By Major Tom Mcilwaine, Queen's Royal Hussars
Best Defense guest columnist
Question Set Five -- Historical case studies suggest that minimum force, civil primacy, and acting within the law are vital. But those historical case studies -- are we sure about them? Now I know all about the wide and varied research that could be used to back up the principles articulated in FM 3-24; I have read Christopher Paul's and Colin Clarke's skillful deconstruction of Gentile's argument that FM 3-24 is "evidence free". The supplementary questions that underpin this question relate to how many of these campaigns were actually used by the authors of FM 3-24? Was the insurgency in Tajikistan really at the forefront of the authors' minds? Or were they in fact relying more on a narrow spectrum of British and French experiences? I suspect they probably were. Are Malaya, Kenya and Algeria ringing any bells?
So we are in fact drawing some pretty big conclusions from a pretty narrow sample size. And as the next question will suggest, some of those historical case studies might not actually stand up to scrutiny.
(To be continued)
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.