In both debates, the central question is one of scope: How much should the police and military be asked to do in creating and maintaining safety and stability, and how competent are they to do what is being asked of them?
Latest in counterinsurgency
Editor’s Note: The rapid pace of technological innovation is changing the nature of warfare, and futurists are busy spinning out scenarios of a U.S.-China clash in twenty years involving nano-technology and fully autonomous weapons systems. Yet how will new technologies shape insurgency and counterinsurgency, which conjures up images of guerrillas hiding in Vietnam's jungles? My Brookings colleague Chris Meserole looks at two of the latest books on the subject and assesses how the balance between rebels and government may tilt.
Editor’s Note: Insurgencies have plagued India throughout its modern history, and several remain active today. Until recently, it seemed that the Indian government was making progress, however fitfully, in reducing the scope and scale of the violence. Sarah Watson of CSIS argues that today Modi's government is dropping the ball. After significant gains, India's counterinsurgency campaigns are stalling, and the government appears unable to either conciliate or coerce effectively.
Editor’s Note: When the United States invaded and occupied Iraq in 2003, it found itself woefully unprepared for the insurgency that followed. It took years—and many lives lost—for the U.S. military to relearn how to fight insurgents, but the results were stunning. By the end of the decade, al-Qaeda in Iraq and other violent groups were on the run, and it looked like Iraq was on the path to stability. Zach Abels at the National Interest, however, warns that much of this valuable knowledge is being lost.
On June 30, 2016, the United Nations announced that after having accessed two blockaded towns near Damascus, it had finally delivered aid to all areas under siege in Syria. For the starving populations of Zamalka and Irbin, a single aid convoy was little consolation. Since the fall of 2012, as many as one million Syrians have been victims of one of counter-insurgency’s most brutal tactics: siege warfare.
Editor's Note: Dictators fight insurgents wrong. Rather than redress grievances and win over the locals, they repress and coopt, tolerating corruption and abuses. David Ucko of National Defense University explores why and how dictators often defeat insurgents despite ignoring the lessons of the US and other democracies.
Editor's Note: What if most terrorism isn’t really terrorism? In past decades, much of what we call terrorism today would have been seen as insurgent violence, revolutionary war, or civil war: a group like the Islamic State, which uses tanks as well as suicide bombing, is a prime example of an organization that is wrongly classified as a terrorist group. John Mueller of Ohio State University and Mark Stewart of the University of Newcastle in Australia unpack this definitional confusion and argue that it leads to a gross misunderstanding of the true threat we face.
In the rhetoric of American leaders, the Islamic State is a terrorist group. The terrorism label, while accurate, is also misleading, obscuring more than it enlightens. One of the top scholars of terrorism, Audrey Kurth Cronin, sharply criticizes the label “terrorist” to describe the Islamic State, arguing that doing so confuses us as to the true nature of the group and how best to fight it.
Stephanie Carvin (Carleton University, Canada, and friend to several of us at Lawfare) and Michael John Williams (NYU) are international relations scholars who focus on national and international security. They each write about strategy, but in strikingly broad and interdisciplinary ways.
Editor’s Note: The United States and its allies outsource most of their counterterrorism. Allies like Egypt and Jordan and frenemies like Pakistan do much of the heavy lifting, using their armies and intelligence services to fight jihadist terrorist groups and insurgencies. Florence Gaub, a senior analyst at the EU Institute for Security Studies, argues that Arab states are dangerously bad at the political side of counterinsurgency and their military campaigns often fail or even make things worse as a result.