How Transformers 3 'Explains' Counterinsurgency

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It's not entirely clear, but it appears that Army Captain and blogger Crispin Burke has written a post "explaining" the internal military debate over counterinsurgency theory with an extended metaphor, which comes in the form of Burke's script for the forthcoming third edition of the blockbuster science-fiction movie series, Transformers. But counterinsurgency theory is very complex, and the Transformers movies are nonsensical in the tradition of most summer action flicks, so it is perhaps appropriate that Burke's post is a bit confusing. However, here are the bullet points we at the Atlantic Wire were able to suss out.

  • It's 2025 and the U.S. military has just defeated "the Decepticons" in Iraq and Jordan.
  • The U.S. president is real-life Center for New American Security blogger and friend of the Wire Andrew Exum, a proponent of counterinsurgency.
  • Counterinsurgency failed against the "one-dimensional and plain evil" Decepticons and the U.S. resorted to traditional warfare.
  • "The Army had lost its ability to coordinate fire and maneuver at the corps level sometime during the early 2000s. I used to think this was because of an emphasis on counterinsurgency warfare, but really, it had more to do with Army Transformation—placing artillery units at the brigade level, and offering more autonomy to brigade combat teams."
  • Any war with an enemy like the Decepticons will not be aided by "the knowledge and ink wasted on nation-building efforts" that are part of counterinsurgency.
  • Real-life analyst and blogger Adam Elkus makes an appearance as "Undersecretary for Giant F---ing Robot Affairs" to draw parallels between the defeat of the Decepticons and the counterinsurgency victories in Iraq. "Elkus believes that the political interplay among the Decepticons was the greatest contributor to their defeat. War, says Elkus, is primarily a political endeavor."
  • There's also some stuff about Libya and Lady Gaga that makes just absolutely no sense at all.
  • He concludes on a measured note. "We must not let our conventional warfighting skills atrophy. There are still plenty of conventional forces out there: China, Iran, Russia, and most importantly, Unicron."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.