New Challenges and Old
Concepts: Understanding
21st Century Insurgency

 

STEVEN METZ


From Parameters,  Winter 2007-08, pp. 20-32.


From the 1960s to the 1980s stopping Communist-backed insurgents was an important part of American strategy, so counterinsurgency was an important mission for the US military, particularly the Army. Even when most of the Army turned its attention to large-scale warfighting and the operational art following Vietnam, special operation forces preserved some degree of capability. In the 1980s American involvement in El Salvador and a spate of insurgencies around the world linked to the Soviets and Chinese sparked renewed interest in counterinsurgency operations (as a component of low-intensity conflict). By 1990 what could be called the El Salvador model of counterinsurgency, based on a limited US military footprint in conjunction with the strengthening of local security forces, became codified in strategy and doctrine.1

Interest then faded. Policymakers, military leaders, and defense experts assumed that insurgency was a relic of the Cold War, posing little challenge in the “new world order.” With the demise of the Soviet Union and the mellowing of China, insurgency—even though it persisted in the far corners of the world—was not viewed as a strategic challenge to the world’s sole superpower. With American involvement in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Haiti, multinational peacekeeping—a previously unimportant role for the military—moved to the fore. In a burst of energy, the military revamped its peacekeeping doctrine and concepts. Professional military education and training shifted to accommodate these missions. Wargames, conferences, and seminars proliferated. Counterinsurgency was forgotten by all but a tiny handful of scholars.

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Then, one clear September morning, the world turned. Al Qaeda and its affiliates adopted a strategy relying heavily on the methods of insurgency— both national insurgency and a transnational one.2 Insurgency was again viewed as a strategic threat and the fear grew that insurgent success would create regimes willing to support and protect organizations like al Qaeda. The global campaign against violent Islamic extremists forced the United States military to undertake counterinsurgency missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Once again, the Department of Defense was required to respond to a major strategic shift. The military services scrambled to develop new concepts and doctrine.3 Counterinsurgency reentered the curriculum of the professional military educational system in a big way. It became a centerpiece for Army and Marine Corps training. Classic assessments of the conflicts in Vietnam and Algeria became required reading for military leaders. Like the mythical phoenix, counterinsurgency had emerged from the ashes of its earlier death to become not just a concern of the US military but the central focus.

This is all to the good. Augmenting capabilities to respond to new strategic threats is exactly what the Department of Defense is supposed to do. There is a problem, however: As the American military relearned counterinsurgency strategy and doctrine, it may not have gotten them right. During the 1970s America’s national security strategy was shaped by what became known as the “Vietnam syndrome”—a reluctance to intervene in internal conflicts based on the assumption that some disaster would ensue. Ironically, while the United States eventually overcame the Vietnam syndrome, a new one emerged. Vietnam has been treated as a universal model, the Viet Cong as the archetypical foe. Defense experts even concluded that insurgents who did not use the Vietnamese approach (derived from the teaching of Mao Zedong) stood little chance of success.4

This tendency to look back to the classic insurgencies of the twentieth century was pervasive. For instance, as the Army sought to understand the conflict in Iraq, the books most recommended for its officers were John Nagl’s Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife (which dealt with the British involvement in Malaya and the American experience in Vietnam) and David Galula’s Counterinsurgency Warfare (drawn from the French campaigns in Indochina and Algeria).5 Both were excellent choices. But both deal with wars of imperial

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maintenance or nationalistic transition, not with complex communal conflicts where armed militias and organized crime play a key role.

In a sense, the United States has once again derived new strategies from old conflicts, while again preparing to fight the last war. Rather than rigorously examining twenty-first century insurgencies, America simply assumed that their logic, grammar, organization, and dynamics were the same as the classic insurgencies of the twentieth century. Such assumptions may be dangerously misguided. In many ways contemporary insurgencies are more like their immediate forebears—the complex internal conflicts of the 1990s— rather than twentieth century insurgencies. Somalia, Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Congo, Colombia, and Kosovo are possibly better models than Vietnam or Algeria. If that is true, the military and the defense analytical community need to rethink the insurgency challenge once again, this time seeking to distinguish its persisting elements from its evolving ones.

