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Christopher A. Lawrence


Sub-title is Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam - Casement Publishers, Oxford, England, 2015, 360 pgs., bibliography, notes, illustrations, graphs, tables, appendices


Reviewer's Comments - As the author describes it in chapter 25, this is two books in one. The first (and great majority of it) is a description of his research and analysis at the Dupuy Institute, mostly under government contract, on various factors that may be dominant variables influencing the outcome of 'insurgencies' (which side will win). And the second is a brief but strong advocacy essay urging that much more effort be devoted to the subject by funding more similar research and analysis. The subject is the analysis of factors favoring the 'insurgents' versus the established regime in many conflicts since World War II. The description proceeds in general chronological order reporting on Dupuy Institute work starting in 2004 when they were tasked with estimating outcomes for the then current war in Iraq. In a lengthy book format it proceeds through discussions of their further work and chapters devoted to assessments published by other authors and organizations.
The 25 chapter titles and 10 appendices well describe the subject of each. Some state the conclusion of the analysis, such as: "Chapter 4 - Force Ratios Really Do Matter" and "Chapter 5, Causes Really are Important". The method is to collect a very large volume of data on a wide variety of 'insurgent' conflicts and subject it to statistical methods and models that represent the interaction of various factors. Since some of the same data was used as the basis for reports over several years and on related specific issues, there is some redundancy between chapters.
This is an important book for several reasons: 1 - the results of the analysis. 2 - the disbelief by official DOD. 3 - the failure of US government to understand from the begining what would happen. 4 - a case study of the research and analysis methods used. 5. It is very relevant to the current military/political policies still being followed today.


Introduction -
Lawrence explains the early Dupuy Institute concern over conditions in Iraq in 2003-2004 and the initial contract to study what the future would portend.


Chapter I - The Iraq Casualty Estimate
- This establishes the briefing that resulted from the initial contract, delivered in Dec 2004 and January 2005, as the base for the subsequent chapters. In this report the Dupuy Institute predicted that the continued conflict in Iraq was "a major insurgency" that would last for 10 years and result in very significant casualties. The chapter provides a description of the origin of the contract, the methods used and results presented to military officials. Lawrence writes that the results were not believed. There had not been sufficient time (only a few months) for full research and analysis of the large data base the Institute already possessed to provide more elaborate substantiating evidence. But one of their conclusions was that the insurgency already had 20,000 to 50,000 men in the field, vice the 5,000 the government was claiming. This initial analysis was based on a data set of only 28 historical examples.


Chapter 2 - The Art and Science of Counterinsurgency Warfare Studies
- This chapter is a general historical background discussion of the broad subject of 'insurgency war' and the thoughts about it by various military authors. Lawrence quotes Clausewitz on conventional war by big armies and writes that Clausewitz did not focus on the several insurgencies that took place during the Napoleonic wars; such as in Spain, Austria and Russia. He considered that such guerrilla war was a subsidiary front in a general war. But Clausewitz did specify 5 conditions necessary for an insurgency to be effective. But even then support as part of a regular force was necessary. Lawrence discusses Charles Caldwell's book "Small Wars' devoted to the colonial wars of the 19th century. He continues through the series of reports and manuals published by the U. S. Marine Corps based on experiences in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America. He mentions Major Earl H. Ellis's study and those of Majors Samuel Herrington and C. J. Miller, and others.


Chapter 3 - The Acid Test: Predicting the Present
- In this chapter Lawrence presents some of the analysis and predictions made by the Dupuy Institute (for instance, First Gulf War, Bosnia, and Iraq and that of several other well-known authors.


Chapter 4 - Force Ratios Really Do Matter
- In this chapter Lawrence states the principal conclusion of the entire book. Of all the factors analyzed and described in the following chapters none is as critical to outcomes as the real force ratio between the incumbent government and the insurgency. Determination of what that is can be rather slippery. Which components of the government count and how does one determine what is the actual number of effective insurgents?
For the Dupuy analysis they returned to a larger data base of 83 cases. Lawrence provides 5 pages of tables. He stresses that the Dupuy conclusion on the critical nature of force ratios was not the common belief.


