2nd Draft

2nd Draft – Afterward – 17 July 2010 – Inkspot COIN & Entrepreneurship to heal civ-mil divide18 Jul

One of the enduring problems in American society is a divide between the military and civilians. This topic flared up in the aftermath of the relief of General McChrystal by the National Command Authority in late July 2010. The founder of IAVA, Paul Rieckhoff, (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America) highlighted the issue on his facebook page, and in interviews on cable TV with Rachel Maddow. Rieckhoff posted a link to a New York Times article titled, “Is a Culture War Between American Soldiers and Civilians Inevitable?” Rieckhoff also posted a link to an article titled, “McChrystal’s Disdain: Symptom of a Mercenary Force With Few Ties to Civilian Leaders” by Frank Schaeffer, who wrote two books on this topic. On his appearance on Cable TV, he hammered home much the same point — on the same day that the President changed his Generals in Afghanistan, in moves that recalled Lincoln’s aggressive shifts in top level leadership to shape wartime leadership. At the same time, the IAVA leader was posting about the new GI Bill. In response to these themes, I wrote:

“i think that counterinsurgents would make excellent entrepreneurs. this is an idea that i think should form an important subset of this generation’s GI Bill; and it is different from the WWII era (no COIN in that war).”

“good article. one of the original sources on this is Fallows, “What Did You Do in The Class War, Daddy?” Washington Monthly, Oct 1975; and Webb, Fields of Fire, draws a not so thinly veiled character based upon that article, and it is a major theme of that novel. Interestingly, some of those people who crossover from the civilian elite to military service become successful authors (Fick, a graduate of a Jesuit prep, and Dartmouth before writing, One Bullet Away; Gallagher, son of two lawyers… before writing — blogging — Kaboom; Bing West, graduate of a Jesuit prep and Princeton before writing The Village and a bunch of other stuff). Also, it may be that some of those who cross that divide from “civilian elite” to military are also some of the best COIN service-members.”

“and to connect this article to another article you linked to: this is the reason that veterans are at 15% unemployment. if you take the idea from gladwell, outliers, that it takes 10,000 hours to become proficient in a skill, then take the higher complexity of military skills, and of civilian skills, this is why it is very difficult for exiting service-members to transition.”

While there is an enduring civilian-military divide that cannot be healed quickly or completely, there are distinct, small-scale steps that can be taken to heal that divide which will benefit both the military and the civilian spheres in the United States. This essay is about the positive effects of the counterinsurgency as entrepreneurship theme in several specific examples for both the military and the civilian world in the United States.

First, the civilian. The major challenge for the United States as I write this in mid-July, 2010 is economic. Unemployment is at 9.5%, despite several stimulus programs, the last dating back to early 2009 when a new President successfully asked Congress to inject enough money into the economy to prevent another Great Depression. Most of this money was injected in a top-down manner, which the Chairman of the Fed once described as raining money from a helicopter. Yet, the Kauffman Foundation showed in a recent research report that “newly created and young companies are the primary drivers of job creation in the United States.” The best answer to the economic problems that confront the United States is not to pour more money (after bad?) into large companies that are considered “too big to fail.” Rather, for real, new job growth, the country is best served by a wave of entrepreneurial start ups. The question is, where to find entrepreneurs?

