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Thread: Debunking The 10:1 Ratio of Forces in COIN

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    For any other stats buffs out there, here's some Stata output of the counterinsurgent cases.
    Dude, you have some mad ORSA skills!!!!
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    A.R., changed your avatar, I see...
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    Quote Originally Posted by S-2 View Post
    A.R., changed your avatar, I see...
    With good reason...unfortunately.

    BTW, thought of you Sunday night...watched The Big Lebowski. Best line of the movie? "Hey, nice marmot."
    Last edited by Albany Rifles; 19 Jan 11, at 03:53.
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    "...Best line of the movie? 'Hey, nice marmot.'"

    Don't get me started waxing its brilliance.



    "...Three thousand years of beautiful tradition from Moses to Sandy Koufax..."

    Believe me that I was thinking of you Sunday night too. Glad you found a way to relax.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Albany Rifles View Post
    Dude, you have some mad ORSA skills!!!!
    Buck,
    Having taught econometrics, I probably out qualify many ORSAs at being an ORSA, but the output I provided is actually Statistics 101 level analysis.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    Buck,
    Having taught econometrics, I probably out qualify many ORSAs at being an ORSA, but the output I provided is actually Statistics 101 level analysis.
    Shek,

    I passed Macro and Micro Economics back in 1977 as required as a History major. I walked by the building where they taught the Stats courses. That's about as close I get to that subject. Of course in 1977 the computer guys were carrying the 2 foot long trays of 80 column cards to the basement to have their programs run so I bet the tools are more convenient now!

    I will now step away from this thread and leave it unjacked.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    This is what I meant by the fact that the results are fragile - there's just so many other variables to consider. I don't think that coming up with a ratio as a rule of thumb is a bad idea, but it's not a panacea that can replace good strategy that attacks the reasons for an insurgency.

    Yes sir, you are right. It's not a bad idea, just a very incomplete picture. What irritates me about studies that focus on only one of many facets is that our civilian political leaders love to grab numbers from papers like this. Since many have Armchair General Complexes to begin with, they read a few of these and think they are now experts on COIN--as we know, a very complicated form of warfare, expensive, long-term and likely to end in stalemate, defeat or only partial victory.

    I'lll never forget General Schwarzkopf's complaint about people like Cheney, Quayle and others in the administration who had watched Ken Burn's Civil War documentary, and who now suddenly thought they were military experts and kept calling him up in Riyahd with their own nutty battle plans.
    Last edited by Red Seven; 19 Jan 11, at 22:40.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    Steve,
    No sweat. I like the paper's logic in trying to find a floor and ceiling, but it's statistical application and inferences is simply wrong. Also, I'm not familiar enough with the Correlates of War dataset to know why he chose a random sample instead of the full population of post-1938 insurgencies, but it appears like it doesn't contain the size of the two forces - having more observations would help make the findings more robust, although I doubt by very little because the findings wouldn't control for other variables that would impact the results. Also, what's interesting is that 2/3rds of the references he provides to the 10:1 ratio aren't specific to manpower, but to a more general "expenditure."
    Shek, is there a generalized difference in the effect of the COIN forces based on if they are national (ARVN), transnational (NATO in A-stan) or interventionist (Cuba in Angola)?

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    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    Shek, is there a generalized difference in the effect of the COIN forces based on if they are national (ARVN), transnational (NATO in A-stan) or interventionist (Cuba in Angola)?
    I don't know as I haven't looked at enough cases to make any generalizable statement with confidence.

    However, here are some fun factoids that Tom Ricks had posted last week:

    The Vietnam War explained as never before, in hard numbers and good facts - By Tom Ricks | The Best Defense

    Hey, how come no one ever mentioned to me Thomas Thayer's War Without Fronts: The American Experience in Vietnam? What do I pay the frequent friers for, anyway? (You know who you are.) I finished reading it over the weekend, while it snowed in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and I think it is one of the best books I've ever read on the war, with page after page of good, usable, dispassionate data, much of it counterintuitive.

