Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Dissertation: Dhofar Rebellion Part 2

First, a point of proper decorum: the picture to the left is an early picture of His Majesty, Qaboos bin Said al Said, Sultan of Oman. He was the architect of success in the Dhofar Rebellion, he has been the architect of the Omani Renaissance, and Oman's success under his leadership is the driving force behind my dissertation.

As I've mentioned before, CN Odin and I did our team project for Strategic Theory together, and subsequently expanded it into an article for Small Wars Journal, publication of which is currently pending. That research is informing the content and structure of my dissertation on the Dhofar Rebellion. Our original prompt was to "scrutinise the major requirements for successful counter-insurgency in the modern world". We identified six major requirements: a credible host nation counterpart; a clear mission and mandate; control of the physical and human terrain; an effective logistical system; effective information operations (meaning both strategic communications out and intelligence coming in); and an ineffective enemy. A seventh element that we discussed a bit in the article, but not in the ST project, was an appropriate employment of special operations force. Odin's work covered the Algerian Revolution, while mine covered Dhofar.

My plan has always been to write an introduction detailing the current strategic environment and the counterintuitive omission of Dhofar from recent studies of counterinsurgency; discuss the state of Oman and Dhofar prior to the war; outline the war itself in some detail, to include its long-term impact on Oman and Oman's role in the world; and then discuss the relevant lessons the Dhofar Rebellion offers for current and future conflicts. The article that Odin and I wrote was about 8,300 words, including references. My initial expectation was that the dissertation would have a word count limit of about 18,000 words, which would omit footnotes but include the bibliography (which, for the record, is a slightly different concept in the United Kingdom than it is in the United States). I checked the dissertation guide a few days ago, and it turns out that the ceiling is actually 15,000 words, including all references.

Uh, oh.

So, my plan initially shifted. I would write as much as I cared to, on as many topics as I cared to, and then cut that manuscript down to 15,000 words by omitting entire sections and streamlining the introduction. The added benefit is that this might facilitate turning the total amount of work into a book-length manuscript, at which point I could seek out a publisher. I still think that this is what I'll do.

However, while I was headed down to Starbucks a few days ago, I was caressed by the warm hand of inspiration. All of the various items that Odin and I discussed in our paper feed into one another, but they can be sort of clumsily divided into two main categories: Owning the Human Terrain (e.g., winning the hearts and minds), and Owning the Physical Terrain (e.g., defeating the enemy militarily). As I was sitting on the bus, I scribbled out some notes which subsequently became the following equations:
Equation A: [Credible Host Nation Government + Coherent Operational Mandate + (Effective Information Operations = Control of Narrative)] + (Organic Language Capability = Good HUMINT) = Own the Human Terrain

Equation B: [(Population *or* Geography Determinant Troop/Civilian Density Ratio = Starve the Insurgent's Logistics) + Deny Maneuver] = Own the Physical Terrain

Equation C: Own the Human Terrain + Own the Physical Terrain = Win the War = Great Success

Of course, this probably looks like blatherskite* to the unitiated, and many of the individual variables carry a lot of additional baggage and/or meaning along with them, but the equation covers most of the seven items I listed above. I think my goal, then, is to write the paper the way that I want to write it, get it to the book-length manuscript point that I want it, and then cut it down to include the abbreviated introduction and conclusion, along with a narrative about the Dhofar Rebellion and a following chapter focused on either Equation A or Equation B, probably Equation A. If I work the whole thing to within an inch of my life, I should be able to get that notional essay down below 15,000 words.

Less critical, but still relevant, was another revelation I had. I was thinking about how, in a modern campaign, one might have expected the Dhofari rebels to stage individual terrorist attacks throughout Oman in an effort to destabilize and undermine the national government. However, I remembered that the goal was to take Dhofar before moving further into Oman; this realization and its repercussions will allow me to bring Maoist, and possibly Guevaran, guerrilla warfare theory into the narrative of my essay, and that's a good discussion to have given both the circumstances of the Dhofar Rebellion, and the impact that Maoist guerrilla warfare theory in particular has had on both insurgents and counterinsurgents in contemporary conflicts.


* I'll send a post card to any reader who can identify that reference.

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