While these economic problems were building from 2005 to 2008 — when a crash occurred — another branch of the Federal Government was training and incubating entrepreneurs. The US Department of Defense was adopting counterinsurgency (COIN) in response to the growing Iraq insurgency. COIN requires an intense selection process at the small unit level, such as a Rifle Company of 150 men. The majority of service-members were not suited for COIN, and were shuffled into roles such as Quick Reaction Force. A typical Rifle Company may have created seven teams of 5 to 10 men, known as A-Teams to join together with foreign military units, including Iraqis but also other foreign militaries such as Estonians, to form Joint Security Stations (JSS) where the American service-members were in the minority. A typical A-Team of 7 Americans might join 100 Iraqi Police to control a district with 10,000 Iraqis. The 7 Americans were selected because of their talent at cross-cultural communication, in addition to their normal military skills. My observation is that those particular American service-members who were thus selected for the hardest COIN mission are also extremely well suited to be entrepreneurs. Why? For one, having taking the physical risk of relying on foreigners for their safety in their mid-20s, these particular individuals are probably able to withstand the uncertainty in cash flow, marketing, compliance, and other mental gymnastics that are required in entrepreneurship. For another, with a shrinking world where the so-called BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) (and emerging second-tier BRICs, like Indonesia, Turkey, and other) countries are both important end markets, and ahead of the US in innovation, cross-cultural communication will be absolutely required of entrepreneurs. Finally, these Americans should be encouraged to pursue entrepreneurial ventures in what the military calls “unit integrity” — ie, in the teams in which they operated in the JSS locations in Iraq or Afghanistan. Veterans from “Band of Brothers” in World War II to more recent conflicts build up detailed knowledge of how their peers think, and this leads to the ability to operate together in a business environment.

On the civilian side, my policy recommendations are relatively simple to state:
1. Private companies (entrepreneurship think tanks like Kauffmann, finance companies, venture capital firms, clean energy companies, and technology companies) should back COIN veteran entrepreneurs, either in separate entities, or in entrepreneurial divisions of established companies.
2. Government information resources (eg, Department of Defense, or VA data-bases) should be used to data-mine for COIN veterans, especially in unit integrity for such backing
3. New Webb GI Bill resources should be directed towards COIN Veterans to promote entrepreneurship through appropriate academic content (for example, entrepreneurship, accounting, and finance classwork at an MBA or Business program)

Second, the military. On the military side, there are benefits in the most likely operational environment for the coming 10 to 20 years for a robust cross-seeding between civilian entrepreneurship and military COIN. First, a word about the environment that is likely. In an article published in May, 2010, “US Mulls Value of Major Counterinsurgencies,” budgetary constraints were cited in limiting future counterinsurgencies. Andrew Exum, a leading COIN theorist and blogger at CNAS, was quoted as follows, “[COIN] is a good way to get out of a situation gone bad, [but it’s not the best way to use combat forces]… I think everyone realizes counterinsurgency is a losing proposition for U.S. combat troops. I can’t imagine anyone would opt for this option.” Going forward, though, there are many places — Somalia, Yemen — where a type of Inkspot COIN (for regular infantry) together with CT (for special operations and intelligence assets) might be the preferred operational profile. For example, in Somalia, the US might respond to a failed state harboring an Al Qaeda organization with CT alone (such as the SEAL raid in recent years), or with 2000 Marines (a Marine Expeditionary Unit) building an Inkspot COIN footprint at Baidoa and/ or Mogadishu from which SOF teams conduct CT. This type of footprint might be the profile which is the long-term model for US involvement in Afghanistan after the July 2011 deadline to reevaluate the mission; as well as for the other failed- or semi-failed-states where Al Qaeda organizations will continue to metastasize.

