Judah Grunstein, writing at WPR, makes an important semantic point about U.S. military operations in Iraq:
[...] It’s worth pointing out that despite the emphasis placed on a light fingerprint in the COIN tactics that guided the Surge, ‘light’ is used in comparison to war zone environments. What we call the ‘security gains’ in Iraq come as a result of operational measures that remain way off the scale of anything we’d consider viable in a stable civil society and that closely resemble the methods of regimes that we often blame for the emergence of radicalism in the region.
This is indeed worth emphasising. While part of COIN may be armed social work, not everything in Iraq is COIN. Last spring, when I was embedding with the 3ACR in Mosul, using tank fire and Apache strikes in the middle of an unruly metropolis seemed to be the rule rather than the exception. Don’t let the euphemisms fool ya.