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Send In The Marines!


While much of the American public and legacy, trivial, increasingly irrelevant Lame Stream Media is obsessing over the death of the Singing Pedophile, there are some important things going on in the world.

The American military, in the guise of the United States Marine Corps is launching a major offensive in Helmund Province, Afghanistan. Via Foxnews.com comes this story, U.S. Military Launches Major Afghan Offensive. I’m glad Fox News was able to break away from the latest Singing Pedophile story to tell us about this. I’ll post another time about why I think Fox News is a second rate (at best) news operation.

This is not the type of USMC operation as most people think of it. First of all, there is no ocean to launch from. Second, this is not a kill them all, let God sort them out, full on combat assault.

“Where we go we will stay, and where we stay, we will hold, build and work toward transition of all security responsibilities to Afghan forces,” Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson said in a statement.

This is known as “clear and hold” in counterinsurgency (COIN) operations. This was what turned things around in Iraq. The “surge” facilitated clear and hold by adding enough troops to make it work.

I’m not a military expert, I never served. Nor do I play one on cable news. However, I have read about this a bit and know a bit about the theory. I’ll recommend two books and a blog to my readers. Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife by Lieutenant Colonel John A. Nagl exams counterinsurgency during the Malaysian Emergency (1948-60) and during the Viet Nam War. The first succeeded, the second failed spectacularly. LTC Nagl compares the British approach the that used by the US in Viet Nam. If you have any interest in this subject, this is a must read. Once caution. This was LTC Nagl’s Master’s Thesis. It is not a light read. It is, however, incredibly informative and has valuable lessons for fighting and winning today’s wars.

The second book is the USMC Small Wars Manual published by the Department of the Navy. I’ve linked to the on line version, which was initially published in 1940. It’s not widely known now (at least to non Marines) that up until World War II, the primary purpose of the USMC was to serve as infantry to conduct counter insurgency operations in many places where the US had interests in maintaining organized governments. Part of that was combat operations against insurgents, part of it was civil affairs. After World War II, that sort of thing fell out of favor and until recently was not a primary mission for any branch of the US Military. Much of the information in the original is still pertinent today. Maybe not the part about how to exam and buy mules locally, but then again, maybe that is relevant. Also, there is no mention of inserting and extracting troops by helicopter, as they hadn’t been invented yet. You can buy the Small Wars Manual in print (or Kindle) from Amazon.com. Again, not light reading, but well worth the effort.

OK, three books. While searching for the Small Wars Manual, I found The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. I’ve ordered this, but haven’t received it yet, so I can’t review.

Finally,SMALL WARS JOURNAL is a blog about, well small wars. It’s worth checking frequently as there are some very good posts and discussions.

Back to the Helmand Operation,

The operation aims to show “the Afghan people that when we come in, we are going to stay long enough to set up their own institutions,” Pelletier said.

Once on the ground, the troops will meet with local leaders, hear their needs and act on them, Pelletier said.

“We do not want people of Helmand province to see us as an enemy. We want to protect them from the enemy,” Pelletier said.

As part of this operation the Marines will build bases in the villages and stay to protect the inhabitants. They will also engage in civil operations to build infrastructure.

The Washington Post has some details.

Once Marine units arrive in their designated towns and villages, they have been instructed to build and live in small outposts among the local population. The brigade’s commander, Brig. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, said his Marines will focus their efforts on protecting civilians from the Taliban and on restoring Afghan government services, instead of mounting a series of hunt-and-kill missions against the insurgents.

Early efforts in Iraq and most of the operations in Viet Nam failed at the second part. As a result at night the enemy would move back into the just liberated villages, rob the inhabitants of food and other items and kill any suspected collaborators. Which served to terrorize the villages and make them hate the US troops. Not exactly conducive to victory. The US Military learned the wrong lessons in Viet Nam and spent the next 30 years avoiding COIN operations. This continued during the first few years in Iraq and almost caused that theater of operations to be lost.

The hard learned lessons from Iraq are being applied in Afghanistan, hopefully with the same result.

Take some time out of your busy day to think about the Marines now risking their lives in Afghanistan and say a prayer or two for them and the success of this operation.

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After a long career as a field EMS provider, I'm now doing all that back office stuff I used to laugh at. Life is full of ironies, isn't it? I still live in the Northeast corner of the United States, although I hope to change that to another part of the country more in tune with my values and beliefs. I still write about EMS, but I'm adding more and more non EMS subject matter. Thanks for visiting.


  1. I've read a substantial number of books about the Vietnam conflict, including personal accounts. The soldiers that participated with the daily lives of the Vietnamese citizens had more insight, which resulted in personalizing the people they were there to help. The results were friendship, compassion and the respect required to influence people.

  2. That's pretty much the experience everywhere, including Iraq and the early phases of Afghanistan. If you read LTC Nagl's book, you'll see that it worked terrifically in Malaysia.

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