In the specific geographic locations where American chooses to plant an Inkspot COIN center, it will be very useful to show that the economic benefits of siding with the Americans are disproportionately favorable to the locals who are within the American security umbrella. This might be 20,000 or 30,000 locals in a few districts at the outskirts of a city of 500,000 or 1,000,000. An American infantry company can establish security in a relatively short period — several weeks. To accelerate economic development within the Inkspots, there are probably no better civilian organizations to draw upon than entrepreneurial ventures in the areas of finance, clean energy, and technology. The Economist recently noted that emerging markets finance may be ahead of its Western peers in many respects; that global entrepreneurship is thriving; and that immigrants to America contribute disproportionately to American entrepreneurship. Notably, American small unit leaders often turned to immigrant service-member disproportionately when staffing up the A-Teams to occupy JSS locations because of their cross-cultural skills. When American troops prepared for COIN, they often did ride-alongs with American police, and they were assisted in Iraq by police trainers to develop the appropriate skills in their Iraqi Police counterparts. Similarly, it will be useful for future American infantry soldiers tasked with a COIN mission to have a network of entrepreneurial organizations to draw upon in conducting economic development in future Inkspot COIN locations. A US service-member who separated in 2008 after two tours in Ramadi leading the successful implementation of the Mattis/ Petraeus COIN doctrine might return to society to get his MBA, start a small, growing company that adds positively to American GDP, and in periods of severals weeks in the coming decades assists future Company-grade American non-commissioned officers and officers in implementing the economic aspects of COIN in strategic ink-spots. The former service-member/ entrepreneur might host a Sergeant in his company for 2 weeks, and then fly in to advise the same Sergeant for 2 weeks in a JSS/ Combined Action Platoon (CAP) on the outskirts of Baidoa (in a Somalia Inkspot COIN scenario), supplying economic connectivity through money, information, energy, or other vital business resources.

Personally, I have seen several examples of individuals who cross the so-called divide between “civilian elites” and the military. While the general rule is that there is a troubling divide between these two spheres which is toxic for American society, the exceptions to the rule provide some of the most promising and interesting examples of how America can benefit from a systematic effort to cross the divide on a personal and team level built upon turning former COIN veterans into entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial teams.

First, Owen West. Owen is a former Marine who served as Recon Marine Officer in the mid-1990s, then attended Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) in the late 1990s. By the 2000s, he was a successful trader at Goldman Sachs, and a family man. Yet, he left his lucrative job to serve two tours as a Marine in Iraq, including one as an advisor during a volatile and dangerous period as the Iraq insurgency raged, and before the widespread success of COIN during the Surge. During his advisory tour, Owen used his finance training to organize a small piece of battlefield innovation — a mobile fingerprinting device enabled by the rapid supply of appropriate technology from a fellow Stanford GSB graduate, Jim Hake, who had founded an organization, Spirit of America, after a successful entrepreneurial career of his own. The device aided West’s team in census tasks which deterred insurgents in his area, an episode which is recounted in Bing West’s books on the Iraq War.

Second, Jim Hake. Hake founded Spirit of America (SoA) after a successful business career. SoA as a private organization was perhaps able to make up for in speed what it lacked in bulk in comparison with government agencies. Reacting quickly to a national need that he perceived in the aftermath of the first months after 9-11, SoA supplied US Service-members with donated resources like school books, soccer balls, radios, or the technology to implement the finger-printing device that Owen West used during his advisory tour. (Having known West from college and graduate school, I put West in touch with SoA, when Owen was sending around emails in preparation for his advisory tour.) SoA is a non-profit that is run with the transparency and accountability that Hake learned in his business career and through his MBA program.

Third, Luke Larson. Larson served two combat tours in Ramadi, Iraq from 2005 to 2007, which spanned the period when COIN was widely implemented through the so-called Petraeus doctrine. He saw both the frustrations of attempting to fight and insurgency with traditional fire-and-maneuver operations such as a city-wide sweep in October 2005 during which he saw fellow Marines wounded for poor reasons, and he saw the successful implementation of COIN in 2007 when his Rifle Company (he was 2nd in command as executive officer during his second tour) broke down into 7 A-Teams located in 7 dispersed JSS locations where the teams of less than 10 Marines relied on the 100 Iraqi Police at their location for their ultimate protection. What Larson experienced in his Rifle Company is the micro version of what hundreds of thousands of American infantrymen experienced in their own COIN experience. Larson wrote about this in a historical novel, Senator’s Son; similarly, Matt Gallagher wrote about this COIN experience in a memoir, Kaboom, which grew out of a blog.

