Via Brad Plumer, a new paper for Cato by Dr. Jeffrey Record on the US military’s counterinsurgency problem. Specifically, Record argues that effective counterinsurgency strategies run against deep-seated elements of American military culture (“the American way of war”) and that the defense establishment is essentially incabable of learning lessons about how to do this better no matter how many times the problem is pointed out to them. Record’s conclusion is that whenever possible — and it’s usually possibly — we should simply avoid embarking upon actions that are going to put us in the position of waging counterinsurgency warfare. Fascinatingly, Rich Lowry calls the paper “excellent” while also saying he doesn’t “agree with [Record's] bottom-line that we should give up trying counter-insurgency campaigns altogether.” Then I wonder what he thought was excellent about it?
At any rate, if I may make a slightly idiosyncratic point about this, I think that at least some of the American military’s cultural aversion to counterinsurgency is related to the strong Southern cultural influence on the US Army and to the peculiarities of the American Civil War.