    Here are just some of the things that surprised me:

    The enemy was simply not going to give the Americans the war they wanted. Out of 37,990 enemy attacks in 1968, just 126 were of battalion size or larger. And that was the peak year for large attacks, which declined to 34 in 1969, 13 in 1970, and 2 in 1971 -- before rebounding in the 1972 offensive. (P. 44)

    In terms of spending, it was more of an air war than a ground war. In fiscal 1969, for example, U.S. land force operations cost $4.6 billion, while air operations cost more than twice that, some $9.3 billion. (P. 25)

    American bombers hit Laos hard, with 8,500 B-52 sorties in 1970 (more than twice the 3,697 sorties over South Vietnam that year) and even more the following year. (P. 84) Yet all that bombing, with virtually no political constraints, was unable to interdict the flow of supplies on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which raises the question of whether more firepower applied against North Vietnam would have made any difference. (P. 86)

    The cost of bringing in a Communist defector under the "Chieu Hoi" program averaged out to $14. The cost of killing the same enemy combatant with firepower was $60,000. (P. 202) Which method do you think American commanders focused their attention on?

    In terms of productivity per dollar expended, "the most effective" allied military force was the much maligned militias, the "Regional Forces and Provincial Forces," aka "Ruff Puffs." (P. 165)

    Two-thirds of Army soldiers killed ranked E-3 or E-4. (P. 111)

    More soldiers and Marines were killed by indirect fire (artillery, mortar, rocket, land mines, etc.) than by small arms fire. (P. 117)

    Some 613 of the Marines who died in Vietnam were draftees. (P. 115)
    The book poses a mighty hurdle to those who say that, despite much proof to the contrary, the Army was a learning organization in Vietnam. Here is much evidence that there was good, solid information about how the Army's approach was profoundly counterproductive -- and also that this information largely was available internally at the time. Indeed, the author notes in an afterword that the Joint Chiefs of Staff twice tried to stop dissemination of the internal reports on which the book is based. (P. 259) He suggests that Westmoreland was particularly peeved by these analyses.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

  10. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by S-2 View Post
    Major Joshua Thiel U.S.A. offers this analysis regarding the commonly-held axiom that counter-insurgent forces must outnumber insurgents by a ratio of 10:1. Using a variety of cases studies drawn from successful and unsuccessful insurgencies reaching back to 1938, Thiel concludes differently.

    To determine his conclusions read here-

    COIN Manpower Ratios: Debunking The 10 To 1 Ratio and Surges-SWJ
    I think that's a complete falsehood - pyschological operations, strategic reconnaisance, and unconventional methods have a multiplier effect. Ideas are transmittable. Once somebody thinks something up, and has the ability to persuade other people of the correctness of the idea, you can reverse the ratio to 1:10, or even 1:100. The coup in Tunisia for example, was the work of several people who reached out to a disaffected, disgruntled populace, and the idea multiplied itself ten-thousand fold. You can create new soldiers psychologically, or at least get people to sit out of the fighting (neutrality).
    "Every man has his weakness. Mine was always just cigarettes."

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    Ironduke Reply

    "I think that's a complete falsehood - pyschological operations, strategic reconnaisance, and unconventional methods have a multiplier effect. Ideas are transmittable. Once somebody thinks something up, and has the ability to persuade other people of the correctness of the idea, you can reverse the ratio to 1:10, or even 1:100. The coup in Tunisia for example, was the work of several people who reached out to a disaffected, disgruntled populace, and the idea multiplied itself ten-thousand fold. You can create new soldiers psychologically, or at least get people to sit out of the fighting (neutrality)."

    Matt,

    You raise some great points. Shek's rightfully ripped apart the validity of this study's statistical underpinnings...but not necessarily the findings. Nor do I think he disagrees with the validity of the study's purpose. It's simply poorly constructed for whatever reason.

    There's real reason to shy from trite oversimplification. I find the axiom of a 10:1 ratio to be as trite as the notion of Afghanistan as a "graveyard of empires". I'm wading through (slowly) the other recently posted study "Victory Has A Thousand Fathers" and I think it might hold greater value. Of course, the fear is that everybody skips through the paper to its summary so they can find the trivialized "formula" to COIN success.

