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Rethinking Counterinsurgency

Rethinking Counterinsurgency: RAND Counterinsurgency Study--Volume 5

John Mackinlay
Alison Al-Baddawy
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 80
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  • Book Info
    Rethinking Counterinsurgency
    Book Description:

    During the period of decolonization in Asia and Africa, the United Kingdom faced more insurgent activity than any other Western power. British government officials and military forces proved proficient at defeating or controlling these rebellions. However, these uprisings were much less complex than the modern jihadist insurgency. Past insurgent movements were primarily monolithic or national in form, had very specific local goals, and derived most of their power from the local population. These limitations made past rebellions vulnerable to strong military responses. In contrast, the modern jihadist insurgency is characterized by its complex and global nature. Unlike past insurgent forms that aspired to shape national politics, the jihadist movement espouses larger thematic goals, like overthrowing the global order. The modern jihadist insurgency is also more global in terms of its popular support and operational territory. It makes far better use of communications technology and propaganda to reach the minds and hearts of global audiences. The contemporary international security environment has therefore become a frustrating place for Western powers. Despite great technological and military advances, British and U.S. counterinsurgency (COIN) operations have been slow to respond and adapt to the rise of the global jihadist insurgency. Operational failures in Iraq and Afghanistan have highlighted the need for the West to rethink and retool its current COIN strategy. After analyzing past British COIN experiences and comparing them to the evolving nature of the modern jihadist insurgency, the authors suggest a new framework for future COIN operations.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-4485-3
    Subjects: Technology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-vi)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Summary
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    The global war against terrorism (GWAT) has become a stalemate. The Coalition has reached a security plateau where it protects itself more reliably, but beyond its reach and observation the jihad continues to multiply and operate. Despite the energy of the Western effort and that effort’s enormous cost, it is hard to be sure that the West is winning. Lists of achievements describing elections held, towns secured, amenities restored, and terrorists killed continue to appear, but the campaign has become too complicated to understand. There are too many perspectives, too many actors, and too many front lines to allow for...

  8. CHAPTER TWO Successful Insurgencies and Counterinsurgencies
    (pp. 5-20)

    This chapter argues that in the evolutionary period of insurgency after 1945, armies of industrial nations that were proficient in COIN did not always face insurgency’s most virulent or most successful strains. This left them doctrinally unsighted when confronted by its recent evolutionary form.

    The British definition of insurgency emphasizes three essential characteristics:

    Insurgency is a desperate expedient by activists who, at the outset of their campaign, are militarily weaker than the combination of governments and regular forces they seek to overthrow.

    To win power, these activists must persuade the masses to support them, which feat they achieve through a...

  9. CHAPTER THREE Defining the Environment
    (pp. 21-42)

    The purpose of Chapter Three is to explain that the environment that sustains global insurgents is influenced by two factors: a globally dispersed structure of populations that share the Muslim faith (the Muslim dimension) and a proliferation of communicating systems (the virtual dimension) that allows the radical elements of these populations to develop a common perspective of events.

    In the evolution of insurgency, the generic insurgent has moved smoothly from the national to the multinational form. But for the armies involved in COIN, the transition has been a shock, and the doctrinal supertankers of the U.S.–led coalitions will take...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR Rethinking Strategy and Operations
    (pp. 43-62)

    Previous COIN campaigns confirmed the need for an effective strategic plan and an operational response that demonstrated both legitimacy and multisectoral competence. This chapter explains the problems that arise from the continued need for strategic planning and operational capabilities that genuinely address the characteristics of the opposition.

    This document has argued that coalition forces have been doctrinally surprised by complex insurgency in its most recent form. This surprise has been systemic, extending to political leaders, makers of foreign policy, and military planners. In previous experience, the British also began their campaigns badly, usually because their initial effort focused on the...

  11. References
    (pp. 63-66)