A Tale of Two Countries
Counterinsurgency and Capacity Building in the Pacific

by Dr. Russell W. Glenn, Small Wars Journal

It is sometimes said that “Small is beautiful.” That does not imply that small is simple or easy. Two ongoing Pacific region contingencies - one in Solomon Islands, the other in the Southern Philippines and neither with over 500 military personnel on a typical day - provide many lessons for those conducting, planning, or studying counterinsurgency (COIN) and capacity building undertakings regardless of size. Those lessons validate many drawn from historical events of the past. Others reflect challenges more characteristic of insurgency in its evolving, twenty-first-century form. Though the soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and civilians of nations participating in the two operations have seen considerable progress, those individuals share a common realization that success during such operations is a never a given. The outsider complementing previous triumphs is ever reminded that any thoughts of success apply only to actions “so far.” This unwillingness to presume seems another trait shared with predecessors of ages past. Success, it seems, is a description that only historians should feel comfortable applying to a counterinsurgency...