to J. Bowyer Bell.31 At
the strategic level, the rebel’s “ideological filter” is generally switched
off. But at the tactical level, the failure to switch it back on and to
accept reality in a form that is as undistorted as possible has
potentially lethal consequences.32 Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,the leader
of al-Qaeda in Iraq, is one recent example of an insurgent
commander whose ideological rigidity blinded him to the shifting
“correlation of forces”on the ground.
Insurgent Foreign Intelligence
Every armed group—indeed, every organization—devotes
resources to the challenge of understanding the environment in
which it operates and, toward that end, collects and processes
information from a variety of sources.33 Variations in that operating
environment generate differing intelligence requirements,structures,
and methods of operation. Writing primarily about insurgencies in
Rosenau - Insurgent Intelligence Operations
29 Gill and Pythian,
Intelligence in an Insecure World
, 55.
30 Brynjar Lia,
A Police Force Without a State: A History of the Palestinian Security Forces in the West
Bank and Gaza
(Reading, UK: Ithaca Press, 2006), 40.
31 J. Bowyer Bell, e Dynamics of the Armed Struggle (London and Portland,OR: Frank Cass, 1998), 126.
32 Ibid., 127.
33 Benjamin I. Higginbotham,“On Deceiving Terrorists” (master’s thesis, Naval Postgraduate School,
2001), 74.
Cold War–era Southeast Asia and Latin America, Lincoln Krause
delineates these elements for various phases of Maoist “people’s
war”—guerrilla and mobile warfare, stalemate, and strategic
counteroffensive.34 However, while still useful in terms of analyzing
the intelligence requirements, structures, and activities of some
contemporary insurgent groups (for example, the Communist Party
of the Philippines/New People’s Army),the people’s war framework,
with its imbedded concepts of popular mobilization, base areas, and
subversion of government institutions,
is less applicable to what has been
termed the“post-Maoist” insurgents of
Iraq, Afghanistan, and West Africa.35
Instead, one might consider a
simple typology for insurgent foreign
intelligence,what might be termed the
“minimalist” and “maximalist” ap-
proaches.Generally speaking,successful
armed groups are “learning” organi-
zations that continuously adapt and evolve in the face of the
challenges posed by their adversaries and by their operating
environment.36 Such groups, like any human institutions, naturally
make mistakes, but in general they conserve resources carefully,
doing no more or no less than what is required of them.If strategic
intelligence on an adversary is needed, it will be produced; if not,
resources will be directed elsewhere. In other instances, resources
permit—and circumstances demand—that an armed group commit
itself to acquiring a full-spectrum intelligence capability, including
signals intelligence. At their most state-like, insurgent groups have
Marine Corps University Journal
34 Krause, “Guerrilla Grapevine,” 292–307.
35 For more on post-Maoist insurgency,see Frank G. Hoffman,“Neo-Classical Counterinsurgency?”
37 (Summer 2007):71–87; and John Mackinlay,
e Insurgent Archipelago
(New York:
Columbia University Press, 2009).
36 Brian A. Jackson and John C. Baker,
Aptitude for Destruction
, vol. 1,
Organizational Learning in
Terrorist Groups and Its Implications for CombatingTerrorism
(Santa Monica,CA: RAND Corporation,
2005), particularly 17–72.
Every armed
group…devotes resources
to the challenge of
understanding the
environment in which it
formal structures to support both current operations and strategic
planning.e Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE), a guerrilla
separatist group in Sri Lanka, used specialists for each phase of the
intelligence cycle, including “a formally trained cadre of intelligence
operatives whose only responsibility [was] long-term intelligence
collection and analysis of potential and real targets,”according to Kevin
A. O’Brien.37 e minimalist approach is represented by the PIRA, a
relatively small but highly capable armed group that faced a police-
and intelligence-led counterterrorism and counterinsurgency
campaign for the final two decades of its active life. Hezbollah, a
movement with a near-conventional-level military capability,
represents the maximalist approach.
e Minimalist Model
For the PIRA, intelligence requirements were modest, namely,
identifying targets for attack,conducting surveillance, and maintaining
security. For the PIRA leadership, strategic intelligence intended to
inform policy at the highest level was
unnecessary, since strategy was
essentially a given—employ force, or
the threat of force, to drive the British
out—and long-range planning was also
considered unnecessary. Intelligence
served immediate, tactical imperatives.
Active service units (ASUs),the PIRA’s
operationally autonomous (but not politically independent) armed cells,
typically designated individuals as intelligence officers, but in reality,
every volunteer was expected to gather, if not analyze, intelligence.38
is approach, in which everyone is expected to “do” intelligence, is
replicated in many other insurgent groups. Within each of the fronts
of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), for
Rosenau - Insurgent Intelligence Operations
For the
PIRA…intelligence served
immediate, tactical
37 Kevin A. O’Brien, “Assessing Hostile Reconnaissance and Terrorist Intelligence Activities: e
Case for a Counter Strategy,”
RUSI Journal
153 (October 2008): 36.
38 Tim Pat Coogan,
e I.R.A.
(London: HarperCollins, 2000), 238.
example, exist a formally designated intelligence unit; however,
according to one former front commander, every front member is
expected to serve as an intelligence collector.39
Intelligence for the PIRA was a process of accretion,the ant-like
piling up of countless bits of information on potential targets.Open-
source data often proved to be extremely valuable, particularly with
respect to the PIRA campaign on the British mainland, and rich
pickings were gleaned from publications such as Who’s Who, the Army
List, and the Civil Service Year Book.40 In the words of Eamon Collins,
a PIRA volunteer who later turned against the organization, “I began
to learn the importance of building up character profiles, of gathering
all kinds of intelligence—no matter how trivial or seemingly
irrelevant—and how to be selective,to question people without them
realizing you were looking for information.”41 Deeply embedded in
the Catholic community, and exercising varying degrees of control
over that population,42 the PIRA was able to draw on a large human
resource pool—a republican Argus, as it were—for intelligence
collection and target surveillance purposes. Collins describes his
recruitment “pitch” to a television repairman, whose job placed him
in an ideal position to serve as a source for the PIRA:
Don’t worry. I don’t want much. Just pass on wee bits here
and there. I don’t want you to endanger yourself. Just open
your eyes a wee bit more when you’re out and about.You’ll see
soldiers about the place. You mightn’t think it’s important,
but it could be important to me. You might hear something
in conversation; you talk to a lot of Prods [Protestants].ey
might just drop something. All I want you to do is to open
your eyes when you’re out in your van.43
Marine Corps University Journal
39 Author’s interviews with former FARC commanders, Bogotá, Colombia, 2 April 2009.
40 C.J.M. Drake,“e Provisional IRA: A Case Study,”
Terrorism and Political Violence
3 (1991): 53.
41 Eamon Collins with Mick McGovern,
Killing Rage
(London: Granta Books, 1997), 16.
42 For more on this point, see Lindsay Clutterbuck and William Rosenau, “Subversion as a Facet of
Terrorism and Insurgency: e Case for A Twenty-First Century Approach,”
Strategic Insights
(August 2009).
43 Collins,
Killing Rage
, 91.
is base also allowed the PIRA to extend its reach into the
administrative apparatus of the British state.For example,informants
within public housing authorities had access to comprehensive
information on residents. Sympathetic engineers could give the
PIRA entrée to government telephone systems.44 And an informant
inside a tax or social security agency could help the PIRA identify
individuals who were spending beyond their means and were
therefore potentially vulnerable to blackmail or intimidation.
As mentioned above,the PIRA had no specialized structures for
foreign intelligence collection or analysis. is lack of institutional
structure freed the PIRA from
administrative and logistical burdens
and kept the PIRA’s organizational
footprint to a minimum. But this
absence had a cost. Personal
experience and individual knowledge
and expertise lay at the heart of PIRA
intelligence, and as Bell observes,
“Such experience is regularly depleted
by time, arrests, and negligence.”45 is personalism—with expertise
resident in individuals as opposed to the “corporate” PIRA—almost
certainly hindered the organization’s ability to adapt to new and
evolving challenges.
e Maximalist Model
With its nonexistent formal intelligence structure, its emphasis
on planning the next attack, and its reliance on the eyes and ears of
the communities in which it was embedded, the PIRA represents
insurgent intelligence minimalism. Lebanese Hezbollah is an
outstanding example of insurgent intelligence maximalism,
displaying the full spectrum of capabilities. In the judgment of some
Rosenau - Insurgent Intelligence Operations
44 Peter Taylor,
Brits: e War Against the IRA
(London: Bloomsbury, 2001), 158.
45 Bell,
Secret Army
, 253.
Intelligence for the PIRA
was a process of accretion,
the ant-like piling up of
countless bits of informa-
tion on potential targets.
analysts, Hezbollah’s intelligence operations are the most effective of
any actor—state or nonstate—in Lebanon. Indeed, Hezbollah
consciously attempts to operate in the manner of a state intelligence
service. As one senior field commander in southern Beirut told a
reporter, we are trying to fight Israel with the same intelligence
weapons that it fights us with. We are trying to develop the
reconnaissance methods and understand how they think and what
they may do.”46
Relatively little is known about the organization of Hezbollah’s
intelligence apparatus, but given the apparent scope and depth of its
signals and human intelligence collection
efforts, it seems safe to assume that a
relatively robust structure is in place.
Moreover, assistance to Hezbollah from
the Iranian Revolutionary Guards has
reportedly included training on organi-
zational matters such as the creation of
specialized intelligence units.47
Hezbollah’s signals intelligence capabilities arguably surpass those
of any other contemporary insurgent group.During the 2006 Lebanon
war, Hezbollah intelligence personnel reportedly eavesdropped
electronically on Israeli Defense Force (IDF) units both inside and
outside of Israel and relayed information of operational use to local
Hezbollah commanders.In so doing, they caused considerable damage
to IDF operations, according to some observers.48 We were able to
monitor Israeli communications and we used this information to adjust
Marine Corps University Journal
46 “Hizbullah’s Intelligence Apparatus,”
Jane’s Terrorism and Security Monitor
(online edition), 13
September 2006.
47 Steven Erlanger and Richard A Oppel,“ADisciplined Hezbollah Surprises Israel With Its Training,
Tactics, and Weapons,”
New York Times
, 7 August 2006, accessed 4 September 2009,
48 Ze’ev Schiff, “Hezbollah listened in on IDF beepers, cell phones,”
(Tel Aviv), 10 April
2006, accessed 3 September 2009,; and Caroline
B. Glick, “As the Storm of War Approaches,”
Jerusalem Post
, 6 October 2006,accessed 3 September
Hezbollah consciously
attempts to operate in the
manner of a state
intelligence service.
our planning,” according to another Hezbollah commander.49 Even
before the war, dozens of fluent Hebrew speakers within Hezbollah
translated mobile telephone conversations intercepted inside Israel and
gathered open-source intelligence through the Israeli press to gauge
public opinion and morale.50
Hezbollah’s capabilities, however, extend well beyond signals and
open-source intelligence. e organization relies heavily on human
networks inside Lebanon, across the border in Israel, and, according
to some reports,into the United States.51 According to the Shin Bet,
Israel’s domestic security service, Hezbollah has made a major effort
to recruit Arab citizens of Israel,particularly those who served in the
IDF.52 Assessing the impact of this reported recruitment effort is
difficult, although one Middle East intelligence official has claimed
that agents helped Hezbollah procure “very detailed and modern
military maps about Israel’s sensitive military and infrastructure sites
...showing military bases and other strategic places.”53 During the
2006 war, Hezbollah intelligence operatives gathered much useful
tactical intelligence among the civilian population; the organization
also reportedly recruited agents within the South Lebanon Army
(SLA), finding relatively easy pickings among its poorly motivated
ranks. ese reported recruitments did more than generate high-
quality military information.e inclusion of civilian informants and
Rosenau - Insurgent Intelligence Operations
49 Paul McLeary, “Motive and Means: High-Tech Weapons Are Now a Staple of Insurgencies,”
Defense Technology International
2 (2008): 42.
50 Ibid. Hezbollah has also reportedly gathered information on IDF personnel through social
networking services like Facebook. Turbiville,
Guerrilla Counterinsurgency
, 61.
51 Fred Burton and Scott Stewart, “Hezbollah: Signs of a Sophisticated Intelligence Apparatus,”
, 12 December 2007, accessed 29 July 2009,
hezbollah_signs_sophisticated_intelligence_apparatus. In 2007, a Lebanese-born CIA officer,Nada
Nadim Prouty, pleaded guilty to charges that she unlawfully attempted to gain access to classified
information on Hezbollah. While there is no evidence that Prouty and her co-conspirators passed
information to the group, the plot suggests to some analysts that Hezbollah has established a
“sophisticated intelligence apparatus”that has reached into the U.S.intelligence community.
52 Yosi Melman, e Prying Game”
(Tel Aviv), 23 July 2006, accessed 30 July 2009,
53 “Hizbullah’s Intelligence Apparatus.”
SLA personnel in Hezbollah’s intelligence networks contributed
substantially to its information operations by reinforcing the
perceptions of the group’s prowess and indeed invincibility, with
“nothing . . . apparently, hidden from its eyes.”54
Insurgent Counterintelligence
Recounting his experiences as a leader of Irgun Zvai Leumi in
Mandate Palestine, Menachim Begin concluded that, for the
underground, “the informer is the most terrible of its enemies.”55
What was true for the Irgun remains true for every armed group
today. State intelligence structures,and the regimes they support, can
survive treason. Insurgent groups are
more fragile, and the“enemy within” is
likely to cause far more damage than
he or she would inside an incumbent
regime. For groups operating in
particularly hostile environments,
security lapses of any kind can have
devastating consequences. For the
jihadists, the need for security is
paramount; all planning and operations, and indeed, everything the
organizations undertake, is subordinate to this imperative.56
To understand the particular threat that turncoats pose to armed
underground groups, it is well worth returning to Bell, who argues
persuasively that such movements are fundamentally faith-based
organizations in which the maintenance of a revolutionary or
Marine Corps University Journal
State intelligence
structures, and the regimes
they support, can survive
treason. Insurgent groups
are more fragile.
54 Ron Schleifer, “Psychological Operations: A New Variation on an Age Old Art: Hezbollah Versus
Studies in Conflict and Terrorism
29 (2006): 1–19. is is reminiscent of “Democratic
Kampuchea,” where the Khmer Rouge fostered an impression of omnipotence through surveillance:
“Nothing escaped the vigilant eyes of the authorities who, according to one slogan, had ‘as many eyes
as a pineapple.’”Stéphane Courtois and Mark Kramer,
e Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror,
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), 606.
