A couple of days ago I blogged in Failure of British COIN about a COIN Panel held at the CNA for the launch of Daniel Marston and Carter Malkasian’s new book Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare. At the panel some rather critical things were said about the state of British COIN with central reference to Brig Aylwin-Foster’s 2005 critique of US COIN attitudes and capabilities Changing the Army for Counterinsurgency Operations. However, on reading the transcript of the panel it seems to me that neither Marston or Kilcullen intended wound. Personally, I agree that that there are good reasons for sober consideration of Britain’s own COIN capabilities and attitudes right now. We have not paid enough attention to keeping our own house in order and reading our own history (a point recognized by Gen Dannatt in his recent speech at the RUSI Land Warfare conference) as though COIN proficiency was something which happened by osmosis or was in the British ‘DNA’. To say that there are structural factors which have been eroding British COIN capacity for years and that the United States has overtaken us in many areas is simply to speak the truth. But I do not agree that the British Army needs to be ’embarrassed’. Aylwin-Foster’s essay was timely, accurate, and constructive–and generally received as such in the USA as a result. If the microscope is to be turned the other direction then it should be equally constructive and offer something which commanders, planners, and doctrine writers here can actually do something with. The bridge between the US and the UK should not be burnt by pique in Washington or by hubris which, it must be said, has been evinced by not a few Brits since 9/11.
CNA Panel on British COIN