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  • COIN Reading?

    Esteemed ladies and gents of ACG.

    I would like to do a bit of reading on COIN and COIN theory and wonder what you recommend to read? I would be particularly interested on anything from around the Vietnam War era.

  • #2
    I posted a bunch of links previously in this post: http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forum...6&postcount=16. If you go through the entire thread, I posted several other articles you might find interesting.

    A quick trip to Amazon shows that there are a ton of books out now. Before investing, you might want to spend some time over on the Small Wars Journal website (http://smallwarsjournal.com/). As the title indicates, they do a lot on the subject and link a ton of material. Best of all, its free.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by The Ibis; 12 Oct 12, 11:57.

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    • #3
      A few from my library...

      Casebook on Insurgency and Revolutionary Warfare: 23 Summary Accounts, Special Operations Research Office, American University.

      Guerrillas in History, Lewis H. Gann

      From the Barrel of a Gun: A History of Guerrilla, Revolutionary and Counter-Insurgency Warfare, from the Romans to the Present, John Ellis

      Defeating Communist Insurgency:Experiences from Malaya and Vietnam, Robert Thompson

      Communist Insurgent Infrastructure in South Vietnam, Michael Charles Conley

      War without Guns: American Civilians in Rural Vietnam, George K. Tanham

      Making Revolution: Insurgency of the Communist Party of Thailand in a Structural Perspective, Tom Marks

      The Bear went over the Mountain: Soviet combat tactics in Afghanistan, Lester W. Grau

      Comment


      • #4
        Mackie, I used these to decent effect just a couple of years ago;

        Counterinsurgency - Marston and Malkasian [Eds]
        The New Counterinsurgency Era - Transforming th eUS Military for Modern Wars - Ucko
        Learning to Eat Soup With A Knife - Nagl
        The Sling and The Stone - Hammes
        Counterinsurgency War - Galula
        The Seven Pillars of Wisdom - Lawrence

        Also recommended is Mao's treatise on guerilla warfare - I haven't read it but have it on good authority it is worth doing so. Instead I read Tien's Chinese Military theory which covered enough of Mao for my purposes at the time.


        Van Crevald's The Transformation of War, I believe, might also be of use but do not remember too well - I don't have my copy with me and I haven't read it in a few years.

        I also read a very good book on the South African National Defence Force and it's doctrinal change to suit COIN operations and how to preserve their abilities in that field. It was superb, but I cannot remember off hand the title of it. Again, I don't have it to hand.

        One of the first tomes on the subject of COIN, which I would heartily recommend, was Colonel Calwell's Small Wars written in the early 1900s. Worth reading I think. depending on how limited your time is.

        Edit; on Vietnam, try A Time For War, and the Nagl Book

        Of that era; the Rhodesian War by Moorcraft
        Last edited by Selous; 12 Oct 12, 13:11.
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        • #5
          Many thanks for the suggestions.

          Originally posted by Skoblin View Post
          A few from my library...

          War without Guns: American Civilians in Rural Vietnam, George K. Tanham
          This one sounds good, looking back, I wonder how it shapes up with Hunt's Pacification?

          The Bear went over the Mountain: Soviet combat tactics in Afghanistan, Lester W. Grau
          Excellent and available for free (legally). There's also Muj. equivalent called Other Side of the Mountain for those interested.

          Originally posted by The Ibis View Post
          Before investing, you might want to spend some time over on the Small Wars Journal website (http://smallwarsjournal.com/). As the title indicates, they do a lot on the subject and link a ton of material. Best of all, its free.

          Good luck.
          A scholarly journal that's free? Well I'll be.

          Originally posted by Selous View Post
          Mackie, I used these to decent effect just a couple of years ago;

          Counterinsurgency - Marston and Malkasian [Eds]
          The New Counterinsurgency Era - Transforming the US Military for Modern Wars - Ucko
          Learning to Eat Soup With A Knife - Nagl
          The Sling and The Stone - Hammes
          Counterinsurgency War - Galula
          The Seven Pillars of Wisdom - Lawrence
          What did you think of title in bold? What about the Nagl one? It seems to be quite popular.

          Also recommended is Mao's treatise on guerilla warfare - I haven't read it but have it on good authority it is worth doing so. Instead I read Tien's Chinese Military theory which covered enough of Mao for my purposes at the time.
          Cheers for the tip.

          Van Crevald's The Transformation of War, I believe, might also be of use but do not remember too well - I don't have my copy with me and I haven't read it in a few years.
          His book on logistics is recommended regularly by users of this forum so I suppose it will be worth a look in the library.
          One of the first tomes on the subject of COIN, which I would heartily recommend, was Colonel Calwell's Small Wars written in the early 1900s. Worth reading I think. depending on how limited your time is.

