Strategic Corporals of the New Counterinsurgency
Kilcullen's experience is hardly that of an academic, although he can lay claim to mastery in that realm as well. As a commando with expertise in leading counter-insurgency campaigns in Indonesia, his knowledge comes from direct experience and involvement with leading Timorese irregular fighters in austere conditions and under dire conditions.
His presentation, based on his "28 Articles" which, in turn draws its title from a similar piece by the famous turn of the century master or guerilla warfare, T.E. Lawrence's "27 Articles," presented so much information, I took 16 pages of notes. Revolving around his 28 priciples that he has identified for fighting and winning counter insurgency campaigns, his presentation had such paradigm shattering statements of the obvious as "Rank is nothing, talent is everything" "Start Easy" and "Remember the Global Audience" but were explained with such infinitesimal detail in terms that every soldier in the room regardless of where they were in terms of rank, experience, military service or nationality, could clearly understand. In the words of our Deputy Commander, British Colonel Paul Farrar, "I have been involved in counter-insurgency since I was a young soldier in Northern Ireland in the late seventies. I have never heard a more practical and thorough presentation on fighting counter-insurgency and don't think I shall ever hear anything that should quite compare to what you have just presented. On behalf of all of us, I would like to thank you."
Kilcullen's presentation was just part of our discussion, as it later led to a private discussion of some major shifts in an emerging joint, coalition doctrine for fighting these types of campaigns. It was one of the most intellectually stimulating discussions I have ever had revolving around the concept of modern warfare. Too often those of us that are not in uniform tend to think of warfare exclusively within the frame of it being a series of uncontrollable events that make no sense whether in terms of outcomes or methodology. But Kilcullen's knowledge and mastery of the subject (which according to the very principles of his presentation is a subject that we cannot master) showed all of us that counter-insurgency, while itself is a terrible sequence of eventswithin the scope of war, is something that we ignore at our peril.
Currently the Taliban and other Anti-Government Elements have become masters of recognizing the global stage. As we have known for some time, the center of gravity for the enemy and, indeed partially for ourselves, is the world stage as portrayed by the international media. It is ridiculous to believe that we have a totally unbiased media that are merely reporting pure events without any reflection of opinion or, as many fellow military public affairs officers dangerously refer to as "slant." But the enemy here in Afghanistan and especially in Iraq, are masters of this art that we prove ourselves to remain only novices at. They travel with embedded media teams that sometimes are not only reporters from legitimate media, but merely foot soldiers whose weapon is a Sony video camera rather than a Chinese AK-47.
In a recent article in The Weekly Standard, Michael Yon brilliantly addresses some of these challenges. In his article, this U.S. Special Forces veteran turned embedded photojournalist / milblogger extraordinaire (updated regularly at http://www.michaelyon-online.com), exposes how little our strategic focus emphasizes Kilcullen's "Remember the Global Audience" advice. Linked at: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/012/844nigml.asp
his article exposes that, as of last week, we have a total of nine embedded reporters in Iraq, only two of whom were from what we call "Traditional U.S. Media". Although, I no longer attend regular public affairs briefings, I know that a similar number of media are deployed across this theatre. It is a sad state of affairs when so many are paying attention and indeed demanding to be informed about what the few are doing on their behalf. With the extraordinary amount of treasure that is being poured into these campaigns, it seems strange to those of us on the ground that more citizens aren't demanding to know more about the state of affairs from the ground be asking their local and national media to provide more coverage of what is happening.
It is comforting to get emails from readers that enjoy the perspective of those of us on the ground, but this is a fight that is going to go on for some time and it is going to take a sustained effort to keep the global audience aware of the great work that the soldiers and citizens in Iraq and Afghanistan are conducting every day. I would encourage you to take the time to demand from your leadership more access to what is happening here on every front. We need to hear of your support and less of the war fatigue that comes from the comfort of a living room.
Thank you Lt. Col. Kilcullen for inspriing all of us that hear your evolving message of hope. We will win with leaders like you to help guide our strategy!