Thursday, November 30, 2006

Quotus re Quotus - Counterinsurgency quote for the day

Unlike Alice talking to the Cheshire cat, sometimes you don't know where you are, even if you know where you are going:

From the Princeton Project on National Security (link):

...both counterinsurgencies and counterterrorist campaigns share another troublesome similarity: the difficulty of determining who is "winning." Body counts and other measures of effectiveness (MOEs) drawn from traditional conventional wars provide misleading indicators... Indeed, as ... Rumsfeld pointedly asked in 2003, "are we capturing, killing, or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the [religious schools] and the radical clerics are recruiting, training, and deploying against us?"*...

Even in retrospect, it is difficult to determine which factors had the most impact on the course of the fighting and if and when a turning point occurred. Given these conflicts' protracted nature and the absence of major military engagements, it is also important to understand the adversary's measures of success and to distinguish between short-term MOEs (terrorist leaders eliminated, funds blocked, etc.) and long-term indicators of progress (democratization of the Middle East, de-legitimization of terrorism, etc.).

The American Experience in Vietnam underscores this measurement problem. The CIA established a Hamlet Evaluation System (HES) to provide MOEs for the pacification campaign. This computer-based system incorporated monthly feedback ... Despite these endeavors, the HES could not overcome the perception that it exaggerated progress in pacification, especially before the 1968 Tet offensive.

History provides other examples of the difficulty in assessing an ongoing insurgency. In Algeria and Vietnam, the French and Americans "won" almost every battle until they lost the war, while for a long time in Malaya the British justly feared another defeat in their effort to retain their original colonial empire. Terrorist campaigns also have been replete with rapid and unanticipated changes in fortune. In the early 1980s, the Lebanese terrorist group Hizbollah achieved a sudden triumph after several of its operatives inflicted devastating suicide strikes...
*It has been reported, as I recall, the Rummy's DoD actually went through this estimation exercise and that the preliminary results were not laudatory, therefore the reports were sent back for re-working. I don't have a reference, but I believe I read it either in RicK's or Suskind's reporting.

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