55 Menachim Begin,
e Revolt: Story of the Irgun
(New York: Henry Schuman, 1951), 102.
56 Gaetano Joe Ilardi, “Al-Qaeda’s Counterintelligence Doctrine:e Pursuit of Operational Certainty
and Control,”
International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence
22 (2009): 250.
liberationist ideal is paramount. As Bell explains,
Every movement fears the informer, the once faithful now
corrupt. is is the great revolutionary crime: plagiarism for
the scholar,cowardice for the soldier, heresy for the saint, and
informing for the gunman and the guerrilla. To betray one’s
faith, one’s own fellows, implies a weakness not only in the
villain but also in the faith. . . . Ideologically, it is disastrous
and operationally, deadly.57
It is understandable,therefore,why every insurgent organization
makes a considerable investment in internal security and passive
counterintelligence. In the insurgents’ operating environment,
dangers can lurk everywhere, but perhaps no more so than within
their own ranks.e passive counterintelligence principles employed
by groups like the PIRA and Hezbollah are universal and applicable
to state as well as nonstate organizations. ese principles included
the strict adherence to the “need to know” policy, compart-
mentalization, and the requirement to debrief personnel who have
been detained by the security forces, both to detect signs that an
individual has been “turned” and to gain insights on the adversary’s
tactics, techniques, procedures, and priorities. Capture and
interrogation present particular dangers. Not only is there the
possibility that secrets will be revealed, but detention can also serve
as a venue for recruitment into the enemy’s ranks. It is hardly
surprising,therefore, that jihadi literature is replete with guidance on
resisting interrogation techniques,58 and the PIRA carefully trained
volunteers to resist interrogation through silence and other
More generally, insurgent organizational culture can foster a
climate of internal suspicion intended to promote vigilance against
Rosenau - Insurgent Intelligence Operations
57 Bell,
Dynamics of the Armed Struggle
, 52–53.
58 See, for example, Abdul Aziz al-Abeani,“e School of Prophet Joseph” Sada al-Malahim 2 (2008): 26.
59 Tony Geraghty,
e Irish War: e Military History of a Domestic Conflict
(London: HarperCollins,
1998), 87.
(and deterrence of) treachery. A former FARC commander explained
it this way: “Everyone watches everyone. is is ingrained in every
guerrilla. It is accepted that it’s your obligation to report suspicious
activity. ere is no regard for rank. You are expected to report on
your superiors.”60 In a period of organizational, operational, and
political decline for the FARC during recent years, a climate of
suspicion apparently helped thwart mass defections since individuals
were typically unwilling to ask others to
join them as they left the movement.
For example, a FARC commander’s
wife, who served in the same front,
defected a month before he did, and
without telling him in advance.61
In the case of the high-performing
armed groups discussed in this article,
the internal security imperative led to
the creation of specialized counter-
intelligence units. Hezbollah’s “preventive intelligence” unit is
responsible for communications security and the prevention of “the
penetration of foreign agents into its ranks,” according to one press
account.62 Within the PIRA, the Internal Security Unit (ISU)—the
notorious “Nutting Squad”—was responsible for vetting recruits and
for identifying, rooting out (typically through protracted torture of
suspects),and eliminating informants or “touts.”63 e squad was the
one centralized structure with respect to PIRA intelligence.Its remit
extended across the active service units (ASUs), reporting directly to
the PIRA’s general headquarters.Such specialized units are obviously
intended to strengthen defensive counterintelligence, but these
Marine Corps University Journal
Insurgent organizational
culture can foster a climate
of internal suspicion
intended to promote
vigilance against (and
deterrence of ) treachery.
60 Author’s interview, Bogotá, Columbia, 2 April 2009.
61 Ibid.
62 Melman, “Prying Game.”
63 PIRA counterintelligence also reportedly uncovered and disrupted the Four Square Laundry
operation, an effort by the British Army’s Military Reaction Force to gather intelligence on terrorist
suspects. Ed Maloney,
Voices from the Grave: Two Men’s War in Ireland
(New York: Public Affairs,
2010), 118–22.
structures can generate new and unintended vulnerabilities for their
organizations, as demonstrated in the case of the ISU. A centralized
security unit was an irresistible target for the British security forces.
e ISU “had an intimate and unrivalled knowledge of the
organization’s affairs. . . . It was the Achilles’ heel,” concludes Ed
Moloney.64 British military intelligence was able to recruit an
informant within the squad,Alfredo “ScapScappaticci (codenamed
“Stakeknife”), who, for an astonishing 25 years, provided vast
amounts of sensitive and “actionable” information on the PIRA
leadership and operations. With Stakeknife in place,” according to
Martin Ingram and Greg Harkin, “the IRA effectively had no
internal security.”65
Most of the counterintelligence practiced by insurgent groups
could be classified as passive. But for the high-performing
organizations considered in this article, counterintelligence is not
limited to protective or defensive measures. As is the case with state
intelligence services, insurgent counterintelligence can also take an
aggressive or offensive form. At the most basic level, offensive
insurgence counterintelligence includes efforts to delineate the goals,
structures, and policies of the adversary’s intelligence services.During
the late 1980s,al-Qaeda’s precursor organization,the Afghan Service
Bureau (Mekhtah al-Khidemat, or MAK), produced an eleven-
volume Al-Jihad Encylopedia on guerrilla tactics and operations,bomb
making, and intelligence and security.66 e encyclopedia contains a
detailed, if sometimes fanciful, discussion of Israeli intelligence
structures, tradecraft, and liaison relationships with foreign services.
Other writings serve an exhortative and even psychological function
for militants by exposing and “demystifying” what many jihadists
Rosenau - Insurgent Intelligence Operations
64 Ed Moloney,
A Secret History of the IRA
(London: Penguin, 2002), 335.
65 Martin Ingram and Greg Harkin,
Stakeknife: Britain’s Secret Agents in Ireland
(Madison: University
of Wisconsin Press, 2004), 97. For more on the subsequent controversy over Stakeknife, see Rosie
Cowan, “He Did the IRA’s Dirty Work for 25 Years—and Was Paid £80,000 a Year by the
(London), 12 May 2003,accessed 20 July 2009,
66 Ilardi, “Al Qaeda’s Operational Intelligence,” 1094, n. 11. e author thanks G. J. Ilardi for
generously sharing intelligence-related material from these volumes.
believe to be an omnipotent and omnipresent U.S. intelligence
community. For example, Muhammad Khalil Al-Hakaymah’s e
Myth of Delusion uses open sources to identify structural and other
weaknesses in American intelligence and to demonstrate to the
faithful that the might of the U.S. colossus is in fact limited and can
be challenged successfully.67
More ambitiously, armed groups will attempt to, and sometimes
succeed in, disrupting the intelligence-gathering activities of their
adversaries.“Blinding” the enemy through the targeting of personnel
and informants is one approach. During the Anglo-Irish War, the
PIRA’s “Squad,” working under Michael Collins, director of PIRA
intelligence, carried out what might be termed “lethal”
counterintelligence operations. Directed against the Royal Irish
Constabularys “G” Division, which gathered intelligence on the
republican leadership, the Squad targeted and assassinated detectives
in an explicit attempt to blind British intelligence in Ireland.68
e Irgun studied PIRA intelligence operations closely and
gleaned important lessons,most notably,the need to paralyze British
intelligence operations.69 ese studies apparently paid off
handsomely, for according to Begin,“the Hebrew underground smote
the intelligence hip and thigh.”70 On a contemporary note, jihad
theorist Abu Bakr Najr has written that destroying “stool pigeons
and informants” has a devastating effect on the “secret police of the
enemy,” which is unable to operate without the information supplied
by these traitors.71 In Afghanistan, the Taliban has reportedly waged
Marine Corps University Journal
67 Brian Fishman,
Al-Qaeda’s Spymaster Analyzes the U.S. Intelligence Community
(West Point, NY:
Combating Terrorism Center, U.S. Military Academy, 2006), accessed 5 July 2009,
68 John F. Murphy Jr, “Michael Collins and the Craft of Intelligence,”
International Journal of
Intelligence and Counterintelligence
17 (2004): 342–45.For more on these operations and the so-called
“Secret War,” see T. Ryle Dwyer,
e Squad and the Intelligence Operations of Michael Collins
Ireland: Mercier Press, 2005).
69 Charters, “Eyes of the Underground,”170.
70 Begin,
e Revolt
, 97.
71 Abu Bakr Naji,
Management of Savagery
, sec. 4.
campaigns in contested districts to identify and root out local
residents suspected of supplying information to U.S. and Afghan
government forces.72
Examples of sophisticated counterintelligence-related deceptions
of state intelligence services by armed groups are more difficult to find.
One example—perhaps not a surprising one, given its overall
intelligence prowess—involves Hezbollah. Echoing the British
“Double Cross System”employed with devastating effect against Nazi
intelligence, Hezbollah reportedly was
able to “turn” members of an Israeli spy
ring during the 2006 war in Lebanon
and feed back to Israel false information
about militia emplacements.73
Infiltration of military and police
services is a well-established component
of many insurgent campaigns, as
demonstrated in South Vietnam, Iraq,
and now Afghanistan. However, it
appears that developing sources within the intelligence services of
even the most feckless and incompetent incumbent regimes is a much
more daunting challenge. Non-democratic regimes (that is, the
regimes that are most likely to face internal violent opposition) may
underpay, underprovision, and otherwise neglect their armed forces,
and they certainly tend to neglect their police services. But such
regimes’ treatment of their intelligence agencies, particularly those
that focus inward, is likely to be a different matter. Leaders of such
regimes typically lavish them with resources and populate them with
their most trusted, if not most capable, henchmen.74 is is not to
Rosenau - Insurgent Intelligence Operations
72 Christoph Reuter and Borhan Younus,“e Return of the Taliban in Andar District: Ghazni,” in
Decoding the NewTaliban: Insights from the Afghan Field
, ed.Antonio Giustozzi (New York: Columbia
University Press, 2009), 108.
73 Turbiville,
Guerrilla Counterinsurgency
, 61.
74 See, for example, Patrick Devenny, e List: e Middle East's Most Powerful Spooks,”
, July 2009, accessed 3 August 2009,
Armed groups will
attempt to, and sometimes
succeed in, disrupting the
activities of their
suggest,of course, that such intelligence organs are incapable of error
or are particularly capable or astute with respect to understanding
regime opponents. But operating within the miasma of conspiracy
and paranoia that suffuses dictatorial regimes, intelligence agencies
must be considered an extremely “hard target” for armed groups.
at said,there are several significant examples of the penetration
of state services by nonstate groups. As the apartheid regime waned
during the late 1980s and early 1990s,the African National Congress
(ANC) mounted “Operation Vula,” an attempt to build an
underground political and military structure within South Africa in
preparation for an all-out“people’s war.”As part of the operation, the
ANC stepped up its ongoing efforts to develop sources within South
Africa’s security structures. Speaking contemporaneously, one
member of the ANC’s military wing, Spear of the Nation
(Umkhonto we Sizwe,or MK), claimed that “we haven’t done badly”
in terms of recruiting “moles”inside the security services. According
to other Vula participants, sources were also recruited within the
police, military, and other security forces and gained access to
National Intelligence Service files and other intelligence reports.75
Under what circumstances are insurgent efforts to infiltrate
intelligence services and other state security forces likely to succeed?
In some instances, insurgents will exploit greed and other ordinary
human weaknesses. Outright bribery might therefore be seen as a
form of financial counterintelligence if it leads to information that
thwarts a regime’s intelligence efforts. In a conflict in which the
counterinsurgency effort is going badly for the incumbent, insiders
may be more tempted to provide intelligence information they
believe will help the cause. Human motivations are complex and
layered, and so monocausal explanations for such behavior are
unsatisfactory.Outright sympathy may play a part, as may the desire
to “get on the right side of the ledger”when the insurgents appear to
be on the path to victory.
Marine Corps University Journal
75 Robert D’A. Henderson, “Operation Vula Against Apartheid,”
International Journal of Intelligence
and Counterintelligence
10 (December 1997): 419.
Insurgent Covert Action
As discussed in the preceding sections, foreign intelligence and
counterintelligence are significant features of the insurgent repertoire.
While differing in some obvious respects, these disciplines are clearly
recognizable as analogous to the disciplines employed by state services.
Covert action, the third intelligence discipline, is more problematic.
Clandestinity is an obvious feature of any insurgency. In the early
stages of an insurgency, activities such as recruitment must be done
quietly, and even in late stages of classical Maoist insurgency, when
guerrillas are engaged in open warfare, underground political,
logistical, and administrative structures remain important. But to
what extent can insurgents be said to engage in covert operations?
Returning to Shulsky and Schmitt’s
definition,covert action is “some secret
activity to influence the behavior of a
foreign government or political,
military, economic, or societal events
and circumstances in a foreign
country.”76 Under this definition, it
might be tempting to characterize as
“covert” virtually everything an insurgent group does, and indeed,
many insurgent groups have been described as “secret armies.” But
such a characterization would be inappropriate. While many aspects
of the armed struggle are secret (or are intended to be so),insurgents
rarely attempt to conceal the fact that they are trying to influence
behavior or events and are hardly shy about acknowledging their
efforts to drive out a foreign occupier or topple a hated regime.
Moreover, insurgents rarely, if ever, have the resources to engage in
the kinds of sophisticated and costly machinations associated with
state-run covert operations.
at said, at least two types of insurgent activities might be
categorized as covert operations. e first is propaganda, specifically
Rosenau - Insurgent Intelligence Operations
76 Shulsky and Schmitt,
Silent Warfare
, 77.
Foreign intelligence and
counterintelligence are
significant features of the
insurgent repertoire.
