Counterinsurgency Should Address “Root Causes”

The latest edition of U.S. joint military doctrine on counterinsurgency states that while working to defeat and contain insurgency, efforts should also be made to “address its root causes.”

Newly added doctrinal language “articulates that US counterinsurgency efforts should provide incentives to the host-nation government to undertake reforms that address the root causes of the insurgency.”

The latest revision also emphasizes the importance of gaining and retaining “US public support” for counterinsurgency programs.

“US public opinion should be considered as part of the OE [operational environment], just as the indigenous population opinion is essential to the COIN [counterinsurgency] effort, because USG COIN efforts must prove worthwhile to the US public,” the newly added language states. See Joint Publication 3-24, Counterinsurgency, November 22, 2013.

The previous edition from 2009 may be found here. (Joint Publication 3-24 on Counterinsurgency is not to be confused with the 2006 Army Field Manual 3-24 associated with David Petraeus that bears the same title.)

To its harshest critics, counterinsurgency doctrine, though “marketed as a sophisticated and humane alternative to conventional combat,” is a failure and a farce.

“What purports to be a thinking man’s approach to war actually gives policy makers license to stop thinking,” wrote Andrew J. Bacevich in a scorching piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 9, 2013.  “COIN offers technique devoid of larger purpose” and “when put to the test, counterinsurgency doesn’t work all that well,” he wrote.

One Response to “Counterinsurgency Should Address “Root Causes””

  1. Ellen Sand December 17, 2013 at 10:11 AM #

    That’s a great quotation from Bacevich. George Carlin put it another way – “it’s [counterinsurgency] is called fucking with people.” Most lay people understand, and have understood since 9/11, that if you stop doing the latter, in the form of an imperial foreign policy, then people will be less likely to want to attack the United States. The military’s putative concern with root causes simply insults the intelligence of the American public.

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