Army Developed Its Counterinsurgency Campaign Tactics Essay

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Army developed its counterinsurgency campaign tactics in the Philippines and Cuba based upon their experiences campaigning against the American Indians. The most resounding feature of these campaigns and the key to the victories that happened was an almost unbroken record of success in working with local aboriginal peoples to fight low-intensity (counterinsurgency) campaigns. The string of campaigns stretched over one hundred years and gave the U.S. Army invaluable experience that resulted in an Army wide shared organization expertise and comfort at conducting what is now known as counterinsurgency or irregular warfare. It is the opinion of this author that the expertise and facility working with indigenous or tribal forces was very ingrained in the institutional expectation and training of officers in the Army would routinely without even thinking it unusual to immediately establish alliances and contracts for auxiliaries with local forces and their tribal leaders to recruit scouts and irregular forces for a selected theater of operations. Secondly, the success of these operations was dependent upon the permanent establishment of what originally were ad hoc units into permanent units like the Philippine Constabulary. Thirdly, the wars were eventually localized by turning combat operations over completely too local forces and using "carrot and stick methods. Ironically, this expertise was forgotten subsequently to the conclusion of the campaigns, (especially in the Philippines) as the wars were "localized" and the counterinsurgency campaigns became as much a battle of "hearts and minds" as they were decisive battles. These types of organizational arrangements were not pursued by the nineteenth century version of the Green Berets. Rather, non-elite, conventional Army officers were following standard operating procedure (SOP) that was part and partial of the military culture and historical experience since the 1600's

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Following upon the beginning of United States imperial empire in the Philippines, this institutional expertise and tradition was carried over into twentieth century warfare in the creation of the Philippine Constabulary and the Philippine Scouts. These types of scouts began many times in ad hoc operations of mixed Philippino and American units and were employed with great combat success and were a very large component of the eventual U.S. subjection of the Philippines into a colonial status (Birtle, 2006, p. 116).

These ad hoc units took permanent shape upon the orders of commanding General Arthur MacArthur and brought about the creation of large units of Philippino troops and ultimately the Philippine Constabulary. This permanent organization would be especially instrumental in quelling the rebellion in the outlying islands well into the new century (Ibid., pp. 154-158).

All of the various leaders of the Constabulary, including Generals Crook, Pershing and Leonard Wood all were in recognition of the fact that "the successful leader of native troops had to exhibit all the traits of a paternal strongman, sufficiently aloof from his charges to gain their allegiance while demonstrating a genuine concern for their welfare and a respect for their cultural idiosyncrasies (Ibid, p. 155). To give some idea of how formative and instrumental this was to the structure of the U.S. Army in the twentieth century, one needs simply to consider that twenty-five former Philippine Constabulary officers become generals in the Regular Army (Ibid, p. 154).

Interestingly, Birtle maintains that the U.S. Army was more apt to accept tactics that were not as harsh as time went on and went more for an application of "carrot and stick" methods. According to his research, the Army would actually finally resort to very harsh and punitive measures only reluctantly in order to quell the insurgency such as destroying crops and killing and punishing civilians and so on. Unfortunately for the Army, these operations were piecemeal and were due to an actual benevolence. In addition, a pragmatic realization was that the support of the U.S. public was fickle and fleeting. Drastic, iron fisted tactics and strategies that had worked in the past were gradually forgotten over time. As veterans left the service, the institutional memory that recorded historical tactical developments disappeared and was forgotten. Compassionate measures were more used then to win the "hearts and minds" of the peasants and the enemy (Ibid, p. 238).

While Birtle does not analyze the phenomenon of the U.S. Army trend toward using massive firepower the win a battle, the author feels that it is necessary to chart the increasing dependence upon new firearms technologies designed to give U.S. soldiers and local irregulars an edge in the field against guerilla forces when the hearts and minds campaign did not work. It is the author's contention that this technological trend replaced the irregular warfare tactics that had been the mainstay of the small, frontier U.S. Army as it was fighting its Indian Wars. Instead, Army training and doctrine now surrounded and depended upon heavier and more effective weapons such as the M1911 Colt 45 caliber pistol to multiply the power of the U.S. Army and Philippine Constabulary soldiers who were hard pressed to stop the rebellion amongst the Moro tribesmen of the Southern Philippines. In the guerilla war, the M1894 Colt 38 pistol simply lacked the firepower to take down a determined Moro fighter. This became especially evident in the May 1902 Battle of Bayan. While ending in a United States victory, the high number of American casualties caused Major General Adna Chaffee to urge a new in his Annual Report to the War Department for 1902 to the War Department. He underscored the weakness of the .38 caliber pistol when he said that the weapon "failed to stop Moros unless it struck them in a vital spot." Then Captain John J. Pershing recalled a Moro fighter taking seven shots to the torso before being taken out by U.S. Army soldiers. Years of field modifications and fighting with the U.S. Army Ordinance Department resulted in the adoption of the M1911 Colt 45 which became the standby sidearm of U.S. forces well into the 1970s (Fulton, 2007, pp. 3-6). This technological march was out of the irregular warfare model and into the technological one.

To recap, in this paper it has been documented by the author that the U.S. Army developed its counterinsurgency campaign tactics in the Philippines and Cuba based upon their experiences campaigning against the American Indians. The most resounding feature of these campaigns and the key to the victories that happened was an almost unbroken record of success in working with local aboriginal peoples to fight low-intensity (counterinsurgency) campaigns. It is the opinion of this author that the expertise and facility working with indigenous or tribal forces was very ingrained in the institutional expectation and training of officers in the Army would routinely without even thinking it unusual to immediately establish alliances and contracts for auxiliaries with local forces and their tribal leaders to recruit scouts and irregular forces for a selected theater of operations. Secondly, the success of these operations was dependent upon the permanent establishment of what originally were ad hoc units into permanent units like the Philippine Constabulary. Thirdly, the wars were eventually localized by turning combat operations over completely to local forces as well as by using "carrot and stick methods. These types of organizational arrangements were not pursued by the nineteenth century version of the Green Berets. Rather, non-elite, conventional Army officers were following standard operating procedure (SOP) that was part and partial of the military culture and historical experience since the 1600's. Ironically, this expertise was forgotten subsequently to the conclusion of the campaigns, (especially in the Philippines) as the wars were "localized" and the counterinsurgency campaigns became as much a battle of "hearts and minds" as they were decisive battles.

For the author, the synthesis of the insights from the author's analysis is that the soldiers (and especially their officers) of the twenty-first century need to reapply these old techniques of irregular warfare need to applied… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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