Counterinsurgency: An operations manual conservatives

Cover of the U.S. Army's Counterinsurgency Manual

Excerpts from a four-part series that posted in July 2008:

From part one:

Too few Americans are being reached with the conservative message. If anyone would like to demonstrate that I’m wrong, please include something about why those Obama and party identification poll numbers are what they are today.

Certainly we all know the story about Iraq by now. We have just lived through an incredible and historic turnaround smack dab in the middle of a region many people considered lost to extremists. In July 2008 we’re winning the war and even members of the ever-confused pacifist political left are admitting it. Barack Obama’s speechwriters are working overtime to come up with a way for him to avoid admitting he was deadly and dangerously wrong.

We didn’t need a new President. We needed a new military commander on the ground that had a better strategy. President George W. Bush found the man with the plan in General David Petraeus.

In the next couple of essays, I’ll outline how the Counterinsurgency manual parallels exactly what’s needed when it comes to the political communications ground war here at home.

[An “intellectual adventure”] isn’t enough. We need a troop surge, and a new strategy for countering the radical social left wing and its taxeating leviathan twin.

From part two:

Counterinsurgency and modern political communications

Generals David Petraeus and James Amos have written one of the most important documents so far this century with their “Counterinsurgency” field manual published in 2006. It serves as a terrific warfare parallel for the domestic political challenge facing conservatives. Here is how the manual’s introduction opens:

“This manual is designed to fill a doctrinal gap. It has been 20 years since the Army published a field manual devoted exclusively to counterinsurgency operations. For the Marine Corps it has been 25 years. With our Soldiers and Marines fighting insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is essential that we give them a manual that provides principles and guidelines for counterinsurgency operations. Such guidance must be grounded in historical studies. However, it also must be informed by contemporary experiences.”

The recommendations within it have been applied in Iraq and as a result, the U.S. has won the second war in Iraq. The first was the three week campaign to overthrow Saddam Hussein, and the second was the battle with the insurgents.

Now we need a few bright, experienced minds out there to update the political communications manual which today has doctrinal gaps so wide you can drive a bus loaded with wide-eyed twenty-something Barack Obama supporters right through them.

The war metaphor continues to apply nicely to American politics. In fact, 2008′s Republicans and Democrats are the contesting forces locked in World War One 1916-style communications trench warfare. Little ground is gained on either side despite the expenditure of enormous resources. What’s needed is a new strategy for making a breakthrough. Think George Patton and his Third Army moving faster and covering more ground than any force of its size.

It’s abundantly evident that the best and the brightest are not yet calling the shots in Republican politics. If they were, they’d be making use of all the good arguments and evidence being provided by our think tanks and punditry class. They’d be tapping the talents of private sector communications, public relations, and advertising professionals to reach all those Americans who don’t listen to talk radio or visit conservative websites.

From part three:

Counterinsurgency: Political troops, energy and action

Our elected officials must be political organizers, recruiters, and educators. If they’re not going to be, then their legacy will be one of massive failure and eight years of President Barack Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at the national level. Illinois Republican elected officials have already provided an assist to Democratic Party control by their inaction.

The “Counterinsurgency” field manual co-written by General David Petraeus includes these lines (emphasis added):

“A counterinsurgency campaign is, as described in this manual, a mix of offensive, defensive, and stability operations conducted along multiple lines of operations. It requires Soldiers and Marines to employ a mix of familiar combat tasks and skills more often associated with nonmilitary agencies.

The balance between them depends on the local situation. Achieving this balance is not easy. It requires leaders at all levels to adjust their approach constantly.”

The difference between our military leaders and our political leaders is easy to see. Soldiers and Marines deal in life and death and are of course take their jobs seriously. The metric for our political leaders and their hired minions is not how much policy reform can they accomplish but how many times can they get reelected. In other words, not how they can fulfill the purpose of their job but how long can they avoid being fired.

From part four:

Counterinsurgency: Resurgence is possible with new generals and an updated field manual

John Fund had an article in the Wall Street Journal on July 12th titled, “Obama’s Liberal Shock Troops,” and in it he outlined how big money and big activists are working together on the radical left wing to turn public opinion in their direction.

In addition to Barack Obama’s victory over the Clinton Machine, Fund writes, liberals are also—

— “on the march on the presidential level. This year, liberal activists are spending parts of the fortunes of their wealthy donors to transform politics at the state and local level.”

While they do that, the political right fiddles. Despite enormous evidence showing that they’re on the wrong track, Republicans cling to their current mentality and leaders and conservatives still assume that think tanks and talk radio can save the day.


Republicans must relearn the principles of basic communications. The founders understood it, as did Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. It’s only the more recent Republican elected officials who have forgotten that they aren’t clerks but “opinion leaders.” If they’re not attempting to shape public sentiment, they’re useless to every right cause.

The Petraeus manual states that “counterinsurgents often have to ‘come from behind’ when fighting an insurgency.” Well, that sure is the case in 2008 America. Republicans must mirror the Counterinsurgency “Learn and Adapt” imperative.

In the first of this series I mentioned that the left has a huge head start. The liberal/socialist insurgency that rose up in this country during the last century is still on the march and a counterinsurgency is necessary to bring us back to our first principles of limited government and traditional values.