“black” propaganda, defined by the Department of Defense as
“propaganda that purports to emanate from a source other than the
true one.77 Such propaganda is intended to deceive the target
audience not just by misrepresenting its origins, but also by
presenting distortions and outright lies as facts. e use of black
propaganda by insurgents is surely as old as the phenomenon of
insurgency itself. A contemporary example can be found in Iraq,
where insurgents reportedly acquired the flash-memory drive of a
U.S. Army specialist,Lee Kendell, and used its contents to concoct a
letter.According to Manuel R. Torres Soriano, the fraudulent letter
described the desperate situation of the foreign soldier in Iraq
and the existence of abuses and unpunished war crimes. A
person could obtain the material via a downloadable video
which contained the reading of the false letter by an
anonymous narrator using American-accented English.78
e second insurgent activity that might reasonably be
characterized as covert action is the employment of front groups—
again, a tool in the repertoire of many, if not most, insurgencies. In
essence, a front group is an organization that is controlled secretly
by another entity.Nominally independent,fronts provide a façade of
legitimacy and attract support and resources from individuals who
might otherwise avoid involvement in the insurgency.Among other
things,fronts “can draw the sting of disapproval away from the cause
and redirect it against the state or institutions” opposed by the
insurgency, as John ompson has observed.79 Armed groups as
diverse as the LTTE, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT, the South Asian
Marine Corps University Journal
77 U.S. Department of Defense,
DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms
, 12 April 2001, as
amended through 19 August 2009, accessed 5 September 2009,
78 Manuel R. Torres Soriano, “Jihadist Propaganda and Its Audiences: A Change of Course?”
Perspectives on Terrorism
1 (2007), accessed 20 May 2010,
79 John ompson and Joe Turlej,
Other People’s Wars: A Review of Overseas Terrorism in Canada
Mackenzie Institute Occasional Paper (Toronto: Mackenzie Institute, 2003), 63, accessed 12 March
extremist organization fighting for the “liberation” of Indian-
occupied Kashmir), and the FARC have established elaborate
networks of front groups in their theater of operations and, in some
instances, “out of area” among diasporic communities. Hezbollah
fronts appear to be aimed largely at fund-raising,as illustrated by the
case of Orphans Project Lebanon, a German group suspected of
serving as a front for the Lebanese Martyr Institute,which is in turn
believed to have raised funds for Hezbollah.80
Although armed groups clearly engage in some forms of covert
action, it would be a mistake to overstate their significance. While
hardly luxuries from the point of view of the insurgents, such
intelligence operations are decidedly secondary to the first-order
tasks of identifying targets, preparing for attacks, and protecting the
organization from its adversaries.
Policy Implications and Conclusions
Any well-crafted and effective response to the phenomena
discussed in this article obviously must begin with a thorough
appreciation of the problem. As mentioned at the beginning,scholars
have devoted little analytical attention to insurgent intelligence
operations. Reflecting the influence of the dominant, state-centric
paradigms of international relations, academic specialists on
intelligence have focused almost exclusively on state intelligence
institutions. To its credit, the 2008 National Counterintelligence
Strategy of the United States of America highlighted the threat to U.S.
interests posed by the intelligence activities of violent nonstate
groups,noting for example that such entities “acquire resources,train
and deploy personnel, and execute both clandestine and covert
intelligence operations against us.”81 But as is frequently the case
Rosenau - Insurgent Intelligence Operations
80 Benjamin Weinthal,“German Charity Front for Hizbullah,”
Jerusalem Post
, 1 August 2009,accessed
10 September 2009,
81 Director of National Intelligence,
National Counterintelligence Strategy of the United States of America:
(Washington,DC: Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 2008), 9.
with such white papers, the National Counterintelligence Strategy
languishes in unread obscurity. If the broader public record is any
indication, policy makers have neglected the subject, and as
intelligence priorities ordinarily flow from the interests identified by
decision makers, it seems safe to conclude that the U.S. intelligence
community has devoted relatively little analytical attention to the
topic. Violent nonstate groups have
hardly been ignored, to be sure, but in
the cases of those operating in places
like Iraq and Afghanistan, the focus
has been on identifying so-called
“high-value” individuals. With the
exception of the subject of leadership,
these armed groups have been treated
largely as analytical black boxes, with
their organizational inner workings—
including such functional areas as
finance and administration, training, and, as argued in this article,
intelligence—seldom exposed to analytical scrutiny.
As a first step, policy makers should reconsider their traditional
neglect of the topic. As mentioned in the introduction, assessing the
net contribution of intelligence to insurgent performance is an
impossible task at the moment and will remain so until scholars,
analysts, and practitioners begin gathering more data, including
(ideally) firsthand accounts from participants as well as documentary
evidence. One of the reasons we know as much about PIRA
intelligence activities as we do is because Bell and other specialists
thought to ask PIRA volunteers about intelligence matters during
the course of their interviews. For students of insurgency, and for
government intelligence personnel, interviews with current and
former members of armed groups should include (when possible)
questions regarding intelligence matters. A thorough assessment of
the intelligence contribution to insurgency will have to wait, but in
the meantime,one can reasonably conclude that we need to do more
to develop our understanding.As indicated in this article, insurgents
certainly appear to take intelligence—both their own and that of their
Marine Corps University Journal
Any well-crafted and
effective response to the
phenomena discussed in
this article obviously must
begin with a thorough
appreciation of the
foes—quite seriously.For that reason alone,the subject merits much
greater scrutiny.
Based on what we do know today, it is also possible to consider some
preliminary approaches for dealing with underground intelligence
operations. Although insurgent attempts to penetrate U.S. intelligence
services have been reported in recent years, that aspect of threat seems
less salient than others. Compared with state intelligence services,
nonstate groups are ill equipped to marshal and deploy the resources
needed to penetrate American intelligence agencies. Russia and China,
which have “whole ministries with burgeoning bureaucracies and a
dedicated cadre of intelligence officials willing to commit millions of
dollars to collect intelligence on American targets,” pose a much more
realistic and pressing counterintelligence threat, as Justin R. Harber
argues convincingly.82 e threat posed to the less-robust services of
American partners abroad is no doubt
greater, but as discussed in this article,
even feeble regimes are likely to possess
intelligence organs that pose formidable
challenges to insurgent groups.However,
the services of partner countries (or the
“host nations” who are receiving U.S.
counterinsurgency support) should
receive additional American attention.
e United States is relying increasingly
on the so-called “liaison services” of friendly countries to provide
intelligence information, particularly on nonstate threats.83 Given our
apparent dependence on these countries for information on threats to
our interests, it makes sense to encourage foreign services to commit
collection and analytical resources toward understanding insurgent
intelligence phenomena in a more systematic and rigorous way.
Rosenau - Insurgent Intelligence Operations
82 Justin R. Harber,“Unconventional Spies: e Counterintelligence reat from Non-State Actors,”
International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence
22 (June 2009): 222.
83 See, for example, Garrett Jones, “Torture and the CIA,”E-Notes, Foreign Policy Research Institute,2005,
accessed 7 September 2009, 20051202.americawar.jones.torturecia.html.
Assessing the net
contribution of
intelligence to insurgent
performance is an
impossible task at the
Marine Corps University Journal
Finally, particular emphasis should be given to developing offensive
counterintelligence against insurgent groups.It goes without saying that
passive counterintelligence should not be neglected. But this aspect of the
discipline can be relegated to the category of “lesser-included”
counterintelligence since a robust internal security regime designed to
protect against the incursions of a state service should, with minor
adaptation, work against nonstate
intelligence as well. Offensive
counterintelligence, on the other hand,
requires special consideration. e
United States should work with its
international partners to develop more
effective means for penetrating insurgent
groups and, in particular, to cultivate
informants among (or near) under-
ground intelligence structures. is is
and will likely remain a formidable
challenge for any intelligence service.
An insurgent group’s capability depends on its structure. at said,
some insurgent groups are more loosely structured than others, potentially
making identification of targets inside more difficult.A notable feature of
many insurgencies—strong social,religious, kinship,or ethnic ties among
members and supporters—creates additional hurdles to penetration by
outsiders and suggests the need for suborning individuals already inside
the relevant armed group.84 However, the experience of the British
security forces against the PIRA suggests that with time and persistence,
extensive networks of informants can be developed inside even relatively
small and cohesive violent underground organizations. Such groups fear
internal treachery above all else, and fomenting suspicion and distrust
within their ranks is likely to have a powerfully corrosive impact.To return
for a final time to Bell,“conspiratorial organizations fear conspiracy,”and
violent nonstate groups are conspiratorial enterprises par excellence.85
It makes sense to
encourage foreign services
to commit collection and
analytical resources
toward understanding
insurgent intelligence
84 Harber, “Unconventional Spies,” 229.
85 Bell, “Armed Struggle and Underground Intelligence,” 143.
Rosenau - Insurgent Intelligence Operations
Kit Carson Scout Pham-Douc (left) points out location of suspected enemy installations near Hill
65, 20 miles south of Danang,Vietnam, to LCpl R.D.Kilmer (center) and Cpl P.F. Collins (right)
on 26 August 1967. Photo by Sgt Ryan.
Marine Corps University Journal Vol. 2 • No. 1 • Spring 2011 35
Doctrine for Irregular Warfare
Déjà Vu All Over Again?
by Wray R. Johnson
Without some sense of historical continuity, Americans
are likely to relearn the lessons of history each time they
are faced with low-intensity conflict. But what is more
dangerous is the fact that during the relearning process,
Americans may suffer casualties and develop policy
directions that can only lead to defeat.
—Sam C. Sarkesian1
In a 2007 New York Times column entitled “A U.S. General’s
Disquiet,”Roger Cohen described how U.S.Army Lieutenant General
Peter W. Chiarelli experienced an epiphany with regard to “modern
warfare.”General Chiarelli had spent the first two decades of his career
“training to defeat the Soviet Ninth Army in Europe,” described as
“symmetrical war,” not the “elusive asymmetry of borderless modern
warfare,counterinsurgency, and counterterrorism.”2But after two tours
Johnson is professor of military history at the U.S. Marine Corps School of Advanced Warfighting,
Marine Corps University,Quantico, VA. He is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and spent much of his
22-year military career in special operations. He holds a doctorate in history from Florida State
University and has taught at the U.S.Air Force School of Advanced Airpower Studies and the U.S.
Marine Corps Command and Staff College. He is author of
Vietnam and American Doctrine for Small
(2001) and coauthor (with James S.Corum) of
Airpower in Small Wars: Fighting Insurgents and
1Sam C. Sarkesian,
America’s Forgotten Wars: e Counterrevolutionary Past and Lessons for the Future
(Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Press, 1984).
2Roger Cohen, “A General’s Disquiet,”
New York Times
, 10 September 2007.In a similar vein,retired
Gen Wesley K. Clark wrote in the
Washington Post
, “After the demoralizing loss in Vietnam, the
United States went high tech, developing whole classes of new tanks, ships,and fighter planes and new
operational techniques to defeat then-enemy no.1—the Soviets.”In doing so,the U.S.military “junked
the doctrine of counterinsurgency warfare, which we’re trying to relearn in Iraq.” Wesley K. Clark,
“e Next War,”
Washington Post
, 16 September 2007.
in Iraq,General Chiarelli had adapted to the exigencies of modern war
and by that time averred that the United States “entered the War on
Terrorism . .. with armed forces well suited to defeat opposing armies”
but unsuited to “the imperatives of . . . counterinsurgency warfare.”3
Unfortunately,General Chiarellis lament is anything but new.
In 1994, capitalizing on Samuel P. Huntington’s postulation of
worldwide cultural crisis, then-Major Ralph Peters wrote “e New
Warrior Class.4In this controversial essay, Peters boldly asserted that
“the soldiers of the United States Army are brilliantly prepared to
defeat other soldiers.Unfortunately, the enemies we are likely to face
through the rest of this decade and beyond will not be ‘soldiers,’with
the disciplined modernity that term conveys in Euro-America, but
‘warriors’—erratic primitives of shifting allegiance, habituated to
violence, with no stake in the civil order.”5irty-three years earlier,
Roger Trinquier had published an equally provocative work, Modern
Warfare: A French View of Counterinsurgency. Like Peters and
Chiarelli, Trinquier claimed that in modern warfare (a term he
italicized throughout the book for emphasis), We still persist in
studying a type of warfare that no longer exists and that we shall
never fight again,” meaning the sort of “conventional” warfare
witnessed in World War II. “e result,”he wrote, “is that the army
is not prepared to confront an adversary employing arms and
methods the army itself ignores.”6One finds similar sentiments
expressed by U.S. military officers as far back as the colonial period
Marine Corps University Journal
3Peter Chiarelli and Stephen Smith, “Learning From Our Modern Wars: e Imperatives of
Preparing for a Dangerous Future,”
Military Review
, September–October 2007, 3.
4In a groundbreaking and highly controversial article written in the summer of 1993, “e Clash of
Civilizations?,” Huntington argued that the fundamental source of conflict in the post–Cold War era
would no longer be ideological or economic. Instead,he wrote,“e great divisions among humankind
and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural.” Samuel P. Huntington, “e Clash of
Foreign Affairs
72 (Summer 1993): 22–49 (quote p.22). Huntington greatly expanded
this thesis in a subsequent book,
e Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order
York: Simon and Schuster, 1996).
5Ralph Peters, e New Warrior Class,”
24 (Summer 1994): 16.
6Roger Trinquier,
Modern Warfare: A French View of Counterinsurgency
(1964; repr., Fort Leavenworth:
U.S. Army Command and General Staff College,1985), 3.Originally published as
La Guerre Moderne
(Paris: Éditions de la Table Ronde,1961).
when Colonel George Washington posited, “Indians are the only
match for Indians; and without these we shall ever fight upon
unequal terms.”7More than a century later, Brigadier General
George Crook likewise observed, An Indian in his own mode of
warfare is more than the equal of the white man. . . . In operating
against them the only hope of success lies in using their own
methods, and their own people with a mixed command.”8
us, to borrow from Cohen,there is a disquieting continuity in
American military history with respect to irregular warfare and, as
military historian John Keegan has written,“continuities,particularly
hidden continuities,form the principal subject of historical enquiry.
It is the “identification of links” between the past and present that
“enables us to comprehend our actions in context.”9With that in
mind, there is very little about irregular warfare today that is
genuinely novel.Moreover, much of what is beingwritten today pales
in comparison to what has been written about irregular warfare in
the past.10 e problem of irregular warfare is therefore not one of
theory or analysis, or even best practices—there is already a
Johnson - Doctrine on Irregular Warfare
7Russell F. Weigley,
History of the United States Army
(New York: Macmillan, 1967), 11.
8LS2584DA1882, Crook to AAG, Military Division to the Pacific, 6 September 1882,and George
Annual Report
, 1883, 11–12, as quoted in Dan rapp,
General George Crook and the Sierra
Madre Adventure
(Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1972), 104, 130–31.
9John Keegan, introduction to Alan Wykes,
SS Leibstandarte
(New York: Ballantine Books, 1974), 6.
10 Although perhaps too harsh an assessment,the point is that the student of irregular warfare will find
very little written today that is not old wine in a new wineskin. Regrettably, however, many policy
makers and senior military officers at present have never drunk the wine in question, so it seems new.
