How to Beat Insurgents: Military Updates Playbook

Insurgents in Iraq cannot be coerced. They must be killed or captured.

That is the view of one of the authors of the military's new counterinsurgency manual.

Released today, the document is the first significant update of America's counterinsurgency doctrine in more than two decades. It comes more than three years into the insurgency in Iraq, and during a time when President Bush is rethinking his Iraq strategy.

The manual is blunt.

Counterinsurgency operations (COIN), it says, "generally have been neglected" since the end of the Vietnam War. "Armed forces cannot succeed in COIN alone," it goes on to say.

Lt. Col. John Nagl, who wrote a book about counterinsurgency, "Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife," helped prepare this new manual for the Army and the Marines.

While it is written for counterinsurgencies around the world, Nagl said they did learn specific lessons about Iraq.

Roadside and other bomb attacks "are not aimed at killing U.S. soldiers," he says.

Instead Nagl asserts the insurgents conduct the attacks for propaganda.

"They want those pictures to show up on TVs in America, and they use it to recruit on the Internet," the lieutenant colonel says.

One lesson from the current insurgency in Iraq is that the enemy is adaptive and the United States must learn to adapt even faster.

"The enemy in a counterinsurgency campaign will do almost anything. He's unconstrained by the rules of normal civilized behavior," Nagl says. "He will kill innocent civilians in a heartbeat in order to prevent security and stability and freedom from taking root."

While many of the tenets of COIN have been used successfully for decades, Nagl says this new edition looks at the globalization of insurgency as "information flows almost instantaneously." That became clear in recent days as a PowerPoint presentation started circulating on the Internet.

But this presentation was put together by an Army captain using stick figures to demonstrate how working with Sunni sheiks could reduce the insurgency in al Anbar Province.

The PowerPoint -- which you can see by clicking here -- was made by Capt. Travis Patriquin.

"He was a brilliant man. Certainly, his slide presentation demonstrates that he understood counterinsurgency very, very well," Nagl says.

But the lieutenant colonel never got to share that praise with Patriquin. He was killed in an improvised explosive device attack last week in Ramadi.