Required Counterinsurgency Ratio

Quote of the Day

Typically, counterinsurgency requires at least an overwhelming advantage of conventional forces over insurgents (some estimates are as high as 10 or 20 to 1).

John Robb
Page 79 in Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization

Good to know. See also Boots on the Ground.

This is a great book.


14 thoughts on “Required Counterinsurgency Ratio

  1. The alternative, of course, is to decide the effort to preserve the native population isn’t worth it, and just kill everyone and then give the land to new people.

    Depending on the culture that could cause severe issues with the morale of the force doing the wipeout … but a sufficiently creative and motivated regime could easily find alternatives to regular troops for this work.

    • Alternative to regular troops, hmmm?

      Such as… illegal aliens? Turns out they are subject to draft as well, but by current law they cannot re-enlist nor can they serve as officers. With short tenure, none of them will be able to earn a pension or advance significantly to positions of authority.

      So, if a lot of cannon fodder is needed with no attachment to the local populace, that’s where to get them. I expect that immigration law would suddenly become very important to enforce, as written, with the military-age males being given an “enlist or deportation” option. ICE might even have to set up checkpoints to catch illegal aliens trying to leave.

      • I would think it to be more effecient to use chemical/biological methods, or perhaps neutron bombs. Mostly depends on which resources they’re trying to preserve. Mining resources are safe. Biological methods could be engineered to minimize impact on wildlife and farmland, but are less certain to do the job completely. Life finds a way. Incomplete job would harden the remnant. All means will have blowback.

  2. It all really depends on how accepting the local population is of the insurgents and of the government. For example, in occupied France, the average Frenchman was more accepting of the occupation force than of the French government, whom they mostly hated. It seems the occupiers mostly left people alone, which the government in Paris just would not do.

  3. Somehow, I don’t think any standard rules are going to apply this time around.
    As Americans are the very best out of the box thinkers the world has to offer.
    And as always it comes down to logistics more than tactics.
    308’s just popping tires from 300 yards away all up and down your supply routes?
    Don’t fret ammo, how big is the military stockpile of tires?
    And we haven’t even started on using suppressed blackouts on parked jets/engines? One could lobe rounds in all night and no one would be the wiser, till. And all of a sudden those f-15 no fly’ey to good.
    Just like them turning off your internet screws you so bad you can’t hardly live. And it tears your family apart.
    Everyone has weak points. And for armies. It’s supplies.
    We have the added bonus in the fact that military equipment contractors business plans are set up for them to make money. So, military stuff breaks, often. And it takes professionals and parts to keep it running.
    Couple that with race and gender equity program to promote incompetence? You won’t even have to fight. Given enough time it will destroy itself.
    China wants us off the world stage, and globo-homo want us dead. And they’ve almost got it done.
    Then we can be the failed narco-state no one will be willing to come into for a generation or two. If ever.
    Being ready to own your AO is about all your going to get. The military is mostly for protecting DC, and a few elites.
    Our biggest problem is going to be roving bands of feral foreigners. And hungry neighbors.

    • The “parked jet engines” thing got me to thinking……50BMG rounds are readly available, and there is equipment for reloading them. Precision reloads, in fact. I even know a guy who turns .510 projectiles from solid brass.

      Consider a .50 barrel elevated at, say, a 30-70 degree angle, equipped with a suppressor the size of a Kenworth muffler and an optical sight. One could drop in 800 grain 1/2 inch mortar rounds from….what, 2+ miles?

      Way back when, during Uncle Sam’s Jungle Adventure Years, some wag came up with 1 ounce cast lead flechettes that when dropped from 30-45K feet up and in bunches of several thousand would perforate whatever it encountered. As an anti-personnel device it left a lot to be desired, but as an anti-material measure, maybe. There are 437.5 grains to an avoirupois ounce, so that 800g .50 projectile is about an ounce and a half. Glue on some stabilizing fins and it’s probably right at 2 ounces.

      And, I believe we’ve just taken Intro to Ballooning 101, for full academic credit no less, and IIRC a large bag of caltrops don’t weigh much, especially the aluminum ones.

      If you’ll excuse me, Igor and I must retire to the laboratory in the dungeon to conduct some ‘spearmints, adventure beckons.

      • My understanding was that war planes are generally stored in protected areas when at risk of enemy ground action. Am I wrong?