But it would be better in most cases to drink in the original works of David Galula, John J.McCuen,
Harry Eckstein, and others whose studies were published in the 1960s. Some adaptation is necessary,
but the principles are enduring. See, for example, David Galula,
Counterinsurgency Warfare: eory
and Practice
(New York: Praeger,1964), currently issued by the U.S. Army for training human terrain
teams at Fort Leavenworth, KS. e above said, one must admit that there are some fresh voices of
note in the current literature on irregular warfare. Of course,Australian author David Kilcullen comes
to mind, but alsoomas A. Marks of National Defense University, whose book
Maoist People’s War
in Post-Vietnam Asia
(Bangkok: White Lotus, 2007) is the best explication of Maoist operational art
currently in print. In that regard,the notion that understanding Maoist strategy is unnecessary in an
era of Islamic terrorism is wholly refuted by the fact that most insurgencies around the globe today,
including Islamists, have adopted a Maoist approach. See, for example, Norman Cigar,
Doctrine for Insurgency: ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz Al-Muqrin’s A Practical Course for Guerrilla War
DC: Potomac Books, 2009).
considerable body of literature on these subjects—but rather the rise
and fall of professional interest in the subject within the U.S.military
in the manner of a sine wave throughout American military history.11
e purpose of this essay, then, is to illustrate this sine wave by
examining the evolution of U.S.
military doctrine for irregular warfare.
U.S. military interest in irregular
warfare has followed a fairly predictable
pattern. For one reason or another,
irregular warfare is first declared to be a
significant threat to U.S. interests.
Shortly afterward, analysts demand a qualitatively different approach
to combating the threat outside the mainstream of conventional
warfare.12 A contest is then engaged between “small wars” enthusiasts
and “big war” traditionalists. e former achieve some measure of
success in altering doctrine, force structure, etc., but invariably, this
progress is fleeting as traditionalists reassert the dominance of
conventional principles of warfighting. In the end, the conventional
mind-set of the U.S. military is reaffirmed, and the theory and
Marine Corps University Journal
ere is very little about
irregular warfare today
that is genuinely novel.
11 e idea of a sine wave refers to the phenomenon of interest and neglect regarding irregular warfare
concepts as represented by an undulating waveform over time. e peaks of the wave represent periods
of national and military interest in irregular warfare, e.g., the small wars era between 1915 and 1933,
during the Vietnam War, and in the 1980s when revolutionary insurgency in Latin America provoked
a response from the Reagan administration and the U.S. Congress, resulting in the production of
military doctrine for low-intensity conflict.e low points or valleys represent periods of neglect,both
in terms of policy and doctrine production, e.g.,during World War II and in the 1970s following the
Vietnam War when the U.S. military focused on the Soviet conventional threat in central Europe.
12 One can easily become bogged down in definitional debates regarding the nature of “irregular”
versus “conventional” warfare. In its simplest terms, an “irregular” can be defined as “a soldier who is
not a member of a regular military force.” (
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary
, 11th ed.
[Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster,2006]). Friedrich von der Heydte writes that irregular warfare
is usually “conceived to be an armed conflict, in which the parties are not large units, but small and very
small action groups, and in which the outcome is not decided in a few large battles, but the decision
is sought, and ultimately achieved,in a very large number of small, individual operations.”In contrast,
“conventional warfare” involves large battle formations that prosecute positional campaigns on the
basis of decisive battle to achieve victory,what von der Heydte describes as “large war.”Friedrich von
der Heydte,
Modern Irregular Warfare: In Defense Policy as a Military Phenomenon
, trans. George
Gregory (New York: New Benjamin Franklin House, 1986),3, 25.
operational art associated with irregular warfare recedes into a
doctrinal backwater—until the next foreign internal conflict erupts,
demanding center-stage attention and starting the cycle over again.
is sine wave is most pointedly reflected in U.S. military doctrine.
As the quote from Sam Sarkesian at the beginning of this essay
points out, it seems we must relearn the principles of irregular warfare
with each new “low-intensity conflict.”13 In short, as the sine wave
dips,interest in irregular warfare wanes, and the U.S.military jettisons
what has been learned about the subject, which it then must relearn
when a new irregular challenge presents itself.e danger,of course, is
that the military can bungle the effort before the lessons are relearned.
is very nearly occurred in Iraq. Owing to the poor performance of
U.S.forces in quelling the insurgency following the so-called “decisive”
phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom, there were repeated calls for the
withdrawal of American troops even though doing so would have
resulted in the collapse of the new Iraqi
state.Only the steadfast determination
of the George W. Bush administration
to stay the course in Iraq permitted this
relearning process to unfold to the
point where “victoryis now within our
grasp.14 Unfortunately, if our newfound
understanding of irregular warfare is
permitted to atrophy or is willfully jettisoned in the coming years, as
has occurred so often in the past,we may find ourselves losing the fight
in the next low-intensity conflict before relearning can occur.
Johnson - Doctrine on Irregular Warfare
U.S. military interest in
irregular warfare has
followed a fairly
predictable pattern.
13 Sarkesian is a retired U.S. Army officer and professor emeritus of political science at Loyola
University, Chicago. During the 1980s and early 1990s, he was a widely respected authority on
irregular warfare, authoring numerous books and articles on the subject.
14 Whether or not “victory”has been achieved in Iraq is open to debate. And it depends on how victory
is defined. As the author stated to a senior CIA official in 2005,“If we define victory in Iraq as creating
a Switzerland in the Middle East, we will fail. On the other hand, if we can create something along
the lines of Columbia, a state with an ongoing insurgency but the insurgents cannot win and the
government will not lose, then we will succeed.”
is is why doctrine is so important: it is the intellectual
conceptualization of the nature and character of war and provides a
measure of continuity in terms of the theory for military victory. In
that regard,doctrine represents the basic precepts that drive decisions
regarding how the armed forces are organized,trained, and equipped.
As General Curtis E. LeMay stressed,“At the very heart of war lies
doctrine. It represents the central beliefs for waging war in order to
achieve victory. Doctrine is of the mind, a network of faith and
knowledge reinforced by experience which lays the pattern for the
utilization of men,equipment,and tactics.It is fundamental to sound
U.S. military doctrine is the product of historical experience,
interpreted and adapted to present requirements,but with an eye on
the future. If doctrine is to remain relevant, it must be frequently
reexamined in the context of its continuing validity. What this means
in terms of the present study is that any analysis regarding the
evolution of U.S. military doctrine must be made in context, as
doctrine for irregular warfare does not exist in a vacuum. Doctrine is
not merely theoretical; it requires an appraisal of the conditions that
give rise to specific doctrinal thinking. Hindsight being clearer than
foresight, French doctrine in the 1920s and 1930s was ill conceived
in its attempt to apply the lessons of World War I and was based
upon erroneous assumptions concerning the nature of enemy
strategic and operational thinking, yet it was an honest attempt
rooted in the prevailing assumptions of the time. Development of
U.S. military doctrine for irregular warfare over the years emerged
from similarly peculiar American assumptions regarding the nature
and character of war.
With the above point in mind, it is proper to specify a point of
departure for the evolution of U.S. military doctrine for irregular
warfare to illustrate the aforementioned sine wave. Although one
could argue that General Orders No. 100 was the genesis of U.S.
Marine Corps University Journal
15 Curtis E. LeMay, quoted in A. G. B. Valance, ed.,
Air Power Doctrine: Essays Compiled by Group
Captain A. G. B. Valance
(Ministry of Defence: Royal Air Force,1990), ix.
military doctrine for irregular warfare,16 the first definitively
“doctrinal”expression of U.S. military thought on the subject was the
U.S. Marine Corps’ Small Wars Manual. As a consequence of their
experience in several small wars in the early 20th century, the Marines
published the manual in 1935 and revised it in 1940.17 What made
the manual unique at the time was its in-depth exploration of
revolutionary guerrilla warfare.18 Although informed by British small
wars theorist C. E. Callwell’s work and others,19 the Marines paid
considerably greater attention to the
roots of the conflict as well the
character of the enemy and realized
that emergent small wars in the 20th
century were different from those of
the previous centuries. Consequently,
the authors gave special consideration
to socioeconomic and political
grievances that gave rise to insurgency
and thus defined the theory of victory
in such situations as relying upon an accurate assessment of the root
causes of internal rebellion.
Johnson - Doctrine on Irregular Warfare
If doctrine is to remain
relevant, it must be
frequently reexamined in
the context of its
continuing validity.
16 General Orders No. 100 was issued by the Lincoln administration during the American Civil War
and formed the basis of initial American actions during the Philippine War at the turn of the century.
17 U.S. Marine Corps and Ronald Schaffer,
Small Wars Manual: United States Marine Corps, 1940
(1940; repr., Washington, DC: Department of the Navy, 1987).e 1935 edition was written by Maj
Harold Utley and other Marines who were experienced in small wars. It also reflected the research of
U.S. Army officers and foreign experts in colonial warfare. Utley included direct quotations from
British Col C. E.Callwell’s book regarding small wars during the Victorian era (C.E. Callwell,
Wars: eir Principles and Practice
[London: Harrison and Sons, 1889]) and other works in the 1935
edition,but these were excised in the 1940 manual. Nevertheless,the 1940 edition contained more than
400 pages of text, with detailed treatments regarding organization,tactics,intelligence,propaganda, and
a host of other topics, including the care and feeding of pack animals and the role of aviation in
counterguerrilla and counterinsurgency warfare.
18 Ancient guerrilla campaigns did not lack a political dimension, but only in the 20th century did
political will become the principal motivator for insurgency and guerrilla warfare. In short, guerrilla
warfare became more than simply an adjunct to larger conventional political-military strategy; it
became the prime instrument of revolutionary war.
19 See Ronald Schafer, “e 1940 Small Wars Manual and ‘e Lessons of History,’”
Military Affairs
36 (1972): 46–51.
e Marines recognized that the “application of purely military
measures may not . . . restore peace and orderly government because
the fundamental causes of the condition of unrest may be economic,
political,or social.” Consequently,“the solution of such problems being
basically a political adjustment, the military measures to be applied
must be of secondary importance.”20 is is a remarkable statement for
that era, with its emphasis on nonmilitary solutions to what had
hitherto been viewed as exclusively a military problem.Indeed,an entire
section of the manual addressed the issue of “revolutionary tendencies”
under the general heading of “psychology.” Of particular interest was
the characterization of revolution as having a potentially legitimate
causation.21 Whether this contention was an outgrowth of the Marines
experience is unclear, but the manual nevertheless explicitly described
the relationship between revolution and guerrilla warfare: Abuses by
the officials in power and their oppression of followers of the party not
in power are often the seeds of revolution.” Once rebellion occurs, It
can be expected that hostile forces . . . will employ guerrilla warfare as
a means of gaining their end.”22
Not surprisingly, the advent of World War II caused the U.S.
government to lose interest in small wars, and the Small Wars Manual
was soon all but forgotten. Only in the 1950s, when communist-
inspired revolutionary insurgency threatened the national security and
foreign policy interests of the United States around the globe, did the
government again take note of irregular warfare. But with their focus
on the conventional and nuclear threat posed by the Soviet Union, the
armed services overlooked the manual and their own history in an
effort to craft a military doctrine for countering the burgeoning
insurgency in South Vietnam. us, as Bernard B. Fall aptly wrote in
1964, “American readers—particularly those who are concerned with
today’s operations in South Vietnam—will find to their surprise that
their various seemingly ‘new’ counterinsurgency gambits . . . are mere
Marine Corps University Journal
Small Wars Manual
(1940), 1-9-15, 1-9-16.
21 Ibid., 1-11-19, 1-13-20.
22 Ibid., 1-13-21, 1-9-14.
rehashes of old tactics to which helicopters, weed killers, and rapid-
firing rifles merely add a new dimension of speed and bloodiness
without basically changing the character of the struggle.”23
e Vietnam War remains the touchstone for U.S. intervention
in foreign internal conflict, and any debate regarding extant or
emergent doctrine for irregular warfare and its applicability to the
post–Cold War security environment inevitably returns to the
fundamental counterinsurgency theories that emerged during that
war. When the U.S. military deployed to South Vietnam, specific
doctrine for counterinsurgency did not exist. Doctrine for
counterinsurgency emerged as an intellectual construct during the
John F. Kennedy administration and was conceived as a response to
perceived indirect aggression against the United States, perpetrated
by the Soviet Union and carried out
by insurgent proxies in the developing
world.Kennedy regarded the threat to
be unprecedented and deserving of an
equally unprecedented countervailing
strategy. Notably, theories of revolu-
tion and counterrevolution informed
Kennedy’s views, and various academics helped formulate
counterinsurgency policy.As the policy became wedded to the theory,
historical examples of successful counterinsurgency efforts were
mustered to validate doctrinal propositions, and an inevitable
interplay occurred between the doctrinal heritage of the armed forces
and emergent doctrine for irregular warfare. In effect,
counterinsurgency doctrine was a crash program thrust upon the
military by the president.24
Johnson - Doctrine on Irregular Warfare
23 Bernard Fall, introduction to Trinquier,
Modern Warfare
(1964 ed.), xviii.
24 For a more in-depth discussion, see Wray R. Johnson,
Vietnam and American Doctrine for Small
(Bangkok: White Lotus, 2001). See also Douglas Blaufarb,
e Counterinsurgency Era: U.S.
Doctrine and Performance, 1950 to the Present
(New York: Free Press,1977); and
e Pentagon Papers:
e Defense Department History of United States Decisionmaking inVietnam:e Senator Gravel Edition
(Boston: Beacon Press, 1971).
e advent of World War II
caused the U.S. government
to lose interest in small wars.
None of the armed services possessed doctrine or forces specially trained
to combat insurgents.Although the Army had three special forces groups at
the time,these were raised to wage guerrilla warfare operations behind Soviet
lines in the event of war in Europe. Neither the Navy nor the Marines had
specially tailored forces, and although the Air Force had fielded three wings
largely dedicated to unconventional warfare in the early 1950s, they were
deactivated by 1957. In fact, despite clear
guidance from President Kennedy, the U.S.
military was determined to dismiss the
contrast between conventional and
irregular warfare as an exaggerated premise,
prompting General George H.Decker,the
Army chief of staff, to assure the president
that “any good soldier can handle
guerrillas.”25 In the end, the disconnect
between what the president envisioned and
how the uniformed services responded
created a tension between policy and
implementation that contributed to the
American failure in Vietnam.
Ironically, the U.S.Army had long experience with guerrillas but mostly
ignored the challenge they presented.e Army produced six manuals from
1898 through 1915,but these paid scant attention to irregular warfare.If at
all,the Army focused on “partisan warfare,”meaning guerrillas operating in
support of enemy conventional forces and therefore a problem of rear area
security.26 By 1961, the problem was addressed as “military operations
against irregular forces,” meaning not only partisans, but also insurgents.27
Marine Corps University Journal
25 Trinquier,
Modern Warfare
(1964 ed.), 80.
