Heads We Win--The Cognitive Side of Counterinsurgency (COIN)

Heads We Win--The Cognitive Side of Counterinsurgency (COIN): RAND Counterinsurgency Study--Paper 1

David C. Gompert
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 80
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  • Book Info
    Heads We Win--The Cognitive Side of Counterinsurgency (COIN)
    Book Description:

    Current U.S. counterinsurgency strategy is in need of stronger cognitive capabilities that will enable the United States to "fight smarter." These include comprehension, reasoning, and decisionmaking, the components that are most effective against an enemy that is quick to adapt, transform, and regenerate. This paper offers concrete ideas for gaining the cognitive advantage in anticipating and countering the new global insurgency.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-4280-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. Figures and Table
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Summary
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  7. Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  8. CHAPTER ONE Introduction: Purpose, Scope, and Definitions
    (pp. 1-6)

    This work is an exploration of how to improve cognitive effectiveness in counterinsurgency (COIN). Because these waters are uncharted, the main purpose of this paper is to float ideas for consideration, debate, and further research: initial thoughts, not the last word. At the same time, the basic message is meant to be loud and clear: The United States must give greater attention to the cognitive abilities it needs to combat a persistent and intelligent extremist threat.

    Simply stated, cognition in this context meansmaking sense—in recognizing and comprehending, in reasoning and problem-solving, in employing intuition, processing facts, and making...

  9. CHAPTER TWO The Mind as Central Front
    (pp. 7-12)

    Increased emphasis on cognitive effectiveness in analysis, strategy, and operations vis-à-vis global jihad is consistent with a broader shift of emphasis among the factors of warfare from the mechanical domain to the informational and, beyond that, the cognitive.¹ This shift is the product of several effects of the dual information and geopolitical revolutions of the last several decades: accessible network infrastructure, fluid international conditions, irregular and transnational threats, and unfamiliar operational circumstances. As warfare becomes more distributed, and more bewildering, the value of being able to make sense and use of networked information “at the edge” of warfighting structures grows.²...

  10. CHAPTER THREE Reordering COIN Priorities
    (pp. 13-18)

    What makes the global jihad so difficult and dangerous is its ability to commandeer globalization, religious devotion, and Muslims’ sense of community for violent urposes. This ability relies on a story that Muslims are under attack. When the United States and its allies conduct attacks on Muslims, whether for COIN or other reasons, the story is reinforced and the jihad is reinvigorated. The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq is used to refresh the story and to impose on Muslims a new and more compelling personal duty to defend the community. Given the efficacy of suicide terrorism, it is unnecessary...

  11. CHAPTER FOUR Thoughts of the Jihad
    (pp. 19-28)

    We are now ready to examine challenges of global insurgency on the cognitive level. The first task in this examination is to understand the adversary’s core strength. In John Mackinlay’s words, “The logic of counter strategy would be to know more about and focus on the opponents’ source of energy . . . rather than his proxy battlefields.”¹ For the global Salafist insurgency, this “source of energy” is the ability to create, sustain, and channel intenseindividualmotivation. The jihad relies on spirituality and reasoning more than on structural order, physical and electronic capabilities, or territorial control. Physical means of...

  12. CHAPTER FIVE Closing the Gap
    (pp. 29-34)

    The cognitive challenge of global insurgency raises questions about the adequacy and applicability of the “standard model” of COIN, with its stress on structures (organizations, forces), physical-electronic capabilities (weapons, sensors, facilities), and control of real estate. For starters, we need to understand that an attritional strategy will not work. The enemy wants, even needs the United States and its allies to pursue an attritional strategy because attacks on any part of the ummah help sustain the jihad and justify suicidal counterattacks.

    Three years of operations by the U.S. military to secure the Sunni Triangle have had little effect on the...

  13. CHAPTER SIX Cognitive Requirements in Global COIN
    (pp. 35-40)

    Thus far, this paper has made the case for reordering priorities among the capabilities the United States uses to counter the global Salafist insurgency, placing more stress on cognitive and less on technological and physical capabilities, organizational structure, territorial control, and attritional strategy. It has explained that, with popular sympathy in the balance, knowing when, where, how, by whom, and against whom to apply deadly force in COIN is extremely important and demanding. Finally, to set the stage for defining needed cognitive capabilities, this paper has described the jihadist challenge on this level: complex, distributed, connected, elusive, dynamic, and skilled...

  14. CHAPTER SEVEN Cognitive Capabilities for COIN
    (pp. 41-52)

    Cognitive capabilities are similar to other capabilities in that requirements for them can be derived from missions and functions that must be performed to accomplish those missions. In the case of global COIN, the mission is to prevent a diffuse, intelligent, and vicious global insurgency from damaging the interests of the United States. The functions are to understand this insurgency, to shape the environment in which it lives, and to act directly against its capabilities and its violence. Properly defined, cognitive capabilities, like physical ones, can be developed and acquired through investment, tested, evaluated, tracked, and improved. Therefore, definition is...

  15. CHAPTER EIGHT Conclusions: Investment and Reform
    (pp. 53-56)

    It would be untrue to say that the U.S. national security establishment is neglecting altogether the cognitive requirements for understanding, shaping, and operating in COIN, just as it would be unfair to suggest that the people involved in COIN possess none of the right abilities. The question at hand is whether doing more in this domain would be a good investment. The combination of the shrewdness of the global Salafist insurgency, the opportunity afforded—to both sides—by information networking, and the low priority presently given to the cognitive domain suggests a need to identify, prioritize, and invest in strengthening...

  16. APPENDIX Investments and Measures to Enhance Cognitive COIN Capabilities
    (pp. 57-58)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 59-62)