The Dynamics of Contemporary Insurgencies

Normally a twentieth century insurgency was the only game in town (or at least the most important one). Nations facing serious insurgencies such as South Vietnam or, later, El Salvador, certainly had other security problems, but they paled in comparison to the insurgent threat. Insurgencies were organizationally simple. They involved the insurgents, the regime, and, sometimes, outside supporters of one side or the other. When the United States finally engaged in counterinsurgency operations, many government agencies played a supporting role, but it was primarily a military effort. After all, Americans now viewed counterinsurgency as a variant of war. In war, the military dominates and the objective is the decisive defeat of the enemy. Why should counterinsurgency operations be any different?

This perception was always problematic, leading the United States to pursue military solutions to threats that could only be solved politically. This disconnect is even more dangerous today, largely because twenty-first century insurgencies have diverged significantly from their forebears. Rather than being discrete conflicts between insurgents and an established regime, they are nested in complex, multidimensional clashes having political, social, cultural, and economic components. In an even broader sense, contemporary insurgencies flow from systemic failures in the political, economic, and social realms. They arise not only from the failure or weakness of the state, but from more general flaws in cultural, social, and economic systems. Such complex conflicts involve a wide range of participants, all struggling to fill the voids created by failed or weak states and systemic collapse. In addition to what might be labeled “first forces” (the insurgent and the regime) and “sec-

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ond forces” (outside sponsors of the insurgents or the regime), there are “third forces” (armed groups such as militias, criminal gangs, or private military corporations) and “fourth forces” (the international media and nongovernmental organizations) all with the capability to impact the outcome.6 The implications are stark; in the face of systemic failure, simply crushing insurgents and augmenting local security forces may not be enough to stem instability.

Contemporary insurgencies are less like traditional war where the combatants seek strategic victory, they are more like a violent, fluid, and competitive market. This circumstance is the result of globalization, the decline of overt state sponsorship of insurgency, the continuing importance of informal outside sponsorship, and the nesting of insurgency within complex conflicts associated with state weakness or failure. In economic markets, participants might dream of strategic victory—outright control of the market such as that exercised by Standard Oil prior to 1911—but seldom attained it. The best most can hope for is market domination. Even these trends tend to be transitory. Most businesses have more limited objectives—survival and some degree of profitability. This phenomenon of limited objectives also describes many insurgencies, particularly those of the twenty-first century. Competition and the absence of state sponsors mitigate against outright conquest of states in the mode of Fidel Castro or Ho Chi Minh. It is nearly impossible for a single entity, whether the state or a nonstate player, to monopolize power. Market domination and share are constantly shifting.

In contemporary complex conflicts, profitability often is literal rather than metaphorical. There is an extensive body of analytical literature that chronicles the evolution of violent movements such as insurgencies from “grievance” to “greed.”7 The idea is that political grievances may instigate an insurgency but, as a conflict progresses, economic motives may begin to play a greater role. While combatants “have continued to mobilize around political, communal, and security objectives,” as Karen Ballentine and Jake Sherman write, “increasingly these objectives have become obscured and sometimes contradicted by their more businesslike activities.”8 Conflict gives insurgents access to money and resources out of proportion to what they would have in peacetime. As Paul Collier, one of the pioneers of this idea, explains:

Conflicts are far more likely to be caused by economic opportunities than by grievance. If economic agendas are driving conflict, then it is likely that some groups are benefiting from the conflict and these groups, therefore, have some interest in initiating and sustaining it.9

The counterinsurgents—the regime or its supporters—also develop vested political and economic interests in sustaining a controllable conflict. A

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regime facing an armed insurgency is normally under somewhat less outside pressure for economic and political reform. It can justifiably demand more of its citizens and, conversely, postpone meeting their demands. Insurgency often brings outside financial support and provides opportunities for corrupt members of the regime to tap into black markets. Even though internal conflict may diminish economic activity overall, it may increase profit margins by constraining competition. This too can work to the advantage of elites, including those in the government or security services. Collier continues:

Various identifiable groups will “do well out of the war.” They are opportunistic businessmen, criminals, traders, and the rebel organizations themselves. The rebels will do well through predation on primary commodity exports, traders will do well through the widened margins on the goods they sell to consumers, criminals will do well through theft, and opportunistic businessmen will do well at the expense of those businesses that are constrained to honest conduct.10

Internal wars “frequently involve the emergence of another alternative system of profit, power, and protection in which conflict serves the political and economic interests of a variety of groups.”11 Hence the insurgents, criminals, militias, or even the regime have a greater interest in sustaining a controlled conflict than in attaining victory.

The merging of armed violence and economics amplifies the degree to which complex conflicts emulate the characteristics and dynamics of volatile, hypercompetitive markets. For instance, like all markets, complex conflicts operate according to rules (albeit informal, unwritten ones). In the most basic sense, these rules dictate what is and is not acceptable as participants compete for market domination or share. Participants may violate the rules, but doing so entails risk and cost. The more risk averse a participant the less likely it is to challenge the rules—and governments are normally more risk averse than nongovernment participants, and participants satisfied with their market position and with a positive expectation about the future are more risk averse than those who are unsatisfied and pessimistic. These rules are conflict- and time-specific; they periodically evolve and shift. This year’s rule or “road map” might not be next year’s.

As in commercial markets, participants in a complex conflict may enter as small, personalistic companies. Some may resemble family businesses built on kinship or ethnicity. As in a commercial market, the more successful participants evolve into more complex, variegated corporate structures. Insurgencies then undertake a number of the same practices as corporations:

    • Acquisitions and mergers (insurgent factions may join in partnerships, or a powerful one may integrate a less powerful one).
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    • Shedding or closing unproductive divisions (insurgencies may pull out of geographic regions or jettison a faction of the movement).
    • Forming strategic partnerships (insurgencies may arrange relationships with internal or external groups—political, criminal, etc.—which share their objectives).
    • Reorganizing for greater effectiveness and efficiency.
    • Developing, refining, and at times abandoning products or product lines (insurgencies develop political, psychological, economic, and military techniques, operational methods, or themes. They refine these over time, sometimes dropping those which prove ineffective or too costly).
    • Advertising and creating brand identity (insurgent psychological activities are akin to advertising. Their “brands” include political and psychological themes, and particular methods and techniques).
    • Accumulating and expending capital (insurgents accumulate both financial and political capital, using it as required).
    • Subcontracting or contracting out functions (contemporary insurgents may contract out tasks they are ineffective at or which they wish to disassociate themselves from).
    • Bringing in outside consultants (this can be done by physical presence of outside advisers or, in the contemporary environment, by “virtual” consultation).
    • Entering and leaving market niches.
    • Creating new markets and market niches.
    • Creating and altering organizational culture.
    • Professional development and establishing patterns of career progression.

As in commercial markets, a conflict market is affected by what happens in other markets. Just as the automobile market is affected by the petroleum market, or the American national market by the European market, the Iraq conflict market is affected by the Afghan conflict market or by the market of political ideas in the United States and other parts of the Arab world.

That contemporary insurgents emulate corporations in a hyper, competitive (violent) market shapes their operational methods. Specifically, insurgents gravitate toward operational methods which maximize desired effects while minimizing cost and risk. This, in conjunction with a profusion of information, the absence of state sponsors providing conventional military materiel, and the transparency of the operating environment, increases the value that terrorism provides the insurgent. Insurgents have always used terrorism. But one of the characteristics of this quintessentially psychological method of violence is that its effect is limited to those who know of or are impacted by the act. When, for instance, the Viet Cong killed a local political

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leader, it may have had the desired psychological effect on people in the region, but the act itself did little to shape the beliefs, perceptions, or morale of those living far away. Today, information technology amplifies the psychological effects of a terrorist incident by publicizing it to a much wider audience. This technology includes satellite, 24-hour media coverage, and, more importantly, the Internet which, Gordon McCormick and Frank Giordano believe, “has made symbolic violence a more powerful instrument of insurgent mobilization than at any time in the past.”12