26 U.S. Army,
Field Service Regulations: Operations, FM 100-5
(Washington,DC: Department of the
Army, 1944), 284–86.
27 U.S. Army,
Operations Against Irregular Forces, FM 31-15
(Washington, DC: Department of the
Army, 1961). During the Vietnam War, the Army defined insurgency as a “condition of subversive
political activity, civil rebellion, revolt, or insurrection against a duly constituted government or
occupying power wherein irregular forces are formed and engage in actions which may include guerrilla
warfare, that are designed to weaken or overthrow that government or occupying power.”See “Cold
War Terminology,”
Army Information Digest
17 (June 1962): 54.
When the U.S. military
deployed to South
Vietnam, specific doctrine
for counterinsurgency did
not exist. Doctrine for
emerged as an intellectual
construct during the
Kennedy administration.
By 1962,“counterinsurgency” emerged as the definitive label,but it was
not until 1958 that Field Manual (FM) 31-21, Guerrilla Warfare and
Special Operations Forces,even addressed the problem of insurgency. Still,
on the eve of large-scale U.S. intervention in South Vietnam, basic
“warfighting” doctrine (as reflected in FM 100-5) ignored counter-
insurgency, and counterguerrilla doctrine remained a low priority.
Kennedy’s emphasis on counterrevolutionary warfare moved
counterinsurgency to the forefront of military discourse. e initial
result was a burst of military scholarship on the subject, with an entire
issue of the journal Military Affairs dedicated to the subject in 1960.28
e Army response began to accelerate in the second half of 1961,with
special positions created at the Pentagon, a series of conferences, and
changes made to Army school curricula reflecting the sense of urgency.
e Army clearly led in crafting counterinsurgency doctrine, and
between 1961 and 1963, it published a number of field manuals.29 e
crowning doctrinal manual regarding counterinsurgency was FM 100-
20, Field Service Regulations: Counterinsurgency, published in 1964.30
e Marines and the Air Force made some strides in the same
period to address counterinsurgency. In the Marine Corps, the
Johnson - Doctrine on Irregular Warfare
28 Ironically,46 years later, the journal
Military Review
published a similar “special”issue dedicated to
counterinsurgency. See
Military Review, Special Edition: Counterinsurgency Reader
, October 2006.
Operations Against Irregular Forces, FM 31-15
, was published in May 1961.
Guerrilla Warfare and
Special Operations, FM 31-21
(1961), as well as its classified supplement
, was revised by the
Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg to include a chapter on counterinsurgency special forces
Doctrinal Guidance, FM 100-1
(1961), was revised by the Advanced Studies Institute of
the U.S. Army War College and included three chapters on counterinsurgency.
FM 100-5
was also
revised in 1962, with three chapters on counterinsurgency.
Counterguerrilla Operations, FM 31-16
(1963), was a detailed treatment developed at the Infantry Combat Developments Agency.
U.S. Army
Counterinsurgency Forces, FM 31-22
(1963), and its classified supplement
, described phases of
counterinsurgency but with an emphasis on special forces.
30 U.S.Army,
Field Service Regulations: Counterinsurgency,FM 100-20
(Washington, DC: Department
of the Army, 1964).
FM 100-20
was originally published in 1943 as air power doctrine. However,
with U.S. Air Force independence in 1947,
FM 100-20
was shelved as a doctrine in the U.S.Army
until 1964 when it was reissued as doctrine for counterinsurgency. Oddly, the 1964 and the 1967
editions remain classified. For a thorough examination of the development of U.S. Army doctrine for
counterinsurgency on the eve of direct American intervention in Vietnam, see Stephen L. Bowman,
“e Evolution of United States Army Doctrine for Counterinsurgency Warfare: From World War
II to the Commitment of Combat Units in Vietnam”(PhD diss., Duke University, 1985).
Hogaboom Board concluded that the most likely employment of the
Corps would be in small wars and made several recommendations
regarding education and training, doctrine, and force structure.31
However, Marine Corps leaders held that their men were already
competent in counterguerrilla operations and saw no need to alter the
basic composition or outlook of the Corps. e Marines did issue a
new manual, however, in the form of FMFM (Fleet Marine Force
Manual) 8-2, Operations Against
Guerrilla Forces. But FMFM 8-2 was a
far cry from the Small Wars Manual,
focusing on tactics almost to the
exclusion of broader concerns.32 For its
part, the Air Force stood up the 4400th
Combat Crew Training Squadron at
Hurlburt Field,Florida, to deal with the
problem of insurgency. is action was
considered“adequate to meet the needs”
of the Air Force, and no doctrine was
promulgated.33 e net result of this
flurry of activity was to develop nominal counterinsurgency doctrine
to fulfill the president’s order. In reality, however,the services paid only
lip service to the theory of counterinsurgency and continued to regard
counterguerrilla operations as merely auxiliary to their conventional
and nuclear missions. us, as the Vietnam War unfolded, the theory
and doctrine of counterinsurgency and operations in the field were not
in consonance.
Marine Corps University Journal
31 In late 1955, the Marine Corps issued Landing Force Bulletin 17. It was a complete rewrite of the
manual governing amphibious operations and focused on rotary-wing air assault,placing the helicopter
at the center of the Marine Corps’ future.e publication of this bulletin was followed by a meeting
of the Fleet Marine Force Organization and Composition Board, known as the Hogaboom Board
after MajGen Robert E. Hogaboom, who was appointed as the chairman. e board was charged
with studying organizational requirements created by the new doctrine.
32 U.S. Marine Corps,
Operations Against Guerrilla Forces, FMFM 8-2
(Washington, DC: U.S. Marine
Corps, 1962).
33 Charles Hildreth,
USAF Counterinsurgency Doctrines and Capabilities, 1961–1962
(USAF Historical
Division Liaison Office, 1964 [Secret], declassified 7 November 1983), 8–10,123.
e disconnect between
what the president
envisioned and how the
uniformed services
responded created a
tension between policy
and implementation.
e development of the war itself has been scrutinized in great
detail, and it would serve little purpose here to attempt to enlarge
upon this body of work.at said, two dominant opposing analyses
have emerged regarding the American defeat in Vietnam. Some
assert that the United States conducted a conventional war against an
unconventional opponent;others counter that the conflict was in fact
a conventional war and that the insurgency was a sideshow.34
Regardless, the main point is that American defeat appeared to
discredit the theory of counterinsurgency, and the term virtually
disappeared from the military lexicon. Consequently, for the
remainder of the 1970s,the U.S.military virtually ignored the theory
and doctrine of counterinsurgency, concentrating on conventional
warfare and focusing on the Soviet threat in Europe.
Johnson - Doctrine on Irregular Warfare
34 e former view is best represented by historian Larry E. Cable and former Central Intelligence
Agency analyst Douglas S. Blaufarb. Despite scandalous revelations about his past, Cable was one of
the more illuminating commentators on the American defeat in Vietnam during the 1990s. (See Ben
Steelman, “Whatever Happened to Larry Cable?,”, accessed 31
March 2011; see also B.G. Burkett,
Stolen Valor: How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of Its Heroes
and History
[Dallas,TX: Verity Press, 1998]; and Mark Moyar,
Phoenix and the Birds of Prey: e CIA’s
Secret Campaign to Destroy the Viet Cong
[Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1997].) Likewise,
following the publication of his
e Counterinsurgency Era
(New York: Free Press, 1977), Blaufarb was
influential in governmental circles concerned with unconventional conflict, coauthoring a major study
with George K. Tanham—a long-time specialist on revolutionary war and the author of the classic
Communist Revolutionary Warfare: From the Viet Minh to the Viet Cong
(New York: Praeger,
1967)—on counterinsurgency for the BDM Corporation in 1984. Blaufarb’s research substantially
influenced military doctrine in the 1980s with respect to low-intensity conflict. e best examples of
opposition to Cable and Blaufarb’s contention that the nature of the Vietnamese conflict was rooted
in insurgency are Norman B. Hannah and Harry G. Summers. Hannah was the deputy director of
Southeast Asian Affairs at the State Department in 1962 and later served as the political advisor to
the commander in chief of U.S. Pacific Command during the war. In this capacity, Hannah strongly
criticized the Johnson administration’s conduct of the war in official and unofficial correspondence.
Specifically, he asserted that the war was being prosecuted as a counterinsurgency when in fact the
South was being invaded by North Vietnam. After the war, he wrote a book along the same lines,
Key to Failure: Laos and the Vietnam War
(New York: Madison Books, 1987).Summers served in the
Korean War and in Vietnam and was a negotiator with the communists at the close of the war. He
later served on the faculty of the U.S.Army War College, where he formulated his central thesis that
the United States erroneously defined the Vietnamese conflict as an insurgency. In his widely
acclaimed book,
On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War
(Novato,CA: Presidio Press,1982),
Summers argued that the U.S.Army exhausted itself fighting an insurgency that,at best,was secondary
to the strategic invasion of the South by the North and which materially contributed to American
failure to contain communist expansion in Vietnam.
Nevertheless, a small cadre of academics and military thinkers
persisted in addressing the threat of internal war and irregular warfare
and with the catalyst of revolutionary insurgencies in Latin America
in the 1980s found purchase for their doctrinal proposals. In a
seminal report for the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command,
Robert H. Kupperman declared, e Army’s dilemma is that the
conflict least likely to occur—extended conventional superpower
hostilities in Europe—nevertheless dominates Army thinking,
training, and resource allocation.” In short, Kupperman argued, the
Army was least prepared for the most likely threat—“those small but
critical low-intensity conflicts proliferating at the periphery of the
great powers.”35 is contention—that the Army was unprepared for
irregular warfare in the ird World—became a prevailing theme in
professional literature in the 1980s, leading even the casual observer
to draw obvious parallels to the 1960s.
As noted earlier,counterinsurgency had been discredited by defeat
in Vietnam, and in its stead, the Army conceived a replacement
doctrine embodied in a revision to FM 100-20. Although the 1972
edition replaced the term counterinsurgency with “internal defense and
development,”the manual was nevertheless a determined attempt by a
small minority of Army thinkers to institutionalize counterinsurgency
theory.Unfortunately, when FM 100-20 was revised again in 1974, the
conventional predisposition of the Army regained a foothold in what
was otherwise appropriate counterinsurgency doctrine. In the 1974
edition, conventional precepts “characterized by mobility, to find, fix,
destroy, or capture the guerrillas” predominated.36 In that respect, the
1974 revision reflected the propensity for doctrine writers to fall back
on their institutional repertoires,that is, to rely on conventional tactics,
including “strike campaigns” consisting of “major combat operations
targeted against insurgent tactical forces.”37
Marine Corps University Journal
35 Robert Kupperman Associates,
Low-Intensity Conflict
. vol.1:Main Report (Fort Monroe,VA: U.S.
Army Training and Doctrine Command, 1983), 1.
36 U.S. Army,
Internal Defense and Development: U.S. Army Doctrine, FMFM 8-2
(Washington, DC:
Department of the Army,1974), 5–9.
37 Ibid., 5–13.
e reason that conventional tenets made their way back into internal
defense and development doctrine must be examined in the context of what
was occurring elsewhere in the U.S.military in the 1970s,particularly in the
Army, which more often than not is the driver of modern U.S. military
doctrine.As one U.S.Army Command and General Staff College research
paper pointed out, “Doctrine reflects the times in which it is written.”38
Conventional concepts worked their way into the doctrine for a variety of
reasons, but the most important was the renewed emphasis on conventional
warfare in mainstream Army thought.During the Vietnam War,the Soviet
Union had enlarged and improved its
conventional forces and adopted a
preemptive, nonnuclear strategy. Such a
posture required a corresponding response
on the part of the United States, and
consequently, Army officers dedicated
themselves to addressing conventional war
in the context of Central Europe.
Reflecting on the 1973 Arab-Israeli War
(also known as the Yom Kippur War), in
which the Israelis emerged victorious through the employment of
combined arms (tanks supported by mechanized infantry), the Army
concluded that tanks were the decisive element in ground combat.39 By its
nature,counterguerrilla warfare is infantry-intensive. But the 1976 edition
of FM 100-5,Operations—the centerpiece of Army warfighting doctrine—
emphasized armored warfare. By the 1980s, the doctrine would become
known as “AirLand Battle.” Advanced as a general approach to theater
conventional warfare, the doctrine made no mention of irregular warfare
except to claim that “an army prepared to fight Warsaw Pact forces in
Europe could probably fight successfully in other areas of the world against
other enemies with little modification to its doctrine.”40
Johnson - Doctrine on Irregular Warfare
38 Paul Herbert,
Deciding What Has to Be Done: General William E. DePuy and the 1976 Edition of
FM 100-5, Operations
(Fort Leavenworth, KS: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College,
Combat Studies Institute, 1989), 5.
39 Ibid., 34.
40 Ibid., 9.
American defeat [in
Vietnam] appeared to
discredit the theory of
counterinsurgency, and the
term virtually disappeared
from the military lexicon.
Marine Corps University Journal
As the 1980s unfolded, FM 100-20 was revised again and titled
Low-Intensity Conflict (LIC). Not surprisingly, the revised manual
concerned itself mostly with tactical operations, including brigade-
sized operations against guerrillas.Whereas “balanced development”
was described as the key to victory against insurgency in the early
1970s, the 1981 manual asserted that “defeat of an insurgent threat
requires destruction of guerrilla forces.”41 In effect, irregular warfare
doctrine in 1981 had devolved almost entirely back to pre-1970s
precepts, in which military concerns were placed ahead of other,
arguably more critical, concerns.42 e revision devoted an entire
chapter to the employment of such units as airmobile forces, air
cavalry,armor,armored cavalry,and mechanized infantry.e central
theme of this chapter was the defeat
of an insurgency through “strike
campaigns,”intended to “find, fix, and
destroy small guerrilla groups.”43
us,despite the purported lessons
of the Vietnam War, FM 100-20 in
1981 reflected the virtual wholesale
return of the Army’s irregular warfare
doctrine to conventional warfare tenets.In a similar vein,the Air Force
all but disbanded its special warfare assets, and air power doctrine
written in the 1970s and 1980s eschewed any discussion of irregular
warfare, concentrating on conventional and nuclear air warfare.
Likewise, the Navy continued its willful pre-Vietnam ignorance
41 U.S. Army,
Low-Intensity Conflict, FM 100-20
, (Washington, DC: Department of the Army, 1981),
42 All of the elements of conventional warfare contained in earlier counterguerrilla doctrine were
revived in the 1981 doctrine. Particularly revealing was the role of the antitank platoon. Although
there have been only rare instances in which insurgents have ever employed armored fighting vehicles
(e.g., Colombia and Sri Lanka), the doctrine retained the antitank platoon in the table of organization
for U.S. Army units but acknowledged that use of antitank platoons in counterinsurgency might
“require substitution of other weapons for the antitank guided missile” (Ibid., 156).
