Deadly Paradigms

Deadly Paradigms: The Failure of U.S. Counterinsurgency Policy

D. Michael Shafer
Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 346
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zvtwm
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  • Book Info
    Deadly Paradigms
    Book Description:

    Michael Shafer argues that American policymakers have fundamentally misperceived the political context of revolutionary wars directed against American clients and that because American attempts at counterinsurgency were based on faulty premises, these efforts have failed in virtually every instance.

    Originally published in 1989.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6058-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE AND READER’S GUIDE
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. NOTATION FOR FOOTNOTES AND BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. PART I
    • 1 INTRODUCTION: DOGS THAT DIDN’T BARK
      (pp. 3-16)

      This book explores the sources of American foreign policy. Like John Lewis Gaddis in his pioneering reassessment of postwar American national security policy,Strategies of Containment,1I argue that although the international, domestic political, and bureaucratic contexts of action are essential to understanding foreign policy, they are insufficient without reference to policymakers’ “strategic codes,” their “assumptions about American interests in the world, potential threats to them, and feasible responses.”² But where Gaddis examines the “successive mutations, incarnations and transformations” of containment,³ I focus on the continuity in policymakers’ assessments of the sources of insurgency and prescriptions for assisting governments threatened...

    • 2 POSSIBLE EXPLANATIONS: SOURCES OF POLICY CONTENT AND CONTINUITY
      (pp. 17-40)

      “The facts of foreign … policy will not organize themselves,” observes John Odell,¹ and different would-be organizers of them may sort and join them in quite different ways. Take the case of counterinsurgency. It is possible to construct several very different, but equally plausible explanations of what inspires counterinsurgency policy and why its relative importance in national security policy has varied over time. One such account, for example, explains both in terms of unambiguous external threats. As the authors of nsc 68 put it in 1950, “risks crowd in on us, in a shrinking world of polarized power, so as...

  7. PART II
    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 43-47)

      Part II focuses on the intellectual underpinnings of postwar American counterinsurgency policy. These three chapters examine Americans’ assumptions concerning the Third World and their assumptions’ characteristics as ideas, as opposed to their substance. Chapter 3 studies the ideas behind counterinsurgency in their most abstract form—academic political development theory—traces their historical development, and explores their links to other disciplines and common knowledge. Chapter 4 then treats these same ideas as embodied in security and development doctrine, the United States’ basic policy approach to the Third World. Finally, Chapter 5 analyzes the marriage of these two strains of thought in...

    • 3 FLIGHT, FALL, AND PERSISTENCE: POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT THEORY
      (pp. 48-78)

      This chapter examines the content and characteristics of American political scientists’ view of change in the Third World. While most of the book focuses on governmental consumers of ideas, here attention rests on the production of ideas and the process by which a specific set of them came to market. This attention to social scientists does not imply that they exercised a determinitive influence over policy. Rather, this chapter examines political development theory not for itself but for the lens it offers through which to view the sources, assumptions, and analytic consequences of the intellectual tradition shared by policymakers and...

    • 4 SECURITY AND DEVELOPMENT
      (pp. 79-103)

      Neither social scientists’ concern over the Third World nor their understanding of it were confined to the ivory tower. Indeed, despite only limited contacts between professors and policymakers, academics’ fundamental assumptions about the sources, nature, direction, consequences, and possible pathologies of political development are replicated in both public and classified government documents and official declarations. This chapter explores these notions in their governmental guise as the doctrine of security and development. My aim in this chapter is modest: to detail the intellectual content of security and development doctrine and note the explanatory, prescriptive, and ideological utility of the ideas underpinning...

    • 5 Mao Minus Marx: American Counterinsurgency Doctrine
      (pp. 104-132)

      “What are we going to do about guerrilla warfare?” asked President Kennedy in the opening days of his administration.¹ He repeated the inquiry at the first meeting of the National Security Council; in response, it produced National Security Action Memorandum No. 2 (“Development of Counter-Guerrilla Forces”) ordering the Secretary of Defense to “examine means of placing more emphasis on the development of counter-guerrilla forces.”² Kennedy’s question led to development of a formal American counterinsurgency doctrine and the institutional capacity for implementing it. It began, too, what one expert has dubbed “the counterinsurgency era.” But to focus too tightly on the...

  8. PART III
    • 6 NOT SO EXCEPTIONALLY AMERICAN
      (pp. 135-165)

      Before analyzing three case studies which weigh the cognitive content explanation of foreign policy against realist, presidential, and bureaucratic politics alternatives, this chapter sets it against American exceptionalism. So far this book has argued that the ideas behind American policies toward the Third World owe their power and popularity to the intellectual heritage of western social analysis. American exceptionalists, on the other hand, contend that American foreign policy is, indeed, exceptional. They argue that it is “conditioned by culturally imposed qualities of character [that] strongly influence the perception, selection, and evaluation of political reality.”¹ As the term culture implies, such...

    • 7 GREECE: THE TROJAN HORSE
      (pp. 166-204)

      The 1947 decision to aid Greece marked a turning point in American foreign policy. The bold rhetoric of the Truman Doctrine announced the coming of containment, the Cold War, and a new, activist world role for the United States. If Munich and Eastern Europe showed how not to manage the Soviet Union, “the success which has been achieved by the peoples of Greece,” declared Dean Acheson, “is clear proof that the forces of aggression can be halted by invoking the proper measures at the proper time.”¹ It seemed to confirm the belief that Soviet agents foment insurgencies but American aid...

    • 8 THE PHILIPPINES: MAGSAYSAY’S MIRACLE
      (pp. 205-239)

      The campaign against the Hukbalahap, or Huks, is the second supposed counterinsurgency success story of the postwar period. Three features distinguish it from the Greek case. First, the Philippines had just gained independence from the United States for which the victory was thus doubly critical: to prove that Communist threats could be defeated in the periphery, the likely battleground of the postwar; and to substantiate American claims to reluctant allies that decolonization, not recolonization, was the wise course. Second, Ramon Magsaysay’s winning policies resembled the three oughts more closely than anything undertaken by the Greeks. Third, because the Huks mobilized...

    • 9 VIETNAM: REAPING THE WHIRLWIND
      (pp. 240-275)

      Counterinsurgency failed in Vietnam, just as it failed in Greece and the Philippines. This time, however, no local savior appeared. Instead, failure led to the commitment of combat troops, Americanization of the war, and ultimate defeat. Looking back on this tragic process, thePentagon Papersanalysts observed that “the question was whatshouldbe done, not if anythingcouldbe done. Defeat was too catastrophic an outcome to bear examination.”¹ Realist and presidential politics analysis explain this compulsion to act; bureaucratic politics explain the mismanagement of the actions decided upon. But neither answers the one overriding question: irrespective of why...

  9. PART IV
    • 10 CONCLUSION: FACING THE FUTURE
      (pp. 276-290)

      In the above quote, Hoffmann captures both the story and the challenge of this book.¹ In Greece, the Philippines, and Vietnam, the United States spent lives, money, and prestige in defense of its commitments. Yet, though our allies won in Greece and the Philippines, American policy per se failed in all three. Despite past failures, however, future commitments are unavoidable. Thus, the challenge is to understand old mistakes with the hope that through understanding, tomorrow’s inevitable commitments can be more wisely chosen and better managed. But analysis of past debacles unfortunately offers little comfort. To the contrary, it seems likely...

  10. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 291-316)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 317-331)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 332-332)