So terrorism is effective. It is easier and cheaper to undertake than conventional military operations. It is less costly and risky to the insurgent organization as a whole (since terrorist operations require only a very small number of personnel and a limited investment in training and materiel). It is efficient when psychological effects are compared to the resource investment. It allows insurgents to conjure an illusion of strength even when they are weak. Terrorism is less likely to lead to outright victory, but for an insurgency which does not seek victory, but only domination or survival, terrorism is the tool of choice.

As the second decade of the twenty-first century approaches, there are still a few old-fashioned insurgencies trying to militarily defeat established governments, triumphantly enter the capital city, and form their own regime. The more common pattern, though, is insurgencies satisfied with domination of all or part of the power market in their particular environment. The insurgents in Iraq, Colombia, India, Sri Lanka, Uganda, and even Afghanistan have little hope of or even interest in becoming an established regime—whether for their entire country or some breakaway segment. To continue conceptualizing contemporary insurgency as a variant of traditional, Clausewitzean warfare, where two antagonists each seek to impose their will and vanquish the opponent in pursuit of political objectives, does not capture the reality of today’s geostrategic environment. Clausewitz may have been correct that war is always fought for political purposes, but not all armed conflict is war.

Rethinking Counterinsurgency

In today’s world it is less the chance of an insurgent victory which creates a friendly environment for transnational terrorism than persistent internal conflict shattering any semblance of control and restraint in the state. During an insurgency, both the insurgents and the government focus on each other, often leaving parts of the country with minimal security and control. Transnational terrorists exploit this phenomenon. Protracted insurgency tends to create a general disregard for law and order. Organized crime and corruption often blossom. A significant portion of the population also tends to lose its natural

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aversion to violence. A society brutalized and wounded by a protracted insurgency is more likely to spawn a variety of evils, dispersing violent individuals around the world long after a particular conflict ends.

Such actions suggest that the US military and broader defense community need a very different way of thinking about and undertaking counterinsurgency strategies and operations. At the strategic level, the risk to the United States is not that insurgents will “win” in the traditional sense, gain control of their country, or change it from an American ally to an enemy. The greater likelihood is that complex internal conflicts, especially ones involving an insurgency, will generate other adverse effects: the destabilization of regions; reduced access to resources and markets; the blossoming of transnational crime; humanitarian disasters; and transnational terrorism. Given these possibilities, the US goal should not automatically be the direct defeat of the insurgents by the established regime (which often is impossible, particularly when a partner regime is only half-heartedly committed), but, rather, the rapid resolution of the conflict. A quick and sustainable outcome which integrates most of the insurgents into the national power structure is less damaging to US national interests than a protracted conflict that may lead to the total destruction of the insurgent base. Protracted conflict, not insurgent victory, is the threat.

Because Americans consider insurgency a form of warfare, US strategy and doctrine are based on the same beliefs that are associated with a general approach to warfare: War is a pathological action which evil people impose on an otherwise peace-loving society. It is a disease which sometimes infects an otherwise healthy body politic. This metaphor is a useful one. Today, Americans consider a body without parasites and pathogens “normal.” When parasites or pathogens invade, medical treatment is required to eradicate them and restore the body to its “normal” condition. Throughout human history, persistent parasites and pathogens were, in fact, normal. Societies and their members simply tolerated them. Today, this analogy characterizes conflict in many parts of the world. Rather than an abnormal and episodic condition which should be eradicated, it is viewed as normal and tolerated.