43 Ibid., 81, 174, 177, 199. e extent to which former concepts of conventional counterguerrilla
operations made their way back into low-intensity conflict doctrine is also illustrated by the fact that
the chapters on armor, armored cavalry, and mechanized infantry were derived almost verbatim from
the 1967 edition of
FM 31-16, Counterguerrilla Operations
Irregular warfare doctrine
in 1981 had devolved
almost entirely back to
pre-1970s precepts.
regarding irregular warfare and made no effort to capitalize on the
lessons of Vietnam. However, once again a determined minority
labored to keep alive the original theoretical underpinnings of
counterinsurgency and once more found a receptive audience for
counterinsurgency concepts in the Ronald W. Reagan administration.
In time, as insurgencies proliferated around the globe, the Defense
Department was instructed to pay greater attention to LIC, and in
April 1985, the Army directed its Training and Doctrine Command
to “identify, analyze, and codify the factors which contribute to the
success or failure in worldwide low-intensity conflict.”To this end, the
Joint Low-Intensity Conflict Project was formed at Fort Monroe,
Virginia. Echoing similar studies from the 1960s, the final report of
the project asserted that the Army was “poorly postured institutionally,
materially, and psychologically for low-intensity conflict.”44 In July,
Congress stated its own sense that,although “the incidence of terrorist,
guerrilla, and other violent threats to citizens and property of the
United States has increased rapidly,”45 the Defense Department and
the armed services had not given sufficient attention to the challenge.46
Consequently, in the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense
Reorganization Act of 1986,Congress directed the establishment of an
assistant secretary of defense for special operations and LIC.47 Even
then, many members of Congress doubted that the military would
overcome its conventional mind-set and argued that special operations
forces were a more appropriate force of choice in LIC. As a result,
Congress established the United States Special Operations Command
in 1987.48
Johnson - Doctrine on Irregular Warfare
44 U.S.Army Training and Doctrine Command,
Joint Low-Intensity Conflict Project Final Report
, vol.
1 (1986), 1–9.
45 Department of Defense Authorization Act, 1986, Conference Report 99–118, (1985), 135.
46 Loren ompson, ed.,
Low-Intensity Conflict:e Pattern of Warfare in the Modern World
MA: Lexington Books, 1989), 12–13.
47 e office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict
was created by the addition of a subsection to Section 136(b) of Title 10, United States Code,which
also provided for the establishment of a Board for Low-Intensity Conflict in the White House.
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1987, Conference Report 99-1001
, (1986), 177.
48 U.S. Special Operations Command was created by the addition of Section 167 to Chapter 6, Title
10, United States Code, as part of the
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1987
As matters came to a head in Washington, the Army’s Command
and General Staff College began work to revise doctrine for LIC to
reflect the “new” priorities. In 1986, Field Circular (FC) 100-20, Low-
Intensity Conflict,was published as a stopgap measure until FM 100-20
could be revised.e circular asserted that the larger political context
was the dominant feature in planning for LIC, with the ultimate
objective being to “win the trust and support” of the people.49 With
respect to tactical operations, FC 100-20 encouraged restraint and
simply referred to FM 90-8, Counterguerrilla Operations, for specific
details. Counterguerrilla Operations appropriately distinguished
between counterinsurgency and counterguerrilla operations within an
overarching strategy of internal defense and development, the former
seeking to alleviate the conditions that precipitate insurgency, and the
latter targeting the “active military element of the insurgency. e
fundamental principle was to “provide enough internal security” to
enable the host country to pursue developmental initiatives. Restraint
was the key. According to the manual, “e unrestricted use of
firepower in the vicinity of civilians .. .will result in turning their anger
toward the government and may turn them to the insurgent cause.”50
FC 100-20 formed the basis for subsequent doctrine, not only in
the Army, but in the Air Force and at the Joint Staff as well.
Capitalizing on the groundwork laid in FC 100-20, the Army and
Air Force produced FM 100-20/AFP (Air Force Pamphlet) 3-20,
Military Operations in Low-Intensity Conflict.Regarded at the time as
a milestone in the history of doctrine for irregular warfare, the manual
emulated the Small Wars Manual when it declared that political
objectives drive military decisions at every level from the strategic to
the tactical.51 An outgrowth of FM 100-20/AFP 3-20 was AFM (Air
Force Manual) 2-11, Air Force Operational Doctrine: Foreign Internal
Defense, the first Air Force doctrine specifically written to address
Marine Corps University Journal
49 U.S. Army Command and General Staff College,
Low-Intensity Conflict, FC 100-20
Leavenworth, KS: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 1986), 3-2.
50 U.S. Army,
Counterguerrilla Operations, FM 90-8
(Washington, DC: Department of the Army,
1986), 4-13. See also 1-5, 1-8, 3-5, and 3-9.
51 Ibid., 1-5. See also the
Small Wars Manual
, 1-8-13.
the challenge of irregular warfare. Up until that time, Air Force
doctrine was written as if irregular warfare did not exist. FM 100-
20/AFM 3-20 was therefore a watershed in Air Force history. Truly
“joint doctrine for LIC across the services was never realized;
however, after a number of “test publications” were produced, the
context of foreign internal conflict changed yet again,necessitating a
complete rewrite of the doctrine.at said, in its various drafts, joint
LIC doctrine was largely in consonance with the doctrine embodied
in FM 100-20/AFP 3-20.
In 1986, the Joint Staff published doctrine entitled Unified Action
Armed Forces. In a section detailing “common functions,” the armed
forces were instructed to “prepare forces .. .for the effective prosecution
of war and military operations short of war.”52 Two years later, in an
editorial introduction to the January issue of Military Review, Major
General Gordon R. Sullivan (USA) noted that the military had thus
been “charged” not only with the preparation of forces for war (the
hitherto undisputed mission of the armed forces) but also for
operations that did not constitute war.In that light,Sullivan contended
that the military would have to redefine its role in an environment
where the use of force was “dominated by nonmilitary
considerations.”53 A year later, with the sudden collapse of the Soviet
Union, American national security strategy underwent a major
overhaul, with a substantial reduction in the numbers of strategic and
theater nuclear weapons, a massive reduction in U.S. military force
structure,and a new emphasis on flexible and deployable forces to meet
“regional” threats. Consequently, Joint Publication 3-07—originally
conceived as joint doctrine for LIC in 1986—was published in 1995
as doctrine for military operations other than war (MOOTW ).
Whereas the paradigm of the 1960s had been counter-
insurgency—put to the test in South Vietnam—and the paradigm
of the 1980s was LIC and tested in El Salvador, in the early 1990s,
Johnson - Doctrine on Irregular Warfare
52 Joint Chiefs of Staff,
Unified Action Armed Forces (UNAAF)
(Washington,DC: Joint Chiefs of Staff,
1986), 2-1.
53 Gordon Sullivan, “From the Deputy Commandant,”
Military Review
, January 1988, 1, 3.
Marine Corps University Journal
the emergent paradigm, MOOTW, found its first test in Somalia.
e debacle in Somalia, not unlike the American defeat in Vietnam,
profoundly affected the discussion regarding irregular warfare and
energized the debate in the U.S. military regarding the nature of
interventionary operations and the need to develop doctrine that
provided operational guidance. When U.S. forces deployed to
Somalia in 1992,LIC remained the descriptor of the environment of
conflict short of war. But in 1993—when events came to a head in
Somalia—FM 100-5, Operations,had added a chapter on “operations
other than war.”54 e new chapter noted that the concept was not
new, but that the “pace, frequency, and variety” had “quickened.”
Borrowing from counterinsurgency theory, FM 100-5 asserted, “If
committed forces solve an immediate
problem . . . but detract from the
legitimacy of the government in so
doing, they may have acted
detrimentally against the long-term
strategic aims.”Restraint was therefore
a principle specific to MOOTW,
appended to the principles of war.55
e fact that basic warfighting doctrine in the Army now
included a chapter on operations other than war was significant, as
this had occurred only 31 years earlier when chapters on
unconventional warfare, operations against irregular forces, and
“situations short of war” were included in the 1962 edition of FM
100-5. Although the 1993 edition maintained the fundamental
54 Other Army field manuals followed the lead of
FM 100-5
, including
U.S. Army, Decisive Force:e
Army in eater Operations,FM 100-7
(Washington,DC: Department of the Army,1995).
FM 100-
was concerned with U.S. Army forces at the operational level of war and described how the Army
service component commander, previously known as the theater Army commander, would apply the
fundamental precepts of
FM 100-5
to Army forces under his command. With respect to operations
other than war,
FM 100-7
stated that commanders must “tailor” their forces to the mission. us
“suitability” was the measure of a force’s capability to perform adequately in MOOTW and
“acceptability” was the force’s appropriateness “given diplomatic considerations.”Ibid., iii,8-1.
55 U.S. Army, Operations, FM 100-5 ( Washington, DC: Depar tment of the Army, 1993), 13-0–13-3.
e debacle in Somalia…
profoundly affected the
discussion regarding
irregular warfare.
precept that the “Army’s primary focus is to fight and win the nation’s
wars,” it at least recognized that the Army would often find itself in
an environment short of war, wholly unlike the AirLand Battle
doctrine of the 1980s. However,as had occurred so often before, and
despite the emergence of appropriate doctrine,the U.S. military once
again resisted any fundamental reforms.
In 1994, when the Joint Staff was finalizing Joint Pub 3-07,
Congress chartered the Commission on the Roles and Missions of
the Armed Forces to examine whether the armed services were
prepared to meet the post–Cold War challenge. e commission
concluded that U.S. forces must be prepared to engage in operations
other than war, particularly peace operations, but at the same time
be able to defeat more conventional military threats.56 e impact of
the commission’s findings was acute, for not unlike the 1950s and
1970s, the armed forces of the 1990s were undergoing a major
drawdown.Over a period of five years beginning in 1990, the services
were reduced by one-third to a level comparable to that of 1939. In
response,the armed forces adhered to their conventional disposition,
claiming that they were capable across the “operational continuum
without force structure changes or the creation of special units
specifically dedicated to MOOTW. e event that convinced the
U.S. military that structural and other changes were unnecessary was
the Gulf War of 1990–91. Victory in Operation Desert Storm
vindicated AirLand Battle doctrine and prompted at least one
observer to remark, “is is what we’ve trained for, and this is how
wars should be fought.”57 In short, a conventionally arrayed force,
implementing an AirLand Battle doctrine, could defeat any enemy.58
Johnson - Doctrine on Irregular Warfare
Directions for Defense, Report of the Commission on Roles and Missions of the Armed Forces
(Washington, DC: GPO, 1995), ES-4.
57 John Waghelstein,“Some oughts on Operation Desert Storm and Future Wars,”
Military Review
February 1992,80. It should be pointed out that Waghelstein opposed the idea that Desert Storm had
validated AirLand Battle as a construct useful in LIC and lamented that the aftermath of Desert
Storm, likeWorld War II, proved yet another example of the U.S. military’s “penchant for learning the
wrong lessons from the last war.”Ibid.
58 Harry G. Summers, “Full Circle: World War II to the Persian Gulf,” Military Review, February 1992, 42.
Critics responded that this conclusion was misguided, and a RAND
Corporation study warned:
e net effect [of Desert Storm] was to convince a generation
of soldiers that armies existed solely to fight wars and,
consequently, that their energies, training, equipment, and
ultimate success lay in the mainstream “concept” of
warfighting at the conventional level. LIC and related
concepts were removed from the consciousness of the Army
and were relegated to a corps of personnel who stepped
outside of the mainstream, with the knowledge that they did
so at some peril to their careers.59
us, as had occurred repeatedly before, when the prevailing
estimation of the geostrategic setting demanded forces capable of
missions other than conventional war, the U.S.military clung to its long-
held conventional traditions. Continuing to bask in its victory in the
Gulf War,the armed forces concluded that the most important lesson to
be learned from the failed intervention in Somalia was simply the need
to adapt conventional forces to “methods of operations that can cope
with multidimensional challenges that go far beyond conventional
warfare.60 e typology used to categorize these multidimensional
conflicts was MOOTW.e new doctrine included much of the original
language of earlier LIC doctrine but was couched in terms that clearly
indicated it was subordinate to warfighting doctrine. And yet,once more,
a handful of academics and military thinkers declared MOOTW
doctrine to be inadequate in the face of emerging threats around the
globe.But this time, the new calculus was “failed states”and the need for
U.S. military forces to engage in “stability operations.”
Marine Corps University Journal
59 Jennifer Taw and Robert Leicht, T
he New World Order and Army Doctrine: e Doctrinal Renaissance
of Operations Short of War?
R-4201-A (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 1992), 22.
60 Antonia Chayes and George Raach, eds.,
Peace Operations: Developing an American Strategy
(Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 1995), 3.
As stated earlier,Samuel Huntington’s thesis of culturally driven
warfare set the stage for predictions regarding the strategic
environment in the post–Cold War era. For example, Robert D.
Kaplan concluded, While a minority of the human population will
be, as Francis Fukuyama would put it, sufficiently sheltered so as to
enter a ‘posthistorical’ realm . . . an increasingly large number of
people will be stuck in history . . . where attempts to rise out of
poverty, cultural dysfunction, and ethnic strife will be doomed by a
lack of water to drink, soil to till, and space to survive in.”61 Within
this setting, “the state . .. is dying.”62 Somalia had set the precedent
for intervention in dying or failed states, breaking from the
traditional practice of defining uninvited intervention as a violation
of state sovereignty. U.S.defense policy was therefore reexamined in
the context of the new challenge, and MOOTW as a construct was
found wanting.
Rising to the challenge, Ralph Peters asserted that “the
incompetence of the state” would precipitate a “constellation of crises”
in which “conventional wars [would] be supplemented with new and
hybrid forms of conflict.63 Peters also argued that “warriors” would
respond “asymmetricallyto the intervention of regular troops and this
would leave conventional armies “in the role of redcoats marching into
an Indian-dominated wilderness.”64 Other analysts raised similar
concerns and argued that MOOTW doctrine had failed to take this
fact into account. Much of the criticism regarding the doctrine
stemmed from the purported evolution of the strategic environment
from modernity to postmodernity. Adherents to this continuum,
popularized by Martin van Creveld in his book Transformation of War,
divided the lineage of warfare into distinct states, or “dialectic
qualitatives,” resulting in different “generations” of warfare.65 e first
generation “reflected the tactics of the smoothbore musket, the tactics
Johnson - Doctrine on Irregular Warfare
61 Robert D. Kaplan, “e Coming Anarchy,”
Atlantic Monthly
, February 1994, 46.