        • Most certainly, when they can. But one could have kept a whole bunch of elites stuck at Davos?
          My only point is that everyone has weaknesses.
          And just maybe if government would examine their own?
          They might reconsider before thing go totally sidewise.
          (I’m sure it’s age and wishful thinking on my part.)

        • “…when at risk of enemy ground action…”

          Stateside, most aircraft are parked “on the ramp” outside revetments because “it’s stateside” and there’s no real expectation of enemy enfilading fire. Which will change, quickly, if Things Go Sporty, and revetments will be constructed ASAP to counter it. Depending on that construction, however, it those revetments aren’t roofed the aircraft will still be vulnerable to decending fire.

          Herbert McBride wrote two books – A Rifleman Went to War, and The Emma Gees – about his experience during World War I. He commanded a machine gun platoon late in the war and The Emma Gees covers that; he described setting up the guns several hundred yards behind the front and firing at high elevation over his own lines to rake the enemy trenches with descending fire, using the machine guns as multi-pellet small caliber mortars.

          Back in Uncle Sam’s Jungle Adventure Days, crews using “a four deuce” – a 105 MM mortar – would do much the same thing with fuzing set for 10 meter air bursts. Absolutely devastating to troops in the open (and firing at the high elevation necessary to do that caused recoil – and yes, a 105 mortar recoils a lot– broke the suspension torsion bars in M113s (APCs) if they were a mounted crew). If Things Go Sporty there won’t be much in the way of troops in the open, but aircraft, and fuel trucks, are thin skinned; a few 1/2 inch holes followed by tracers, well…..

          Nothing rules out enfilading fire, it still works, but I suspect knowing one’s 2000 meter ballistic trajectory and group size at that distance might just be a handy bit of knowledge. Just because the target is over the hill and out of visual confirmation doesn’t mean it cannot be hit.

          Which reminds me – what’s the current long distance rifle record? Last time I heard it was 5280 yards – exactly 3 miles. Those guys are doing it with the target in visual sight, but trajectory is trajectory whether you can see the target or not, and IIRC, they’re using a 4 foot square target. Airplanes are larger.

          Like MTHead said, “Muricans are the best out of the box thinkers this planet has to offer.”

          It would be best were some people smart enough to not test the limits of that hypothesis.

      • Look up sabot Thats a friend of mine in So. Oregon that makes flechette shotgun shells.
        Hardened steel. And last I remember he was working on making them twist in flight for long range stability.
        Those things go through anything.
        If you like that sort of thing. Best turkey hunter loads one will ever find. Just watch your backstop!
        Airplanes have notorious thin skins. And tires also. Just saying.

  4. That is military doctrine but it assumes that the military does all the work and that you are operating in a foreign country/colonial possession. If on the other hand, you are operating in your native country with at least some of the population supporting you and a strong Cheka, it should take less.

    That is what we face.

  5. IIRC, there were only two successful COIN ops in the entire 20th century, and they used radically different methods. Most training at western military colleges spend all their time studying failed COIN ops, not successful ones, because they REALLY don’t like to look at what works.
    1) the Brits fighting the IRA in Northern Ireland, taking a generation and lots of uniform losses while protecting the civilian population.
    2) al-Assad dealing with Syrian insurgents at Hama with lots of heavy arty in ’82 and figuring in that town there were no “civilians” so dead was good; Hama was pounded into rubble over a month.

    If the US were to devolve into an active counterinsurgency, there is no way either of those methods would work. Nothing in the current US COIN op manual would. It would be bloody, and people would be forced to “pick a side” with speed. Most cops would declare for their paycheck-signer… then drive around in easily spotted cars? Not sure how it would work out, but I expect the “excitement level” would be pushed high very fast.

    • The Brits suppressed the communists in Malaya. The communists had the disadvantage of being concentrated in an ethnic minority (Chinese). This was the book the US was trying and failing to follow in Vietnam. Also the Philippines won against the Huks. Technically speaking the Boer War was a 20th century war though it started in the 19th and the Brits had to kill large numbers of Boer women and children to suppress that one. Soviets managed to suppress assorted insurgencies until the Soviet Union fell apart using Boer War methods. Hard to describe the Russian Civil War as all 427 sides in that one were in part insurgencies. Mexico eventually was able to suppress the various insurgencies. All the Mexican leaders of that era except Huerta met violent deaths. I guess the jury is still out as to Israeli success.

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