Because Americans see insurgency as a form of war and, following Clausewitz, view war as quintessentially political, they focus on the political causes and dimensions of insurgency. Certainly insurgency does have an important political component. But that is only part of the picture. Insurgency also fulfills the economic and psychological needs of the insurgent. It provides a source of income out of proportion to what the insurgent could otherwise earn, particularly for the lower ranks. It provides a source of identity and empowerment for those members with few sources for such things. Without a gun, most insurgent soldiers are simply poor, uneducated, disempowered people with no prospects and little hope. Insurgency changes all that. It makes

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the insurgent important and powerful and provides a livelihood. Again, the economic metaphor is useful; so long as demand exists, supply and a market to link supply and demand will appear. So long as there are unmet human needs that can be addressed by violence, markets of violence will be created.

The tendency of insurgencies to evolve into criminal organizations suggests that counterinsurgency strategy itself needs to undergo a significant shift during the course of any conflict. If an insurgency has reached the point that it is motivated more by greed than grievance, addressing the political causes of the conflict will not prove effective. The counterinsurgency campaign needs to assume the characteristics of a program to defeat organized crime or gangs. Law enforcement should replace the military as the primary manager of a mature counterinsurgency campaign. This evolving cycle of insurgency also implies that there may be a window of opportunity early in the insurgency before its psychological, political, and economic dynamics are set. For the outsiders undertaking counterinsurgency operations, a rapid, large-scale security, political, law enforcement, intelligence, or economic effort in the nascent stages of an insurgency has the potential for providing greater results than any incremental increase in assistance following the commencement of conflict. Timing does matter.

Because Americans view insurgency as political, American counterinsurgency strategy and doctrine stress the need for political reform in those societies threatened by the insurgency. This is in fact necessary but not always sufficient. A comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy requires the simultaneous raising of the economic and psychological costs and risks for those participating in the insurgency (or other forms of conflict) while providing alternatives. David Keen explains:

In order to move toward more lasting solution to the problem of mass violence, we need to understand and acknowledge that for significant groups this violence represents not a problem but a solution. We need to think of modifying the structure of incentives that are encouraging people to orchestrate, fund, or perpetuate acts of violence.13

Economic assistance and job training are as important to counterinsurgency as political reform. Businesses started and jobs created are as much “indicators of success” as insurgents killed or intelligence provided. Because the margins for economic activity tend to widen during conflict, counterinsurgency should attempt to make markets as competitive as possible.14 Because economies dependent on exports of a single commodity or a few commodities are particularly vulnerable to protracted conflict, counterinsurgency operations need to include a plan for economic diversification.15 A comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy should offer alternative

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sources of identity and empowerment for the bored, disillusioned, and disempowered. Simply providing low-paying, low-status jobs or the opportunity to attend school is not enough. Counterinsurgents—including the United States when it provides counterinsurgency support—need to recognize that becoming an insurgent gives the disenfranchised a sense of belonging, identity, and importance. Counterinsurgency cannot succeed unless it finds alternative sources of power and worth. It is in this environment where the military and other government agencies involved with counterinsurgency support need to look beyond their normal sources of inspiration and motivation. For starters, counterinsurgent planners should consult law enforcement personnel associated with antigang units, inner-city community leaders, social psychologists, and cultural anthropologists.

Women’s empowerment—a brake on the aggression of disillusioned young males—should also be a central component of a successful counterinsurgency strategy. This illustrates one of the enduring problems and paradoxes of any counterinsurgency: What are foreign or external counterinsurgency supporters to do when some element of a nation’s culture directly supports the conflict? Evidence suggests that cultures based on the repression of women, a warrior ethos, or some other social structure or factor are more prone to violence. Should counterinsurgency operations try to alter the culture or simply accept the fact that even once the insurgency is quelled, it may reappear?

The core dilemma, then, is that truly resolving an insurgency requires extensive social reengineering. Yet this may prove to be extremely difficult and expensive. This problem has many manifestations. In some cases, it may be impossible to provide forms of employment and sources of identity that are more lucrative than those offered by the insurgency. Regimes and national elites—the very partners the United States seeks to empower in counterinsurgency operations—often view actions necessary to stem the insurgency as a threat to their own power. They may view the conflict itself as a lesser evil. For many regimes, the insurgents pose less of a threat than a unified and effective security force. It is a basic fact that more regimes have been overthrown by coups than by insurgencies. Hence threatened governments

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will deliberately keep their security forces weak and divided. Alas, those with the greatest personal interest in resolving the conflict—the people—have the least ability to create peace.16 Yet American strategy and doctrine are based on the assumption that our partners seek the same objective we do: the quickest possible resolution of the conflict. The United States assumes its partners will wholeheartedly pursue political reform and security force improvement. We are then often perplexed when insurgencies like the ongoing one in Colombia fester for decades; we are unable to grasp the dissonance between our objectives and those of our allies.