62 Martin van Creveld, “e Fate of the State,”
26 (Spring 1996): 4.
63 Ralph Peters, e Culture of Future Conflict,”
25 (Winter 1995–1996): 18–24.
64 Peters, “New Warrior Class,” 20.
65 Martin van Creveld,
Transformation of War
(New York: Free Press, 1991).
of the line and column.” e rise of the nation-state marked the
beginning of this phase of warfare. Second-generation warfare, based
on firepower and movement,emerged in the mid-19th century.ird-
generation warfare was invented by the Germans: the blitzkrieg, or
“lightning war,” which emphasized maneuver over firepower. Fourth-
generation warfare is an elliptical return to premodern warfare—the
warriors envisioned by Peters.According to fourth-generation warfare
acolytes, U.S. military doctrine and strategy remain fixed in the third
generation, which will prove ineffective in the fourth.66 In that regard,
U.S. intervention in the failed state of Yugoslavia—in particular, in
Bosnia-Herzegovina—seemed to illustrate this point.
From the standpoint of U.S. military anxiety regarding any ground
combat role in Bosnia, the mixed lessons of Vietnam, the Gulf War,
and Somalia were not comforting.Asked to analyze the Bosnian Serb
irregulars who might oppose American intervention, Secretary of
Defense Les Aspin remarked,We don’t know if they’re Iraqis or Viet
Cong.”67 Aspin was voicing the concern of many military officers that
a protracted guerrilla war in the Balkans would result in politically
unacceptable casualties and force an eventual ignominious withdrawal
not unlike Somalia. Indeed,the Balkan experience revealed yet again
the continuing disconnect between U.S. military doctrine for conflict
short of general war and the conventional predisposition of the U.S.
armed forces. One Army officer described the Bosnian peace operation
as “a condition that’s not war, but it isn’t peace.”68 Other interviews
Marine Corps University Journal
66 William Lind et al., “e Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation,”
Military Review
October 1989, 3–4.Fourth-generation warfare as a concept has been around since the 1980s.ere is
nothing new in the idea, but it has been heralded nonetheless as a novel and groundbreaking concept.
For a hard-hitting critique, one that the author of this essay happens to agree with, see Antulio
Fourth Generation War and Other Myths
(Carlisle Barracks,PA:Strategic Studies Institute,
U.S. Army War College, 2005).
67 Georgie Anne Geyer, “When Policy is Driven by Desire,”
Washington Times
, 25 February 1996.
68 Attributed to Col Gregory Fontenot, commander of the 1st Brigade of the 1st Armored Division.
Col Fontenot also remarked, “You find that your classical military activities are in support of and
supplemental to civil functions. . . . I spend a lot more time negotiating and assessing people’s
willingness to be cooperative than I do on traditional military tasks.” John Pomfret, “Bosnia Beat
Cops, U.S. MPs Fight Boredom to Keep Peace,In Role More Like Police an Military,”
, 13 May 1996.
Johnson - Doctrine on Irregular Warfare
with military officers consistently revealed that they were wholly
unprepared for their role in Bosnia.Although the advance into Bosnia
was a classic military operation,once U.S. forces settled in,they became
engaged in civil-military operations focusing more on negotiations and
persuasion than traditional security operations, prompting one officer
to complain, “is is a strange mission. . . . ey didn’t train me for
this.”69 Major General William L. Nash, commander of the 1st
Armored Division, similarly averred, ey don’t teach this stuff at
Fort Leavenworth.”70
In retrospect, the commentary of one U.S. Army lieutenant
colonel summed up the paradox of using conventional forces in an
unconventional warfare environment:“ere’s no comfort level for
any of this. You don’t have an array of manuals that take you from
corps down to company level, providing you [with] doctrine that
contains specific guidance.”71 According to British military historian
John Keegan, this lack of detailed doctrinal guidance is precisely
the point:
e U.S. Army is .. . very doctrine-minded. ey go to West
Point and they’re taught the rules there.And then they go to
Command and Staff College [sic] and they’re taught the
rules there. And they go to the Army War College and
they’re taught the rules there. So, not surprisingly, they
approach situations very much in terms of the rules they’ve
been taught.72
69 One journalist thus concluded, “Long schooled in the traditional art of fighting war, American
commanders now find themselves grappling with political, diplomatic, and military demands that go
far beyond the martial skills they were taught.” Rick Atkinson, “Warriors Without a War, U.S.
Peacekeepers in Bosnia Adjusting to New Tasks: Arbitration, Bluff, Restraint,”
Washington Post
, 14
April 1996.
70 John Keegan was therefore moved to observe, “is kind of thing is not really America’s cup of tea,
is it? For the British and French it seems to come easier.. . .It’s embedded in the ethos of their armies,
because they were imperial armies dealing with bandits and warlords and that sort of thing, and the
Americans weren’t doing that.”Ibid.
71 Ibid.
72 Ibid.
e “rules”are embodied in doctrine, and the relevant doctrine
extant when U.S.forces were introduced into the Bosnian imbroglio
was FM 100-20/AFP 3-20. Although Joint Pub 3-07 was similarly
extant, it did not offer the detailed operational guidance found in
the Army–Air Force manual.But FM 100-20/AFP 3-20 was by that
time obsolete and effectively worthless in the context of failed states
and unilateral interventionary operations. It became clear that the
manual required revision. With Somalia and Bosnia fresh on the
minds of Army thinkers, FM 100-20 was rewritten as Stability and
Support Operations.73 Drawing on the notion of an operational
continuum, the doctrine asserted that “the military instrument of
national power alone cannotwin’ in stability and support operations,
but it can lose.”74
Encompassing the entire spectrum of theory and doctrine for
counterinsurgency, LIC, and MOOTW, as well as the legacy of
academic criticism,the revision to FM 100-20 noted “a fundamental
difference” between stability operations and conventional warfare:
“e goal in war is to destroy an enemy’s will and capability to fight.
. . . By contrast, military stability and support operations act as a
damper on political violence, reducing the intensity of conflict and
establishing an environment of security conducive to settlement
through political, economic, and informational means.”75 e
revision acknowledged the “changing international political order”
and, in particular, the advent of failed states as well as the fact that
Marine Corps University Journal
73 At first blush, the title might lead the casual observer to conclude that the doctrine had come full
circle, in that “stability operations” was the preferred leitmotif in the early 1970s when
counterinsurgency was replaced by internal defense and development. In some respects, this is an
accurate assessment. e 1967 edition of
FM 31-21, Stability Operations: U.S. Army Doctrine
and the
1972 edition of
FM 31-25, Stability Operations: U.S. Army Doctrine
, both contended that the
overarching objective of U.S. military stability operations was to create a stable international
environment and promote world peace.However,these manuals focused on the threat of communist-
inspired revolutionary warfare.
Emergent doctrine in FM 100-20
(1996) found the causes to be more
complex, including the deterioration of the nation-state system, ethnic and religious conflict, as well
as “traditional”ideologically motivated revolutionary insurgencies.
74 Ibid.
75 Ibid., 1–3.
“nonstate actors”and other irregular forces would play a major role.
More importantly, the doctrine asserted that such conflicts were
“neither conventional war nor peace,” but “guided by its own logic.”
e dilemma, however, is that the Army is “not designed for
conflict,” being instead “geared toward a particular type of war in
which the decisive action is the destruction of the enemy’s ability to
fight.”us, the revision confessed that, although experience clearly
indicated that “political” requirements had to dominate “military
requirements in counterinsurgency and other stability operations,
the U.S. Army remained disinclined to reorient itself in this
respect.76 In that light,the draft doctrine attempted to reconcile the
paradox, maintaining that “Army leaders must adapt their thinking
to unfamiliar purposes and methods.”77 Regrettably, the revision
became mired in bureaucratic squabbles and was never published.
Which brings us to the present: the Army and the Marines’
newest manual,FM 3-24/MCWP 3-33.5, Counterinsurgency,repeats
the record of the past. In the aftermath of 11 September 2001,
national attention paid to the challenge of irregular warfare has come
to the fore yet again,and with ongoing counterinsurgency efforts in
Iraq and Afghanistan, the armed forces found MOOTW doctrine
lacking (and in the specific case of the Army, the 16-year-old LIC
doctrine embodied in FM 100-20/AFP 3-20). is “new” doctrine,
which,like counterinsurgency doctrine in previous years,emphasizes
the same concepts and themes.Yet again,the U.S. military has issued
Johnson - Doctrine on Irregular Warfare
76 In a remarkably insightful letter to
Military Review
in 1988, one U.S. Army officer pointed out this
patently obvious but apparently overlooked fact during the debate on low-intensity conflict doctrine:
“Current Army doctrine, as outlined in
Field Manual (FM) 100-20, Low-Intensity Conflict
, and its
Field Circular (FC) 100-20
, suggests that conventional combat units have an important
role in LIC, especially in counterinsurgency and foreign internal defense operations.is may be so,
but how many of us who have served in line armor, infantry, cavalry, aviation, field artillery, or air
defense artillery units can ever recall training our soldiers for anything other than mid- to high-
intensity AirLand Battle warfare? Most of the Army has spent years perfecting the techniques required
to prevail on the Central European battlefield. Further,‘everyone’ has read and generally understands
FM 100-5, Operations
, but how many will confess to even a rudimentary knowledge of
FM 100-20
In reading both these manuals, one gets the impression that LIC is merely AirLand Battle fought in
a ird World country!”Guy Swan III, “Swan on Swain,”
Military Review
, May 1988, 86.
77 U.S. Army,
Stability and Support Operations, FM 100-20
(Final Draft), (1996), 1–12.
“revised” doctrine in response to the problem of irregular threats,
foreign internal conflict, etc., and it would appear that the cycle
described in this study persists. e question is if the newfound
emphasis on irregular warfare as embodied in FM 3-24/ MCWP 3-
33.5 (as well the Air Force doctrine on irregular warfare [AFDD
2-3] and the Defense Department directive on the same [DoDD
300.07]), will suffer the same fate as previous efforts to
institutionalize an irregular warfare consciousness in the armed
forces of the United States.
Sun Tzu wisely counseled,“If not in the interests of the state,do
not act. If you cannot succeed, do not use troops. If you are not in
danger, do not fight.”78 And yet,as the Small Wars Manual pointed
out, the United States has historically intervened where and when
necessary, and not always with
calculated objectives in mind.
Consequently, the record of U.S.
performance in interventionary
operations has been mixed, in stark
contrast to America’s relatively
unblemished record in conventional
conflicts, prompting then-chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General
John M.Shalikashvili to quip in 1996
that some of his colleagues “might
feel more at ease if a sign were posted
outside the Pentagon that read, ‘We
only do the big ones.’”79
Marine Corps University Journal
78 Sun Tzu,
e Art of War
, trans. Samuel Griffith (New York: Oxford University Press, 1963), 142.
79 Jonathan Landay,“Pentagon’s Identity Crisis over Its Role as Global Cop,”
Christian Science Monitor
22 February 1996.
e record of U.S.
performance in
operations has been
mixed, in stark contrast
to America’s relatively
unblemished record in
conventional conflicts.
e reasons for U.S.military reticence about small wars are many,
but the fact remains that, despite the prevalence and particular
viciousness of irregular warfare in the developing world, U.S. policy
makers,small wars theorists,and military practitioners have failed to
devise an enduring formula to institutionalize conflict short of
general war in the U.S. military consciousness. Evidence of this
paradox is found in the fact that there have been almost as many
terms of description as there have
been internal conflicts.And given the
recent pronouncements by several
senior military officers that echo
General Decker’s claim that any good
soldier can handle guerrillas, we may
be witnessing the beginning of the
end of the current emphasis on
irregular warfare and the beginning of
the next dip in the sine wave. Indeed,
the current emphasis is already under
attack from different quarters,
ranging from
Major General Charles
J. Dunlap Jr. of the Air Force to
Colonel Gian P. Gentile at the U.S.
Military Academy.80 In the final
analysis, FM 3-24/MCWP 3-33.5 may be the best attempt yet to
devise an enduring formula,but it remains to be seen whether or not
the concepts embodied in that doctrine are wholly embraced by the
services and, likewise, whether recent additions to professional
Johnson - Doctrine on Irregular Warfare
80 See, for example, Charles J. Dunlap Jr.,
Shortchanging the Fight? An Airman’s Assessment of FM 3-
24 and the Case for Developing Truly Joint COIN Doctrine
(Maxwell Air Force Base,AL: Air University
Press, 2007); Gian P. Gentile,“Listen to the Airman,”
Military Review
, March–April 2008, 114–15;
and Gentile,“A Strategy of Tactics: Population-Centric COIN and the Army,”
39 (Autumn
2009): 5–17.
U.S. policy makers, small
wars theorists, and
military practitioners
have failed to devise an
enduring formula to
institutionalize conflict
short of general war in
the U.S. military
military education regarding irregular warfare will also endure.81 at
said,only when the U.S.military embraces the basic theory of irregular
warfare will the services respond to future changes in the calculus of
foreign internal conflict, regardless of etiology or manifestation.
Marine Corps University Journal
81 Although beyond the scope of this essay, the sine wave phenomenon of interest and neglect
associated with doctrine for irregular warfare applies in a similar fashion to professional military
education (PME). For example, at the Army’s Command and General Staff College following the
Vietnam War, insurgency and counterinsurgency virtually disappeared as topics of study. Even as
American involvement in El Salvador began to deepen in 1982, only eight hours of instruction were
dedicated to LIC at a time when the British staff college devoted 128 hours to the subject. For
academic year 1985–86, as insurgencies proliferated around the globe,LIC instruction rose to a mere
30 hours. us,in a devastating critique of U.S.military performance in El Salvador in 1988—the so-
called “Colonels’ Report”—the authors noted that foreign officers “attending American service schools
. . . too often received ‘conventional war-in-Europe type training’ that was clearly inappropriate” (A.
J. Bacevich,James Hallums, Richard White, and omas Young, “American Military Policy in Small
Wars:e Case of El Salvador” [unpublished paper,March 1988, typescript], 27.) Matters were little
better at the U.S.Army War College, where only two days were devoted to the study of LIC, focusing
exclusively on the Vietnam War (Michael Massing, e Military: Conventional Warfare,”
, January 1990, 28, 32). us, despite several years of emphasis and debate on LIC, relevant
concepts retained their status as a secondary intellectual concern within the PME establishment.is
was true even in the Marine Corps,regardless of its small-wars heritage. For example, during academic
year 1947–48, only 6 of 1,211 academic instructional hours were dedicated to small-wars topics.