          Edit; on Vietnam, try A Time For War, and the Nagl Book
          Noted and noted!
          Last edited by Mackie; 12 Oct 12, 13:43.

          Comment


          • #6
            Anything COIN or a specific field? i.e doctrine/historical accounts/strategic-campaign-tactical level, etc.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Golani View Post
              Anything COIN or a specific field? i.e doctrine/historical accounts/strategic-campaign-tactical level, etc.
              I'm mostly looking for doctrine and strategic level stuff from around 1945 to the Vietnam War era. I'm looking to trace the development of COIN up to the Vietnam War and (eventually) beyond. I want to see what ideas had been formulated and what was put into practice for Vietnam. Then I want to see how the war in South Vietnam had impacted on COIN thinking.

              Comment


              • #8
                I also forgot to mention Robert B. Asprey's exhaustive two-volume work War in the Shadows: The Guerrilla in History. Be warned, this is a door-stopper: 1500 pages, commencing with Alexander the Great's experience with the Scythians...


                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Mackie View Post
                  I'm mostly looking for doctrine and strategic level stuff from around 1945 to the Vietnam War era. I'm looking to trace the development of COIN up to the Vietnam War and (eventually) beyond. I want to see what ideas had been formulated and what was put into practice for Vietnam. Then I want to see how the war in South Vietnam had impacted on COIN thinking.
                  Since most of the things I read are already on here (and I'll avoid the obvious like Mao's "On Guerrilla Warfare" or USMC's "Small Wars Manual") here's a curve ball- I think I suggested it to you in the past but now you might be able to grab it-

                  The British army has a field manual for COIN (don't know it's official name, I have the Hebrew addition) mine was printed in 1995 by the DGD&D, it's classified as "open" so you can probably find it- well worth the read.

                  Also, this website might have some interesting things for you:
                  http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/CSI/

                  Specifically:
                  http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/CSI/CSIPubs.asp

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    'sup Mackie.
                    Originally posted by Mackie View Post
                    What about the Nagl one? It seems to be quite popular.
                    I know that you occasionally poke your head into the Vietnam forum now and again, and so you may well know my standpoint on strategy; I'll try not to rant. Thus, I've got beef with some of the content in Nagl's book.

                    He very obviously falls into the pacification camp. The most telling bone of contention that I came across in the book is the fact that there's a chapter on the "Strategic Geography" of Malaya, explaining cultural, ethnic, and geographic boundaries, but there is no such chapter in respect to Vietnam. This is a significant omission, and to me it screams that he very clearly believes pacification was the way forward.

                    Vietnam was always a two front war —revolutionary war— and the fact that we're debating the issue today is testament to how effective a strategy it was. If you read Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife, I have a laundry list of other books that I can recommend to you to balance his viewpoint. There are chapters in the book that are excellent though, and he is a skilled author. The sections on institutional learning and evolution are excellent. I'd better move on before I ramble further.
                    Originally posted by Mackie View Post
                    His book on logistics is recommended regularly by users of this forum so I suppose it will be worth a look in the library.
                    I recently read his book on logistics and enjoyed it a great deal. It was about as exciting as a blender manual, but it was informative. He skips the U.S. Civil War, and essentially jumps from the Napoleonic wars to the Franco-Prussian war which slightly annoyed me; seeing has how it was one of the first wars to see widespread use supply and movement by rail.
                    Originally posted by Mackie View Post
                    I'm mostly looking for doctrine and strategic level stuff from around 1945 to the Vietnam War era. I'm looking to trace the development of COIN up to the Vietnam War and (eventually) beyond. I want to see what ideas had been formulated and what was put into practice for Vietnam. Then I want to see how the war in South Vietnam had impacted on COIN thinking.
                    Well, between the wars, the most significant leap forward was probably Airmobility Doctrine, which can trace it's evolution from the French experience there, eventually reaching it's height in the U.S. Army in the creation of one (1st Cavalry) and the conversion of another (101st Airborne) division to full airmobile divisions. Aviation units were sprinkled in here and there inside of other divisions, but no one had as many organic rotary wing aircraft as the Air Cav. The whole doctrine was thought to be a magic bullet of sorts, negating the need for the traditional approach to counterinsurgency, seeing as how the insurgent had trouble interdicting supply and movement by air (the soviet experience in Afghanistan highlights how significant a point it was, when the insurgent could).

                    The battle of the Ia Drang solidified it's viability, and the fact that this would be a war of fire and maneuver but only within certain political constraints to avoid Chinese intervention. It's impossible to overstate how afraid Johnson was of triggering a Chinese offensive. Korea was still relatively fresh in the U.S. strategic mindset and this colored the thinking; after the Sino-Soviet split, the playing field changed.

