Strategy How Relevant Is Counterinsurgency Essay

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(Mahnken and Maiolo, 2008, p. 339); (Friedman, 2003); (Military Doctrine, Guerrilla Warfare and Counterinsurgency, 2003)

"Disaggregation" could provide a new strategy for the counterinsurgency model for its war against terrorism. Disaggregation would involve prohibiting links between theaters, preventing global or regional insurgents to associate with or exploit potential local terrorists, disrupting the flow of information, propaganda and materials within and between jihad hotspots, abolishing sanctuary areas, identifying and isolating radical elements from the local populace and interrupting inputs from Islamist sources emanating from the greater Middle East. This new approach must address the problem at three levels -- local, regional and global levels. (Mahnken and Maiolo, 2008, p. 339); (Friedman, 2003); (Military Doctrine, Guerrilla Warfare and Counterinsurgency, 2003)

Lessons Learnt by the U.S. Marines and the U.S. Army

The lessons learnt by the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps in Vietnam were profound but were soon forgotten, but the recent experiences in the Iraq war as well as in Afghanistan have forced a rethinking of strategies. According to a Marine liaison officer, the tactics had to be changed midway through the operations when they realized that the inflexibility of the counterinsurgency doctrine, planning and training were proving to be inadequate and a drastic change in military strategies were required. This involved exercising more restraint in the use of force and restricting the use of heavy artillery and using firepower as a last resort. (Hoffman and Rand Corporation National Security Research Division, 2004, p. 7); (Graff, 2004)

Similarly, in Afghanistan, the American commander of the coalition forces, Lt. Gen. David Barno, adopted new strategies within the framework of the counterinsurgency operations, providing assistance for humanitarian and reconstruction activities in order to win the "hearts and minds" of the local people. The motive behind the adoption of this new strategy was to become a more familiar and permanent presence in the region that would attract cooperation from the locals which in turn would help the military to deploy within hours of receiving intelligence reports. (Hoffman and Rand Corporation National Security Research Division, 2004, p. 7); (Graff, 2004)

Military Victory vs. Long-term Settlement/Peace

It need not be emphasized time and again that the prime motive for conducting counterinsurgency operations is not to simply achieve a military victory by overpowering the insurgents but to identify and destroy the root cause which caused the insurgency in the first place. Any strategy which is based on using the maximum possible amount of force in every kind of conflict situation is bound to miss this objective altogether. The U.S. army has faced this predicament several times in its history and seems to have forgotten the lessons every time a new conflict arose. However, the Small Wars Manual brought out for the Marine Corps in 1940 had some suggestions that the U.S. Army could do well to follow in the current war on terror. This manual emphasized that simply applying military methods may prove to be inadequate for restoring peace and security in the region without looking into the basic social, economic and political causes that gave rise to the conflict. (Hoffman and Rand Corporation National Security Research Division, 2004, p. 8)

The "Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency" which has been very well-received by the Marine Corps and the Army has also highlighted the importance of non-military activities and the key role played by other organizations and agencies in successfully conducting counterinsurgency operations. (Nagl, Petraeus, Amos and Sewall, 2007, p. 17) According to Lt. Col. David Galula of the French Army, it is very important to treat captive insurgents well. This helps to win them over and get their support. According to Galula, "the people are the prize" and therefore the military must not commit the mistake of antagonizing them and jeopardizing the peace process. Thus, success in counterinsurgency should be a combination of outside help and local involvement. (Presbey, 2007, p. 186); (Danilowicz. n. d.)


The reappearance of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the never-ending chaos in its social, economic and political situation is proof of the fact that previous counterinsurgency methods were not a success and a serious rethinking on the issue is required. On the other hand, counterinsurgency doctrines cannot be abandoned altogether given the nature of global insurgency and its continuous evolving and innovative tactics. The earlier counterinsurgency policies followed by the U.S. were ruthless, inhumane, and even clumsy but the new administration under President Obama has promised change from the earlier policies and its predilection for "smart power" and "diplomacy" instead of blunt and brutal force may bring in a much-needed change in counterinsurgency doctrines. Combining force on an "as and when needed" basis with a focus on minimizing casualties and increasing nation-building activities would definitely bolster the counterinsurgency measures and be a significant step towards long-term peace and stability in the world.


Amstutz, Mark R. 2005. International ethics: concepts, theories, and cases in global politics. Rowman & Littlefield.

Boot, Max. 2009. A New Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. [Online]. Available at: [accessed 28 April 2008]

Cassidy, Robert M. 2006. Counterinsurgency and the global war on terror: military culture and irregular war. Greenwood Publishing Group.

Danilowicz. n. d. Military Sciences Unconventional warfare fish out of water Applying counter insurgency doctrine in the war on terrorism. Naval war coll Newport RI joint military operations Dept. [Online]. Available at: [accessed 26 April 2008]

D'Souza, Shanthie Mariet. 2009. Weekly Fellows' Seminar Series - U.S. Counter Insurgency Approach in Afghanistan Under Obama Administration: Does It Portend Change? [Online]. Available at: [accessed 28 April 2008]

Forest, James J.F. 2007. Countering terrorism and insurgency in the 21st century: international perspectives. Greenwood Publishing Group.

Friedman, George. 2003. Military Doctrine, Guerrilla Warfare and Counter-Insurgency. [Online]. Available at: [accessed 28 April 2008]

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Gorka, Sebestyen L.V. 2008. International Terrorism - Will America's New Counterinsurgency Doctrine Defeat al-Qaeda? [Online]. Available at: [accessed 26 April 2008]

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Hoffman, Bruce; Rand Corporation National Security Research Division. 2004. Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Iraq. Rand Corporation.

Joes, Anthony James. 1999. Saving democracies: U.S. intervention in threatened democratic states. Greenwood Publishing Group.

Mahnken, Thomas G; Maiolo, Joseph A. 2008. Strategic Studies: A Reader. Routledge.

Mamdani, Mahmood. 2007. Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: Islam, the U.S.A., and the Global War Against Terror. Orient Blackswan.

Mockaitis, Thomas R. 2007. The new terrorism: myths and reality. Greenwood Publishing Group.

Moore, R. Scott. The Basics of counterinsurgency. [Online]. Available at: [accessed 26 April 2008]

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Nagl, John A; Petraeus, David H; Amos, James F; Sewall, Sarah B. 2007. The U.S. Army/Marine Corps counterinsurgency field manual. University of Chicago Press.

Presbey, Gail M. 2007. Philosophical perspectives on the War on Terrorism. Rodopi.[continue]

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