Chapter 5 -Cause Really is Important
- The author presents another 3 pages of data and tables to support his conclusion that the second most significant factor is the nature of and strength of belief in a 'cause', especially nationalism or religious.


Chapter 6 - The Two Together Seem Really Important
- Here the author combines these two variables with 7 pages of data to show their synergy.


Chapter 7 - Other Similar Work
- Lawrence here digresses into discussion of the 'fallacies' of competing 'experts'. He takes on a fairly extensive list of popular authors.


Chapter 8 - Outside Support and Structure of Insurgencies
- The 83 cases provide 5 pages of case data and tables


Chapter 9 - Rules of Engagement and Measurements of Brutality
- These are two separate but similar variable factors. The rules of engagement consider especially the use of artillery and aerial bombing and their impact on the general population. The 'Brutality' relates to the use of torture, murder, police methods, and the like. There are 14 pages focused on the effort to determine if these are significant as operational issues. The categories are broken down into details on, for instance, 4 specific rules, 2 on the use of torture, 3 on controlled versus extensive use of firepower, 4 of brutal counter insurgency and insurgent methods. Lawrence divides the characteristics into 6 categories of use by incumbent versus insurgent. And then he subjects these to statistical analysis. he uses ratios of 'civilian" deaths to insurgent deaths.
But I question just who should be counter as a 'civilian' when the insurgents are integrated into the 'civilian' population and not some group out in the jungle..


Chapter 10 - Sanctuaries, Border Barriers and Population Resettlement
- These also are separate but similar variables. Their analysis required considerable data and thought. Lawrence writes that he could not find a clear correlation between the degree of outside support and outcomes. But sanctuaries are important. They existed in only 21 of the 83 cases and were significant for providing great assistance to insurgents. He did a statistical analysis using Fischer's exact test on border barriers used by the regime in 13 cases and found that the French border system in Algeria was very successful - but at great expense. The border barrier created by Morocco versus the Polisario was also successful - but in desert area.
Extensive effort at population control -regrouping people occurred in 10 cases. The French effort in Algeria failed.
His general conclusion on the impact of 'outside support' was that he found little correlation between this and outcomes.


Chapter 11 - Estimating Insurgence Force Size
- In this chapter the subject shifts to the issue of availability of data; both the need to be able to estimate the actual size of the insurgent force and the need to determine the nature of insurgency in terms of motivation. He produces on direct data estimate.


Chapter 12 - The Value of Elections
- There are several categories or types of the government type involved in conducting elections ( are they really free elections?) These range from democracies to powerful dictatorships. The regime won more often when there were elections and when no outside help was involved. Democracies also did better.


Chapter 13 -The Influence of Terrain on Insurgencies
- Lawrence created 12 different types of terrain -such as percent urban, covered (meaning jungle); rough (meaning hills or mountains etc.) And he divided categories by the difference in result between those with foreign intervention and pure domestic cases. He found that foreign assistance did help with it provided technical means to overcome problems with terrain.


Chapter 14 - Other Issues
- These include duration of the war, type of war, type of insurgent, and wounded versus killed ratios. Statistical methods are used in an effort to find possible correlations of these variables with outcomes.


Chapter 15 - The Burden of War
- This is a strange one - Lawrence measures the 'commitment' and 'intensity' of the intervention by outside power in terms of percent of personnel committed per 100,000 of the country's population - and the intensity in terms of numbers killed per 100,000 of national population.
I do not understand the relevance. Seems to me 'commitment' might be measured in terms of the size of the foreign force being sent as a percent of the total military establishment of the foreign country - For many that is much more important than the total population, which may be of little consequence to the leaders sending their forces. Or it may be measured in financial and economic terms in terms of the cost of the commitment relative to the country's financial strength. Lawrence establishes 4 categories to measure commitment and conducts statistical tests for data bases of 83, 62, 36, and 26 cases. He does similar analysis in terms of 'intensity' for intervening forces, government forces and insurgent force versus civilian population sizes.