Larson’s novel and Gallagher’s memoir can be compared to two Vietnam era works — Jim Webb’s Fields of Fire, and Bing West’s The Village. Senator’s Son begins with a fire-and-maneuver sweep through an insurgent held area, just as Webb’s novel ends with a similar operation. But, in the An Hoa basin of 1969 where Webb’s real-life Delta Company, 1/5 operated, COIN techniques like CAP were a minority of operations that had been tried on a limited basis only and rejected by top level Vietnam War commanders, as John Nagl recounts in his book, Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife. Larson’s novel can be compared to Webb’s novel because both authors drive home a moral lesson: veterans are best equipped by their experience to make the call about when to commit Americans to a COIN war. But, whereas Webb’s novel ends with a fire-and-maneuver operation that illustrates the failure to implement COIN, Larson’s novel ends with the successful transition from fire-and-maneuver operations to successful COIN.

Gallagher’s memoir of 2008-09 COIN at the outskirts of Baghdad is comparable to Bing West’s memoir of 1966 COIN in a South Vietnamese village. But, again, as Nagl’s study points out, COIN techniques were not widely adopted in Vietnam through a failure of the US Military as a “learning organization.” Perhaps this is why West gave Gallagher’s work such a compelling review. By the time that Gallagher’s armored recon platoon, and later his company, operated in their zones North of Baghdad, Nagl and West’s books had contributed to the US Military becoming a “learning organization” that successfully adopted COIN in time to prevent another period of post-Vietnam doctrinal wandering which Nagl warns about.

I succeeded in connecting Larson with a local Stanford GSB and Stanford alumni chapter, where he will speak about his novel and Iraq COIN experience in late July 2010. Larson — who is now getting his MBA at Thunderbird, and who has been accepted by Oxford for another MBA — will speak at an event billed as “A Unique Form of Entrepreneurship – A Marine‚Äôs Lessons from Iraq” by the local Stanford GSB club president. Further, the local Stanford GSB chapter president wrote in the copy for the event: “Come listen to Luke Larson’s perspective on Operation Iraqi Freedom and the counter insurgency techniques that the Marines used in the most decisive event in the turnaround of the Iraq war: the Sunni Awakening. Larson was awarded the Bronze Star with V for valor on his first tour…. Now pursuing a MBA at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, he has translated his unique entrepreneurial training on the ground in Iraq to a counterinsurgency doctrine that has soldiers acting as stakeholders rather than warriors.” Also in attendance at the event will be another of Larson’s fellow Marines, Mauro Mujica-Parodi III, who served in the same two combat tours with Larson, and who is now getting an MBA from Kellogg.

Larson and Mujica-Parodi are examples of the former COIN service-members that I believe should be given special assistance by American private organizations, with informational (but not financial) support from the US Government in forming entrepreneurial ventures. There are at least 5 to 10 other Marines in their Rifle Company that they would probably take with them into such ventures, including a Sergeant frocked to the rank of Lieutenant because of what KilCullen expresses at “Rank is Nothing; Talent is Everything.” For the 10-20 best COIN Marines in Lima 3/7 as entrepreneurs, there are a similar set of 10 to 20 COIN service-members as future entrepreneurs in the hundreds of Infantry Companies that served in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2001 to present. Decades after the events of 1941-45, Major Winters worked in business with comrades from the Easy Company of “Band of Brother” — yet, World War II saw little, if any, examples of an Infantry Company that transitioned from fire-and-maneuver against another state-sponsored military to sustained COIN. Similarly, veterans of the Iraq and Afghan COIN operations will likely remain comrades for life — but their COIN experience will be directly relevant to entrepreneurship in particular. So too, COIN veterans maintain a connection to their units, just as Gallagher recently expressed in a blog post. As COIN veterans like Larson and Gallagher succeed in their civilian ventures, it will be quite normal for them to contribute to the active duty military units who may be the core of security and economic development in Inkspot COIN operations.

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This is a website for writing a book about Lima Company, 3/7, during 4 deployments to Iraq between 2003 and 2007.


This is a website for writing a book about Lima Company, 3/7, during 4 deployments to Iraq between 2003 and 2007.