View Full Version : The COIN Graduate Seminar

12-27-2008, 11:40 AM
The COIN Graduate Seminar (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2008/12/the-coin-graduate-seminar/) by John P. Sullivan and Adam Elkus, Small Wars Journal

The COIN Graduate Seminar (Full PDF Article) (http://smallwarsjournal.com/mag/docs-temp/156-sullivan.pdf)

Military analysts and pundits have often dubbed counterinsurgency the “graduate level of war.” Dissenters protest that full spectrum operations—with their mixture of conventional and irregular warfare—are truly the graduate level of conflict. We do not take a position on this debate, as we honor the contributions of both conventional and unconventional soldiers. However, it is indisputable that irregular warfare--like any form of human conflict--is immensely complex. Approaching it requires a holistic—if not eccentric—approach that defies the simplistic political debates and strategic orthodoxies commonly found in popular discussions of issues such Iraq and Afghanistan. But this begs the question of how we would ideally advance the discussion to something more nuanced. If counterinsurgency is truly the “graduate level” of war, it needs its very own Graduate Seminar.

What readings and films would we assign to students in the Seminar? We’ve outlined everything bellow under the “Syllabus” heading. The material here, though exhaustive, is by no means comprehensive. We have opted to emphasize the diversity of intellectual approaches involved in conceptualizing war and power as well as more recent military irregular warfare research. Our aim is to engage the entire spectrum of irregular conflict, from counter-terrorism to speculations about the future of war.

Some of our readings and films—drawn from the humanities and popular culture--may strike the reader as odd choices, but our eclecticism is intentional. “Out of the box” thinking is often praised but rarely honored due to institutional, political, and intellectual cultures that police discourses and close minds. Likewise, we have also included military theorists whose ideas have sparked controversy. Even if one violently disagrees with certain theories of war and peace, it is important to engage with their arguments.

Given the sheer amount of material, readings and passages from each book would be selected to provide a comprehensive approach. The first unit, counterterrorism, covers operational, political, legal, and cultural issues associated with CT. The second unit, counterinsurgency, examines both classical and modern counterinsurgency theory. It also examines case studies of insurgencies and counterinsurgencies, looking at contemporary successes and failures. The third unit, criminal insurgency, examines insurgencies waged by gangs, cartels, and other criminal actors. Lastly, the fourth unit, future warfare, engages speculation about the future of conflict through study of past and present predictive literature. We offer this list for discussion and debate.