Chapter 16 - A Model of Insurgencies - In this chapter Lawrence combines the data and analysis described in the previous chapters to develop a 'model' - a two variable 'model' which is depicted in graphical format.
I am not clear on what he means by 'model'.
But the graph is constructed with vertical axis showing the estimated probability of blue ( regime) success and the horizontal axis depicting the force ratio. Then there are three curves shown to depict three levels of 'political' concept or motivation of the insurgent side. 1 - 'central idea " meaning the insurgents have strong belief in a concept such as nationalism communism, religion. 2 a 'medium' commitment to an idea and 3 a purely local or factional motivation such as local disputes or personal motives. The three curves then show that the greater the trend to number 1, a strong ideological commitment, the larger the force ratio favoring the regime will be required for success.
This chapter contains the main predictive point of the study and book.


Chapter 17 - Other Theorists
- Lawrence compares his ideas with those of 11 well-known authors who have established reputations as theorists on insurgency. These are Manwaring, Trinquier, Joes, Galula, Clutterback, Fall, Kitson, O'Neill, BDM report, Lutwak and Peters. He goes into considerable detail to describe the main views of each of these folks on whichever of the variables they have discussed from among those Dupuy Institute has considered. Most of these experts only discussed some of the many variables considered in the book. Lawrence then presents the comparisons in tables - for instance one that has columns for Rules of Engagement - Use of Torture - and Use of Firepower. A larger table has columns for Area, Population, Population density, Border length, Percent arable land, Percent urban terrain, Terrain, and Location. He groups these authors into 'schools' such as British and French opinion. Lawrence does well for the reader by identifying what the main factors influencing results of insurgency war were postulated by each author. And also he tried to find what each author wrote about each of the other factors they considered. He found that most authors ignored various of the possible factors.


Chapter 18 -The Other Side
- Lawrence in this chapter summarizes the published opinions of 8 authors who were significant leaders in a well known insurgency.


Chapter 19 - Withdrawal and War Termination
- Lawrence writes that the Dupuy Institute raised this subject with officials but not generate any interest or a contract to investigate. he considers this an important issue. How does it all end ultimately, in compromise or disintegration. The official 'end' of an insurgency may not be the final end. He notes cases in which the 'loosing' insurgent nevertheless came to power years later.


Chapter 20 - Relating a Force Ratio Model to Iraq
- This chapter amounts to a critique of the American performance and actual outcome of the counter-insurgent phase of war in Iraq. Here Lawrence cycles back to the initial chapter and issue. He notes that the U. S. strategy in Iraq varied over time. In particular, the strategy changed in 2005 (after the first Dupuy report) from a 'stay in bases' concept which failed to a 'return to combat' featuring a 'surge' in 2006 that continued to the end of 2009. He again discusses the initial Dupuy estimate presented in 2004 with comment on each point in the Power Point briefing slides. These include issues such as the border, rules of engagement, treating of population and political compromise.

Then comes the fundamental conclusion. The U.S. paid the Sunni tribes into supporting the U. S. war and fighting the AQ. The U.S. bought off the insurgents and enrolled 100,000 of the potential insurgent fighters into its side. In terms of force ratio the Dupuy model for 2006 showed the U.S. had a 4.8 to 1 advantage for a 86% chance of win - and after that change it had a 14 to 1 ratio with a 99% chance of win. The 'official' plan ( he disputes this was a real plan) was for the 'surge' of American troops but had no mention of buying out the insurgents. He writes that with the payment to the insurgents changing the balance the long term result of that alone would have been the same with out any 'surge' of American troops. Moreover, the concept and proposal for recruiting the Sunni did not come from above but from local American commanders. We bought off the insurgents rather than attack them.. But in 2010 there still were 20,000 insurgents versus the 100,000 now 'friendly' Sunni tribal locals. The result was that when we stopped paying the Sunni tribes, in 2014 there was a new insurgency. On pages 246-247 Lawrence presents actual force sizes with head counts for Sunni tribes and adds totals to show the real force ratios. On page 249 he shows that the situation turned around with change in force ratio.