The implications of this are profound. If, in fact, insurgency is not simply a variant of war, if the real threat is the deleterious effects of sustained conflict, and if such actions are part of a systemic failure and pathology where key elites and organizations develop a vested interest in the sustainment of the conflict, the objective of counterinsurgency support should be systemic reengineering rather than simply strengthening the government so that it can impose its will more effectively on the insurgents. The most effective posture for outsiders is not to be viewed as an ally of the government and thus a sustainer of the flawed sociopolitical-economic system, but rather to be seen as a neutral mediator and peacekeeper, even when the outsiders may have a greater ideological affinity for the existing regime than the insurgent.17 If this is true, the United States should only undertake support of counterinsurgency operations in the most pressing instances.

When considering such support, we cannot assume that the regime of a particular nation views the conflict as we do. We need to remember that our allies often consider the reforms which the United States defines as key to long-term success as more of a threat than the insurgency itself. Elites in states faced with an insurgency do not want a pyrrhic victory in which they defeat the insurgents only to lose their own grip on power. The cure may be worse than the disease. America has to understand that many of its friends and allies view their own security forces with as much apprehension as they do the insurgents. So while the United States may press for strengthening of local security forces political leaders may resist. Ultimately, this dissonance may be irresolvable. Where the United States, viewing insurgency as a variant of war, seeks “victory” over the enemy, our allies often find that a contained insurgency which does not threaten the existence of a particular nation or regime is perfectly acceptable.

Conclusion

What, then, does all this mean? Outside of America’s historic geographic area of concern (the Caribbean basin), the United States should only

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consider undertaking counterinsurgency operations as part of an equitable, legitimate, and broad-based multinational coalition. Unless the world community is willing to form a neo-trusteeship such as those in Bosnia, Eastern Slavonia, Kosovo, or East Timor in order to reestablish a legitimate administration, security system, or stable society, the best that can be done is ameliorating the human suffering associated with the violence.18 In most cases, American strategic resources are better spent in the prevention of the insurgency or its containment. Clearly, systemic reengineering is not a task for the United States acting unilaterally. Nor is it a task for the US military. When America is part of a coalition, the primary role for the US military should be the protection of noncombatants until other security forces, preferably local ones, can assume that mission.

Rather than a “one size fits all” American strategy for counterinsurgencies, the United States should recognize three distinct insurgency environments, each demanding a different response:

A functioning and responsible government with some degree of legitimacy in a nation with significant US national interests or traditional ties can be rescued by foreign internal defense (El Salvador model).

There is no functioning or legitimate government but there is a broad international and regional consensus favoring the creation of a neo-trusteeship until systemic reengineering is complete. In such instances, the United States should provide military, economic, and political support as part of a multinational force operating under the auspices of the United Nations.

There is no functioning and legitimate government and no international or regional consensus for the formation of a neo-trusteeship. In such cases, the United States should pursue containment of the conflict through the support of regional states and, in cooperation with friendly states and allies, creating humanitarian “safe zones” within the region of the conflict.

In the long term, counterinsurgency operations may or may not remain a mission for the US military. It is possible that Iraq and Afghanistan were unique events caused by a combination of political factors not likely to be repeated. It is possible that future political leaders will decide that the control of ungoverned spaces or support to fragile regimes will not constitute a central pillar in American foreign policy or military strategy.

Counterinsurgency may, in fact, remain a key mission. If it does, continued analysis of insurgencies by the US military and—perhaps even more importantly, other agencies of the government—is essential. We cannot assume that twenty-first century insurgency is so like its twentieth century predecessor and that old solutions can simply be dusted off and applied.