Following the Korean War, the senior course devoted a mere 40 of 4,821 cumulative hours of
instruction to irregular warfare.e Vietnam War restored the Marine Corps’ interest in the subject,
and the Command and Staff College increasingly emphasized counterinsurgency instruction, only to
virtually eliminate the topic by war’s end. Even at its peak, however, counterinsurgency instruction
accounted for only 74 of 1,339 hours. By 1972,this figure had dropped to 32 hours and by 1978 had
fallen further to 22 hours. Despite the war in El Salvador and the emphasis placed on LIC by the
Congress and the Reagan administration during the 1980s, the Marine Corps’schools paid very little
attention to LIC. And by 2001, the college dedicated only a handful of contact hours to MOOTW.
(See Willard Buhl,“From the Small Wars Manual to Vietnam, Afghanistan,and Iraq .. .Can the U.S.
Marine Corps Command and Staff College Institutionalize Irregular War in its Curriculum?”[masters
paper, U.S. Marine Corps War College, 2006]). Needless to say, given their own outlook regarding
irregular warfare, instruction in the U.S. Navy and Air Force following World War II to the present
was even less than that of the Army and Marines.
Johnson - Doctrine on Irregular Warfare
Shay Amir (left), a counterterror warfare instructor for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF),
works with LCpl Steven W. Lewis during a training exercise led by IDF personnel at Marine
Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, in November 2009. IDF training and doctrine evolved
during the 1990s in response to deficiencies the force identified while deployed in southern
Lebanon. Photo by LCpl John M.Raufmann (USMC).
Marine Corps University Journal Vol. 2 • No. 1 • Spring 2011 67
Crossing the Lebanese Swamp
Structural and Doctrinal Implications on the Israeli Defense
Forces of Engagement in the Southern Lebanon Security
Zone, 1985–2000
by Tamir Libel
e occupation of what the Israelis called the security zone in
Lebanon by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) from 1985 to 2000
deeply affected the military in terms of changes in force structure
and perceptions and choices of force structure development. e
security zone was a buffer region in the southern part of Lebanon
formed when Israeli forces withdrew in 1985 from the territory they
had occupied since the First Lebanon War in 1982. Fighting a
proficient and effective nonstate actor,Hezbollah, compelled the IDF
to transform itself from an effective conventional force into an
efficient full-spectrum one.
In contrast to many contemporary accounts that focused on the
operational record, this article surveys the structural and doctrinal
developments initiated by the growing challenges the IDF faced in
the security zone. As described, Israel’s performance in the security
zone is a missing link in explaining the transformation of the IDF
from a conventional army at the time of the First Lebanon War into
the counterinsurgency force of the Second Intifada (which started in
2000). It is also a vital and often-overlooked element in Israeli
military thought that sheds more light on the flawed plans of the
IDF in the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
e first section of this article describes and analyzes how the
IDF, which relied on a force structure suitable for high-intensity
conflicts during the initial phase of the security zone occupation,
Libel is a Legacy Heritage Fellow at Kinneret Research Center on Peace,Security,and Society in the
Kinneret College of the Sea of Galilee, Israel.His Bar-Ilan University doctoral dissertation was titled
“e Professionalism of the Education and Training of Combatant Officers in the Post Modern
WesternWorld.”He has published several articles on military education and Israeli military doctrine.
transformed its force structure and doctrine, making them more
suitable to counterinsurgency operations. e second section shows
how these changes affected the IDFs doctrine during the latter
portion of the 1990s.
Israeli national security doctrine, and even the discussion sur-
rounding it, had, until the 1990s, focused on military and political
preparedness for war against regular Arab armed forces—that is, high-
intensity conflict.An example of this focus was the fundamental division
(and priority of importance) of potential threats against the state of
Israel into those pertaining to “basic security and those relating to
“current security.” Basic security described the threats posed by Arab
standing armies (high-intensity conflict) with the extreme threat
scenario of a two-front surprise attack, for example, the 1973 Yom
Kippur War. Both IDF manpower allocations and its military specialties
requirements were geared toward countering these threats. Current
security threats (low-intensity conflict) included terrorist attacks,
retaliatory attacks, and border incidents.1ese conflicts were
considered routine occurrences and therefore did not require any special
capabilities.e IDF believed that the basic skill set necessary for high-
intensity conflicts was adequate for dealing with current security threats.
In their book Knives,Tanks, and Missiles: Israel’s Security Revolution,
security experts Eliot A. Cohen,Michael J. Eisenstadt,and Andrew J.
Marine Corps University Journal
1Eliot A. Cohen, Michael J. Eisenstadt, and Andrew J. Bacevich,
Knives, Tanks, and Missiles: Israel ’s
Security Revolution
[Hebrew version], (Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Near East Policy,
1998), 20.For further analysis of Israel’s traditional security doctrine and its evolution since the end
of the Cold War, see, among others, Stuar t A. Cohen,
Israel and Its Army: From Cohesion to Confusion
(London and New York: Routledge,2008);Yoram Peri,
Generals in the Cabinet Room:How the Military
Shapes Israeli Policy
(Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2006); Kobi Michael,
“e Israeli Defense Forces as an Epistemic Authority: An Intellectual Challenge in the Reality of the
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,”
Journal of Strategic Studies
30 (2007): 421–46; and especially Sergio
Israeli Counter-Insurgency and the Intifada:Dilemmas of a Conventional Army
(London and
New York: Routledge, 2009).Very few scholarly works were written about the Israeli campaign in the
security zone in south Lebanon. Among them, see Andrew Exum, ”Hizballah at War: A Military
Policy Focus
63 (2006): 2–4; and especially Sergio Cantigani and Clive Jones,
Israel and
Lebanon, 1976- 2006: An Interstate and Asymmetric Conflict in Perspective
(London: Routledge, 2009).
e author of this article is working on a manuscript that may be the first comprehensive account of
the Israeli side of the conflict.
Bacevich argued as well that while a focus on current security activities
may have advanced certain units’ training, especially infantry units, it
negatively affected the level of preparedness of the rest of the ground
forces.2However, according to a state comptroller’s report concerning
Libel - IDF in Lebanon Security Zone
2Cohen, Eisenstadt, and Bacevich,
Knives, Tanks, and Missiles
, 55.
Map illustration by Vincent J. Martinez.
an IDF infantry brigade, these routine current security assignments
required the acquisition of a skill set not necessarily compatible with
that needed in times of all-out war.While the brigade armament and
organizational structure—companies,platoons,and squads—reflected
the requirements for high-intensity conflicts, the current security
operations necessitated different weapons and force structures, which
in turn required specialized training.3
One of the IDFs difficulties adapting to the special needs that
low-intensity conflict created was its deployment of mainly conscripts
to the security zone. e IDF had only three years to train these
recruits for not only high-intensity conflicts, but also for security
operations in the security zone, as well as to prepare them for
deployment on real assignments. According to IDF’s General Staff
Planning Division’s February 1996 regulations, infantry company
training cycles included 16 weeks of basic training, 10 weeks of
advanced training, and 33 weeks of active duty in the battalion. At the
end of the cycle, the company was dissolved, with some of its men
going on to command courses and the rest bolstering the numbers of
other companies in the battalion.e eight months stretching from
completion of advanced training until the individual company
members went their separate ways was the only period during which
the soldiers could acquire the necessary level of proficiency as
members of fighting teams, and this time period was further
fragmented due to the requirements of routine operations.4
e state comptroller’s report also pointed out that some of the
training themes were not taught on a regular basis, that the brigade’s
training center was monitoring this issue, and that the overly rigid
training schedule hindered attempts to introduce these lost themes at
later dates.Additionally,since companies did not keep records of class
attendance,the extent to which lost themes may have been re-covered
could not be measured.
Marine Corps University Journal
3Israel State Comptroller, “Golani Brigade,”
Annual Report 47
[in Hebrew] (Jerusalem: Governmental
Printing, 1997), 992–93.
4Ibid., 993.
e report noted as well that, although regulations stipulated
qualification standards for completing basic training—including physical
fitness and sniper exams and the execution of individual and squad field
exercises—soldiers who had failed to participate in or pass these tests
were still being graduated. Furthermore, the report found that no
standards had been set for certain themes, such as the use of heavy
machine guns or field craft, which were deemed essential by regulations.
e purpose of advanced training was to instruct a company in
the various forms of battle and in the use of individual and team
weapons. Regulations that governed
advanced training required companies
to practice various elementary themes,
such as securing exposed objectives;
self-defense; urban warfare; use of
armored personnel carriers; topogra-
phy, navigation, and their derivatives;
firearms; physical fitness; and know-
ledge of the enemy. emes that may
have been included if time permitted
in a training cycle involved securing
fortified objectives and platoon- and company-sized raids in
preparation for operational assignments.5
IDF Deficiencies and the Security Zone
Infantrymen had difficulty coping with the tough southern
Lebanese terrain and the type of warfare employed by Hezbollah,
revealing training deficiencies in sniper skills and field craft. Field craft
had been an IDF strength during the War of Independence (1948–49)
and again during the mid-1950s following the establishment of Unit
101 and the Elite Paratroopers Regiment.Aside from these two periods
(and apart from certain elite units), the IDF had neglected field craft
training until its practices in southern Lebanon highlighted the
Libel - IDF in Lebanon Security Zone
5Ibid., 998–99.
One of the IDFs
difficulties adapting to the
special needs that low-
intensity conflict created
was its deployment of
mainly conscripts to the
security zone.
importance of field craft in the conflict with Hezbollah. rough
various projects, field craft became common infantry practice once
again.6e turning point was the establishment—the end result of a
long process that began in the summer of 1991 and ended in the spring
of 1998—of the guerrilla section in IDF Northern Command’s
Elyakim training base. e express mission of the school, which was
founded by Shmuel Zakai and Mordechai Peretz, was to counter
Hezbollah guerrilla tactics. e instructors were experienced officers
and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) who trained all infantry
brigades for two weeks before they took
up their posts in Lebanon. e school
also enjoyed close cooperation with the
command’s Egoz elite unit that
specialized in guerrilla warfare.7Egoz
used the school’s training and instruc-
tion facilities while its commanders
assisted in forming counterguerrilla
doctrine. An additional step in the
IDFs adaptation to the Lebanese reality occurred in June 1999 when
the school instituted joint armor-infantry training that included
ambushes, post defense, and evacuation procedures.8
e IDF’s inability to cope with Hezbollah tactics resulted in the
need to form Egoz. In a sense, Egoz served a dual purpose. First, it
acted as a specialized force that enabled Northern Command to
adopt a more offensive posture toward Hezbollah.It is not surprising
that the unit was formed under the leadership of Lieutenant General
Amiram Levin, a former special operations officer, as the new
approach he instituted—of which Egoz was a major component—in
Northern Command from 1994 to 1998 had significantly improved
Marine Corps University Journal
Field craft had been an
IDF strength during the
War of Independence…
and again during the
6Amos Golan and Nir Gue, ”Fieldcraft: e Warrior Art of Using Terrain,” [in Hebrew]
(2000): 9.
7Yossi Harpaz,”Identity Card: School of CG (counter guerrilla),”[in Hebrew]
[IDF official
magazine], March 2000, 24.
8Aya Tanzer, “New at the North: Combined Arms Guerrilla Training for Armor and Infantry
Combatants,” [in Hebrew]
, June 1999, 10.
the IDF’s military capabilities against Hezbollah.One of Levin’s new
ideas entailed increasing the Israeli military presence on the border
and in the security zone. Preferring small elite units over large units
using massive amounts of indiscriminate firepower, Levin reinstituted
patrols deep within enemy territory and ambushes on known
infiltration routes.ese patrols and ambushes had been stopped two
years earlier following a friendly fire incident in which four soldiers
had been killed. e new approach was to seal the attackers within
“fire blocks” and then send in attack helicopters to finish the fight.
According to some media reports,this approach paid off,and the use
of attack helicopters was especially effective.9
Egoz also served as a laboratory of sorts. e methods,
equipment, and attitudes developed by Egoz, and through its
cooperation with the guerrilla school, enabled the IDF to assimilate
this burgeoning knowledge into the other infantry brigades.
Nonetheless,the IDF only realized in 2000 that infantry training
had to be reformed, leading to the establishment of the field craft
department in the IDF Infantry School. e main idea behind this
addition to military training was to explore themes such as terrain
evaluation and analysis; evasive maneuvers; camouflage; combat
navigation; choosing approach routes; avoiding detection; and
creating fire and observation points. One officer and six NCO-level
instructors graduated the first course. Following three and a half
months of training, some of the instructors were sent to brigade
training bases,where their objective was to train the bases’instructors
in the knowledge and skills they had acquired.10
e department was founded for other reasons as well, including
creating uniformity in field craft training for all units,inserting it as an
integral element of warfare,and further developing the training of elite
units.11 Sharpshooting received similar attention as a means to improve
Libel - IDF in Lebanon Security Zone
9Dafna Vardi, “e Methods of Lt. General Levin Will Require an Increase in IDF Forces at
Lebanon,” [in Hebrew]
(Tel Aviv), 3 March 1995.
10 Yoash Limon,“Fieldcraft on the Field,” [in Hebrew]
12 (2003): 42.
11 Ibid., 43; and Arieh O’Sulivan, “Hide and Seek,” [in Hebrew]
Jerusalem Post
, 8 December 2000, 18.
the infantrys skill set. A new infantry position, “sharpshooter” or
“marksman,”12 had been introduced in 1996 and had become one of
the most important positions in squads, platoons, and companies
during the fighting, both in southern Lebanon and in the Second
Intifada, because it much improved the accuracy and range of the small
infantry groups, thus minimizing the need to call for reinforcements
or fire support.13 Other weapons and aids were introduced
concurrently, thereby enhancing infantry sniper capabilities, including
camouflage means, organizational changes regarding the sniper’s
position within the infantry battalion, and the institutionalization of
the sniper squad that had, until 1998, been at the discretion of the
commanding officers.14
e IDFs recognition of the distinction between company
training for high-intensity conflicts and squad-sized operations in
the security zone was instrumental in the institution of the above-
mentioned changes. Until the 1990s, the IDF’s tactical-level ethos
of command had stressed initiative, independence, and offensive-
mindedness. ese attitudes were prevalent both in training and in
current security activities to prepare for an eventual war against a
conventional army. However, the nature of warfare in southern
Lebanon had changed these attitudes. Consecutive commanding
officers of Northern Command, fearing Hezbollah’s reaction to
noncombatant deaths by the hand of the IDF (for example,