Chapter 21 - Relating a Force Ratio Model to Afghanistan
- Lawrence describes the initial U.S. overthrow of the Taliban government in 2001 - ironically an example of a successful insurgency aided by outside U.S. forces. He notes that the Dupuy Institute did no work on Afghanistan as the reversed insurgency grew between 2002 and 2011. But he contends that the official U. S. estimate for size of the insurgent force (manpower) was consistently too small. He gives an estimate of 15,000 to 25,000 versus the official number, 11,000. This translates into a force ratio of 7.6- 10.4 to 1. His 'regression' model then predicts a 90% chance for an insurgent victory. He shows the same 'model' graph again with the same two questions - size of insurgent force and its motivating beliefs - is it a regional or only factional insurgency? Lawrence discusses a briefing presented in December of 2008 that asked what the US views on the nature of the insurgent force really was since it did not seem to him the US was winning. In 2009 he wrote another warning but it was not published.
So, he asks, 5-years later what is the situation? On page 263 he returns to the 'buy in' of Sunni in Iraq and cites the statistics, 5 lessons and observations. 1 The US Government did not control - 2 it was a mistake to focus on building police versus real military - 3 the contrast between small 'surges' and buying off the enemy - 4 the rules of engagement - and 5 Did the US lose due to under commitment in 2001-2004. The same mistakes as in Iraq are being made in Afghanistan. What is the political will? What about considering the losses as a % of home country population. What is causal relationship?


Chapter 22 - Relating a Force Ratio Model to Vietnam
- Lawrence again applies his force ratio graph "model", this time to Vietnam. He claims the US did not 'win'. Then he asks the question, "how could the US have won? What actual force ratio would have brought a great chance of victory? This he will study with use of the 'model' that depicts force ratios and 'commitment' to a cause. On page 275 he poses the question,. "Was the insurgency broadly based?" Was it wrapped up in nationalism. He calls the insurgent army strength 200,000 to 300,000.
I have to dispute some of his estimates for size and composition of the 'insurgent forces' since they were largely as 'outside' forces and were the US and allied forces. He includes the so-called 'TET' offensive on 1968 - I was there. On pagfe 276 he claims there was 'no plan' and misquotes General Palmer.


Chapter 23 - Conclusions
- In this chapter Lawrence summarizes his conclusions from use of his 'model' the force ratio and commitment graphic. He repeats his conclusion that force ratios and insurgent causes are important variables on which to build such a 'model' and that his explains 80% of the outcomes of the 83 cases. His quantitative analysis is based on the largest such data base of 83 cases.


Chapter 24 - Where Do We Go From Here?
- Lawrence writes that the work described in the book is only a good start toward full analysis of the factors influence insurgent wins and is based on Dupuy Institute work only through early 2008, since they have had no funding since then. And moreover, there is little academic work on these issues. He writes that the government lacks an attention span and only thinks of the most immediate short term crisis. There is a lack of interest in long term studies. He is pitching for more funding.
He presents several recommendations. The Dept. of Defense needs three sets of quantitative predictive tools. 1 - a model that predicts the chance of political violence wherever it might arise. 2 - a model the predicts the chances of insurgencies in time before they occur. 3 a model of the nature of insurgencies in being already.
I always question the concept that the future can be predicted through computer-assisted 'modeling'.
Then the DOD needs training tools including 1. in the political concept of motivation and cause of insurgency. 2 structure of insurgencies. 3 the question of the role and value of outside support for insurgencies
The U. S. so far has negative learning and failed to understand the Iraq war due to emphasis on Viet Nam.
Then we need to study the changes in violence caused by climate change.
This last one seems to me to be an obvious effort to appeal to current government politics.