    Sort of expected, I suppose, in a "soundbite" generation. Therein lies the value of somebody like Shek to this board. He has the talent to strip off the veneer and uncover the true nuggets of wisdom that too often lie covered by the noise of headlines.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
    "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Lester Bangs

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironduke View Post
    I think that's a complete falsehood - pyschological operations, strategic reconnaisance, and unconventional methods have a multiplier effect. Ideas are transmittable. Once somebody thinks something up, and has the ability to persuade other people of the correctness of the idea, you can reverse the ratio to 1:10, or even 1:100. The coup in Tunisia for example, was the work of several people who reached out to a disaffected, disgruntled populace, and the idea multiplied itself ten-thousand fold. You can create new soldiers psychologically, or at least get people to sit out of the fighting (neutrality).
    I'd disagree with information having such a non-linear impact for counterinsurgent; however, I'd agree with it having a non-linear impact for the insurgent. You're citation on Tunisia supports the above contention, but not your contention - they are not simply two sides of the same coin.

    As the government in power, an idea is not enough - the proof is in the pudding, and if they're not holding up their end of the social contract, then all the information operations in the world will not overcome how the people feel about the performance of the government. However, on the flip side, the insurgents can use information much more to their benefit as they mostly have to promise or at most, provide some small scale examples and promise the intent to scale up those examples if they were to come into power.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    I think I was a bit too tired reading the post - I flipped COIN and insurgency around.

    How about an insurgency within an insurgency?
    "Every man has his weakness. Mine was always just cigarettes."

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    The ratio of troops needed to form a COIN grid depends on the ability of the insurgents/ guerillas to carry out attacks.

    Note: (a) In conventional warfare: The primary aim of guerilla warfare, is to tie down enemy troops, who would otherwise be used by the enemy in a concentrated thrust against own key areas.

    (b) In a civilian insurgency - the aim is to protest against real or percieved injustices by own or foreign government.

    (c) Insurgency is now increasingly used to achieve national political/strategic aims, as exhibited by Syria/Iran in Lebanon and Pakistan in Afghanistan.

    - The more COIN resources are used, the more the insurgents are kept on the run, thereby, making it difficult for them to plan any meaningfull attacks/ operations.

    Victory in an insurgency/guerilla warfare comes when the bases and resources of the guerillas are destroyed - Eg. The destruction of LTTE ammo ships and loss of support bases in Tamil Nadu, India. Otherwise an insurgency can sap the wealth and resources of a nation. Eg: The Mugal empire was reduced to punery by the 22 yr Maratha insurgency.

    The resource taps need to be shut/ destroyed.

    Cheers!...on the rocks!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by lemontree View Post
    The ratio of troops needed to form a COIN grid depends on the ability of the insurgents/ guerillas to carry out attacks.

    Note: (a) In conventional warfare: The primary aim of guerilla warfare, is to tie down enemy troops, who would otherwise be used by the enemy in a concentrated thrust against own key areas.

    (b) In a civilian insurgency - the aim is to protest against real or percieved injustices by own or foreign government.

    (c) Insurgency is now increasingly used to achieve national political/strategic aims, as exhibited by Syria/Iran in Lebanon and Pakistan in Afghanistan.

    - The more COIN resources are used, the more the insurgents are kept on the run, thereby, making it difficult for them to plan any meaningfull attacks/ operations.

    Victory in an insurgency/guerilla warfare comes when the bases and resources of the guerillas are destroyed - Eg. The destruction of LTTE ammo ships and loss of support bases in Tamil Nadu, India. Otherwise an insurgency can sap the wealth and resources of a nation. Eg: The Mugal empire was reduced to punery by the 22 yr Maratha insurgency.

    The resource taps need to be shut/ destroyed.
    This was the supposed goal in Vietnam but, obviously, China & Russia could not be destroyed; lines of communication/supply could be destroyed, but that was only temporary. Interdiction of resources was our only option, but that was only partially effective.
    "There is never enough time to do or say all the things that we would wish. The thing is to try to do as much as you can in the time that you have. Remember Scrooge, time is short, and suddenly, you're not there any more." -Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge

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