                    COIN doctrine after the Vietnam war is relatively simple: avoid it. With the advent of AirLand Battle and TRADOC (originally commanded by William DePuy, who was MACV chief of staff and 1ID commander during the war), attention focused on winning the battle in Europe against massive numerical superiority. After the cold war, the first gulf war again showed that the broadsword was the way, rather than the scalpel. In essence, the U.S. military had to re-learn almost everything the hard way. I remember reading that an officer thought someone was joking when they referenced the USMC small wars manual: that such a manual didn't exist!

                    Almost everything I would have recommended has been mentioned, but here are three that I think you'll gain some more insight from, and will perhaps further highlight some of my points above:
                    • People's War, People's Army: The Viet Cong Insurrection Manual for Underdeveloped Countries By Vo Nguyen Giap
                    • Grab Their Belts To Fight Them: The Viet Cong's Big-Unit War Against the U.S., 1965-1966 by Warren Wilkins
                    • On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of The Vietnam War by Harry G. Summers, Jr.
                    Last edited by Lucky 6; 16 Oct 12, 08:09.
                    ...how useless it was to struggle against fortune, this being the burden of wisdom which the ages had bequeathed to him.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      And when you get done reading about eating soup with a knife, you might want to read why one should really eat soup with a spoon. Here is Gian Gentile advocating just that in Eating soup with a spoon
                      Missing from the new COIN manual’s pages is the imperative to fight
                      .

                      Try and balance your COIN reading with Gentile's stuff. He pokes a lot of holes. Some can be filled easily. Some ... not so much.

                      Here are some other papers he's written. He has also been a frequent commentator on the SMJ:

                      Let’s Build an Army to Win All Wars
                      COIN is Dead: U.S. Army Must Put Strategy Over Tactics


                      And something Vietnam specific - his review of Sorley's biography of Westmoreland:

                      The Better War That Never Was

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Many thanks for the informative posts. Also, I've come across some links you might find useful below:

                        RMA Sandhurst COIN bibliography

                        Defence Academy of the United Kingdom - You can find things like documents, publications etc.

                        Originally posted by Golani View Post
                        Since most of the things I read are already on here (and I'll avoid the obvious like Mao's "On Guerrilla Warfare" or USMC's "Small Wars Manual") here's a curve ball- I think I suggested it to you in the past but now you might be able to grab it-

                        The British army has a field manual for COIN (don't know it's official name, I have the Hebrew addition) mine was printed in 1995 by the DGD&D, it's classified as "open" so you can probably find it- well worth the read.
                        Thanks for that, tried a quick Google but couldn't find it. I did, however, come across an updated one from 2009 which you can access below:

                        Click me

                        Also, this website might have some interesting things for you:
                        http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/CSI/

                        Specifically:
                        http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/CSI/CSIPubs.asp
                        Nice one. I've seen that site before, I think, but not that section.

                        Originally posted by Lucky 6 View Post
                        'sup Mackie.


                        I know that you occasionally poke your head into the Vietnam forum now and again, and so you may well know my standpoint on strategy; I'll try not to rant. Thus, I've got beef with some of the content in Nagl's book.

                        He very obviously falls into the pacification camp. The most telling bone of contention that I came across in the book is the fact that there's a chapter on the "Strategic Geography" of Malaya, explaining cultural, ethnic, and geographic boundaries, but there is no such chapter in respect to Vietnam. This is a significant omission, and to me it screams that he very clearly believes pacification was the way forward.
                        That is a pretty serious omission! I remember something said by a historian along the lines of 'If there's a problem you can't overcome then ignore it and hope it goes away!'

                        I was always sympathetic to those that argued for pacification in South Vietnam because I suppose they were genuinely trying to look for a solution that could have worked. The problem I have with it is that at the end of the day it was Saigon that had to build its political base, not the US. Which, IMHO, is the 'nail in the coffin' for the US having pacification as its primary effort in SVN.

                        Vietnam was always a two front war —revolutionary war— and the fact that we're debating the issue today is testament to how effective a strategy it was. If you read Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife, I have a laundry list of other books that I can recommend to you to balance his viewpoint. There are chapters in the book that are excellent though, and he is a skilled author. The sections on institutional learning and evolution are excellent. I'd better move on before I ramble further.
                        You mean two front as in 'revolutionary' and 'big unit'?

                        I recently read his book on logistics and enjoyed it a great deal. It was about as exciting as a blender manual, but it was informative. He skips the U.S. Civil War, and essentially jumps from the Napoleonic wars to the Franco-Prussian war which slightly annoyed me; seeing has how it was one of the first wars to see widespread use supply and movement by rail.
                        I only read the chapter on North Africa, since it's always brought up in the WW2 section. I'll have to give it a proper look at some point.