Chapter 25 - A Tale of Two Books
- In this chapter he presents his full pitch, mentioned in my initial comments. He writes that the book was conceived as a rep;ort on the theoretical base of Dupuy Institute studies and analysis done for DOD. Having written it, he now also has the idea for a second book (included in summary here). This is less a theoretical study and more of an advocacy for work on current issues. He believes the U.S. is not studying guerrilla warfare enough although now locked in such war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lack of study and understanding has led to failure to create better plans or execute what ideas they have had. His pitch is that these are American Wars of the American people. One cannot blame Presidents Bush or Obama or Congress. Blame for failure lies with the citizens - taxpayers and voters who are responsible for who runs the government. The second book is intended to generate reforms to help educate everyone to the need for better government. There is a need for long-range analysis programs to understand warfare.


Appendix I - Briefing Slides from January 2005
- Here is prints the 13 Power Point view graphs containing the results and recommendations of the Dupuy study in 2004-5. He wants to prove the analysis offered then was correct, which it was.


Appendix II - The Bosnia Casualty Estimate
- This is a summary of the report Dupuy Institute prepared in 1995 for the government under contract to estimate the potential casualties that would result from the Army participating in 'peace keeping' operations in Bosnia. The Institute had 3 weeks to provide its answer. The basis for analysis was a data base of 144 contingencies previously created by Dupuy in 1985 plus new date provided by UN offices on peacekeeping. The resulting estimate was for very minimal casualties, much lower than was mentioned by others.


Appendix III - List of Cases
- This is a chronological list of the 83 cases used in the Dupuy study plus an additional list of 27 cases now available for study.


Appendix IV - Force Ratios
- This table lists the cases in order from the lowest force ratio of .38 in the peacekeeping operation in Libveria 1990 in which the insurgents won to the highest force ratio of 162.73 in Cyprus in 1955-59 in which the interveening force won.
I have to question when I see a number based on very gross raw data carried out to two decimil places.


Appendix V - Force Ratios as Divided by Political Concept
- Here the same cases are listed by categories of 'political concept'. First list is for limited that is regional or factional based insurgencies, again beginning with Liberia 1990. Then there is a list of insurgencies called 'central idea' like nationalism starting with Indonesia in 1945. And then comes a list of insurgencies based on 'overarching' idea like communism starting with UN PK in Cambodia 1991. Finally there are a few cases not classified. The text discusses conclusions from these tables in terms of percentages of 'wins' for regime or insurrection in the different types of insurgent 'causes'. One such conclusion is: When a force is facing an insurgency based upon a central or ovearching idea, that force will loose the insurgency if they do not have at least a 5-to-1 force ratio. This is based upon 14 cases.


Appendix VI - Results of Testing the Model Back to Data
- This table has columns with the defining one a list of estimated probability of 'blue' victory from .0579 to 1.00 and the other columns are 'force ratios', 'true outcome', - 'concept', and 'predicted outcome'. The purpose is to test how often the true outcome matches the predicted outcome which was based on the combination of force ratio and concept.


Appendix VII- Characteristics of Selected Modern COIN Barriers
- The barriers are classified as: Static elements - active elements -


Appendix VIII - List of all 83 Cases by Indigenous Government Type
- In this table the cases are shown in columns titled: number - name - type - election - duration in years - winner - and operation. In a separate table those same cases in which there was support for the regime by inervening powers are again listed.


Appendix IX - Staying the Course: (an analysis of duration of insurgencies)
- In this section Lawrence discusses wins and losses in categories of how long the insurgent war lasted. There are quite a few small tables and much commentary on them. His discussion revolves around his concept that level of commitment can have as its proxy an estimate of the number of troops committed in relation to the size of the interveening country's population. I simply do not understand why such a correlation can be presumed. The correlations all involve use of 'Fischer's exact test" with resulting numbers carried out to 4 decimal places. Again, I find this an example of over-exactness in relation to the input data.


Appendix X - Data on 62 Insurgencies used for the Test of Anthony James Joe's Theory
- This table is provided as a reference to the discussion of Joes theory.


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