Personal and academic blog. Explores the borderlands between rhetoric, politics and intelligence.


COIN from an Australian viewpoint

An insightful article in the New Yorker offers a novel take on the War on Terror and Counter Insurgency (COIN) tactics - and it throws new light on the Bin Laden speechs of October 2004 that I have dealt with several times before.

The Australian Anthropologist and officer David Kilcullen was doing an immersive language course on Java as an officer, and he stumbled upon the Indonesian government's succesful COIN campaign against the movement Darul Islam. This is interesting because one of the only known succesful COIN operations has been the British tackling of the Malayan communist insurgency. Kilcullen was started off on a path of studying this incident and his insights have now landed him Ph.D. and a place in the Department of Defence in the US where he has an influential say on the US COIN strategizing.

His take on the new, global COIN operations that NATO undertakes is basically:

It?s now fundamentally an information fight,? he said. ?The enemy gets that, and we don?t yet get that, and I think that?s why we?re losing.?

His (and alledgedly CIA's) analysis of Bin Ladens speeches is interesting:

Just before the 2004 American elections, Kilcullen was doing intelligence work for the Australian government, sifting through Osama bin Laden?s public statements, including transcripts of a video that offered a list of grievances against America: Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, global warming. The last item brought Kilcullen up short. ?I thought, Hang on! What kind of jihadist are you?? he recalled. The odd inclusion of environmentalist rhetoric, he said, made clear that ?this wasn?t a list of genuine grievances. This was an Al Qaeda information strategy.? Ron Suskind, in his book ?The One Percent Doctrine,? claims that analysts at the C.I.A. watched a similar video, released in 2004, and concluded that ?bin Laden?s message was clearly designed to assist the President?s reëlection.? Bin Laden shrewdly created an implicit association between Al Qaeda and the Democratic Party, for he had come to feel that Bush?s strategy in the war on terror was sustaining his own global importance. Indeed, in the years after September 11th Al Qaeda?s core leadership had become a propaganda hub. ?If bin Laden didn?t have access to global media, satellite communications, and the Internet, he?d just be a cranky guy in a cave,? Kilcullen said.