                        Well, between the wars, the most significant leap forward was probably Airmobility Doctrine, which can trace it's evolution from the French experience there, eventually reaching it's height in the U.S. Army in the creation of one (1st Cavalry) and the conversion of another (101st Airborne) division to full airmobile divisions. Aviation units were sprinkled in here and there inside of other divisions, but no one had as many organic rotary wing aircraft as the Air Cav. The whole doctrine was thought to be a magic bullet of sorts, negating the need for the traditional approach to counterinsurgency, seeing as how the insurgent had trouble interdicting supply and movement by air (the soviet experience in Afghanistan highlights how significant a point it was, when the insurgent could).
                        Have you read Krepinevich's book?

                        COIN doctrine after the Vietnam war is relatively simple: avoid it. With the advent of AirLand Battle and TRADOC (originally commanded by William DePuy, who was MACV chief of staff and 1ID commander during the war), attention focused on winning the battle in Europe against massive numerical superiority. After the cold war, the first gulf war again showed that the broadsword was the way, rather than the scalpel. In essence, the U.S. military had to re-learn almost everything the hard way. I remember reading that an officer thought someone was joking when they referenced the USMC small wars manual: that such a manual didn't exist!
                        Was the role of SF changed as well or did COIN remain a key remit?

                        Almost everything I would have recommended has been mentioned, but here are three that I think you'll gain some more insight from, and will perhaps further highlight some of my points above:
                        • People's War, People's Army: The Viet Cong Insurrection Manual for Underdeveloped Countries By Vo Nguyen Giap
                        • Grab Their Belts To Fight Them: The Viet Cong's Big-Unit War Against the U.S., 1965-1966 by Warren Wilkins
                        • On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of The Vietnam War by Harry G. Summers, Jr.
                        Cheers, IIRC, Summers made a bit of a splash with his book in the 1980s. Been a while since I read it.

                        Originally posted by The Ibis View Post
                        And when you get done reading about eating soup with a knife, you might want to read why one should really eat soup with a spoon. Here is Gian Gentile advocating just that in Eating soup with a spoon
                        Missing from the new COIN manual’s pages is the imperative to fight
                        .

                        Try and balance your COIN reading with Gentile's stuff. He pokes a lot of holes. Some can be filled easily. Some ... not so much.

                        Here are some other papers he's written. He has also been a frequent commentator on the SMJ:

                        Let’s Build an Army to Win All Wars
                        COIN is Dead: U.S. Army Must Put Strategy Over Tactics


                        And something Vietnam specific - his review of Sorley's biography of Westmoreland:

                        The Better War That Never Was

                        http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_wExpT4-LAP...le_gentile.jpg
                        Brilliant.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Mackie View Post
                          I was always sympathetic to those that argued for pacification in South Vietnam because I suppose they were genuinely trying to look for a solution that could have worked. The problem I have with it is that at the end of the day it was Saigon that had to build its political base, not the US. Which, IMHO, is the 'nail in the coffin' for the US having pacification as its primary effort in SVN.
                          Don't get me wrong, I think that pacification could have worked...if South Vietnam had been an island. Without isolation of the theater, I don't give it that great of a chance of success. And the kicker is, that was always Westmoreland's intention: to isolate the battlefield.
                          Originally posted by Mackie View Post
                          You mean two front as in 'revolutionary' and 'big unit'?
                          Yeah, I don't know what happened in that post there.
                          Originally posted by Mackie View Post
                          Have you read Krepinevich's book?
                          I read it ages ago, and to be honest I probably had some gripes with it but I really don't remember what I thought. I don't own it, but I'll pick up a copy one of these days to refresh my memory.
                          Originally posted by Mackie View Post
                          Was the role of SF changed as well or did COIN remain a key remit?
                          SF were originally crafted as sowers of insurrection and insurgency, along the lines of T.E. Lawrence. Somewhere it was decided that since they understood how to create indigenous insurgencies, they could combat one effectively using the same techniques. The MIKE Force is a notable example, amongst others. Your best source would probably be our member Lirelou. I'm not that well versed on SF after Vietnam, but their doctrine, at least initially reverted back to their founding. Horse Soldiers is an excellent read on the the Fall of Mazar-e-Sharif and the campaign with the Northern Alliance.
                          Originally posted by Mackie View Post
                          Cheers, IIRC, Summers made a bit of a splash with his book in the 1980s. Been a while since I read it.
                          It was revolutionary at the time, but it's forgettable now. He was the beginning of an alternate or revisionist historiography of the Vietnam war that still isn't all that accepted today. Have you read any of Moyar's work?
                          There are two books that might be useful to you. A Question of Command: Counterinsurgency from the Civil War to Iraq and Phoenix and the Birds of Prey: Counterinsurgency and Counterterrorism in Vietnam.
                          Also, the Pentagon Papers have been released in .pdf in their entirety.
                          Last edited by Lucky 6; 22 Oct 12, 10:55.
                          ...how useless it was to struggle against fortune, this being the burden of wisdom which the ages had bequeathed to him.

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