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Perhaps we need to transcend the idea that insurgency is simply a variant of conventional war and amenable to the same strategic concepts. Such a conceptual and strategic readjustment will not come easily. It will be hard to simply contain an insurgency and possibly witness the ensuing humanitarian costs when no salvageable government or multinational consensus exists that is capable of reengineering the failed social, political, or economic system. It will be particularly difficult to conform to the notion of serving as mediators or honest-brokers rather than as active allies or supporters of a regime. But to not do so—to confront new security problems with old ideas and strategies—is a recipe for disaster.


NOTES

1. Field Manual 100-20/Air Force Pamphlet 3-2, Military Operations in Low Intensity Conflict (Washington: Headquarters, Department of the Army and Department of the Air Force, 1990).

2. The most important treatment of this is David Kilcullen, “Countering Global Insurgency,” Journal of Strategic Studies, 28 (August 2005), 597-617.

3. Field Manual 3-24/Marine Corps Warfighting Publication 3-33.5, Counterinsurgency (Washington: Headquarters, Department of the Army and Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, December 2006). Joint counterinsurgency doctrine is under development.

4. For instance, see Gary Anderson, “The Baathists’ Blundering Guerrilla War,” The Washington Post, 26 June 2003, A29.

5. John A. Nagl, Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2002), reprinted in paperback by the Univ. of Chicago Press, 2005; and David Galula, Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1964), reprinted 2006. Also popular is Galula’s Pacification in Algeria 1956-1958 (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 1963), reprinted 2006. Nagl is a US Army officer who served multiple tours in Iraq after writing the book (which was derived from his Ph.D. dissertation). Galula was a French Army officer who based his analysis on his experience in Indochina and Algeria.

6. I explain this idea of “third” and “fourth” forces in Rethinking Insurgency (Carlisle, Pa.: US Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, June 2007), 15-42.

7. Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler, “Greed and Grievance in Civil War,” Policy Research Working Paper No. 2355 (Washington: The World Bank, 2000).

8. Karen Ballentine and Jake Sherman, “Introduction,” in Karen Ballentine and Jake Sherman, eds., The Political Economy of Armed Conflict: Beyond Greed and Grievance (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 2003), 3.

9. Paul Collier, “Doing Well Out of War: An Economic Perspective,” in Mats Berdal and David M. Malone, eds., Greed and Grievance: Economic Agendas in Civil Wars (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 2000), 91.

10. Ibid., 103-104.

11. Mats Berdal and David Keen, “Violence and Economic Agendas in Civil Wars: Some Policy Implications,” Millennium, 26 (No. 3, 1997), 797.

12. Gordon H. McCormick and Frank Giordano, “Things Come Together: Symbolic Violence and Guerrilla Mobilisation,” Third World Quarterly, 28 (No. 2, 2007), 312.

13. David Keen, “Incentives and Disincentives for Violence,” in Berdal and Malone, 25.

14. Collier, 107.

15. Ballentine and Sherman, 3.

16. Collier, 105.

17. James Fearon described and advocated such an approach in “Iraq’s Civil War,” Foreign Affairs, 86 (March/April 2007), 2-15.

18. On “neo-trusteeships,” see James D. Fearon and David D. Laitin, “Neotrusteeship and the Problem of Weak States,” International Security, 28 (Spring 2004), 4-43; and Richard Caplan, “From Collapsing States to Neo-Trusteeships: The Limits of Solving the Problem of ‘Precarious Statehood’ in the 21st Century,” Third World Quarterly, 28 (No. 2, 2007), 231-44.


Dr. Steven Metz is Research Professor and Chairman of the Regional Strategy and Planning Department at the US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute. This article is based on his monograph Rethinking Insurgency (Carlisle, Pa.: US Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, June 2007).


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Reviewed 12 December 2007. Please send comments or corrections to usarmy.carlisle.awc.mbx.parameters@mail.mil