Shane Bilsborough on Counterlawfare in COIN

By Benjamin Wittes
Thursday, December 15, 2011, 4:37 PM

Shane Bilsborough, a student at Pepperdine University, has this very interesting essay over at the Small Wars Journal on "Counterlawfare in Counterinsurgency." In opens:

In recent years, something akin to a cottage industry has grown around the definition, analysis, and denouncement of “lawfare” as a strategy in asymmetric conflict. Many of these political commentaries and analyses have interpreted the effectiveness of “lawfare” tactics as evidence of the dangers inherent to international legal institutions, media organizations, and human rights NGO’s as enablers of anti-American forces in the international system. Supporters of this widely supported view argue that for the United States and its allies to successfully combat terrorist or insurgent organizations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, the United States must oppose and eventually rollback the influence of international legal norms both in the United States and abroad. The strategy implied by this interpretation of the contemporary battlespace is both ill-informed and militarily damaging. Counterinsurgency theory and historical experience both suggest that international legal institutions, media outlets, human rights NGO’s, and other supposed pawns of insurgent “lawfare” strategies can and should be leveraged to the United States advantage in low-intensity conflict as part of a focused and coherent “counterlawfare” strategy.