View Full Version : COIN Redux

Bill Moore
09-17-2006, 02:42 PM
Counterinsurgency Redux (http://www.smallwarsjournal.com/documents/kilcullen1.pdf) by David Kilcullen.

This is heartening for those who were in the wilderness during the years when Western governments regarded counterinsurgency as a distraction, of interest only to historians. So it is no surprise that some have triumphantly urged the re-discovery of classical, “proven” counterinsurgency methods.

But, this paper suggests, some of this enthusiasm may be misplaced. In fact, today’s insurgencies differ significantly — at the level of policy, strategy, operational art and tactical technique — from those of earlier eras. An enormous amount of classical counterinsurgency remains relevant. Indeed, counterinsurgency provides the “best fit” framework for strategic problems in the War on Terrorism. But much is new in counterinsurgency redux, possibly requiring fundamental re-appraisals of conventional wisdom.

Politically, in many cases today, the counterinsurgent represents revolutionary change, while the insurgent fights to preserve the status quo of ungoverned spaces, or to repel an occupier ¬— a political relationship opposite to that envisaged in classical counterinsurgency.

Thus classical theory typically regards insurgency as something that occurs within one country or district, between an internal non-state actor and a single government. This is reflected in official definitions of insurgency. By contrast, in the field today we see real-time cooperation and cross-pollination between insurgents in many countries. Ayman al-Zawahiri has referred to a four-stage strategy in Iraq, involving expulsion of U.S. forces, creation of an Islamic Emirate in Sunni areas, its extension to neighboring countries and then attacks on Israel. This goes far beyond classical single-state insurgent goals.

The above are selected excerpts from Dave Kilcullen's excellent paper on modern insurgencies. In short it challenges many of our doctrinal assumptions based on legacy COIN operations. While he does not advocate throwing the baby out with the bath water, I think he does open the door to a worthwhile debate for this council.

It appearas that Dave Kilcullen will prove to be one of the leading strategic thinkers in the post 9/11 era. So far everything he has written has been value added to the knowledge base.


09-17-2006, 03:31 PM
Bill, I couldn't open your attachment - Word said it needed some sort of converter. Is this the transcript of his presentation at the IISS conference in Geneva 9 Sep?

I tried to search for it, and couldn't find the exact doc - but there is plenty of older stuff out there...and this article of his from last year's Journal of Strategic Studies is already hosted by SWJ:

Countering Global Insurgency (http://www.smallwarsjournal.com/documents/kilcullen.pdf)

Bill Moore
09-17-2006, 04:05 PM
I'm not sure why the attachment is acting up, but I went it to the expert, so it should be posted correctly soon. Thanks for pointing this out. I think you'll enjoy the article. Bill

09-17-2006, 08:35 PM
PDF version posted to Bill's original thread. Thanks Bill...