Counterinsurgency Or Counterterrorism

Posted in Uncategorized by chamblee54 on June 24, 2011

The phrases counterinsurgency and counterterrorism are tossed around a good bit these days. (Some use the abbreviations Coter and COIN.) Some people know what they are talking about. PG is not one of them, but he does know how to get to google city.

The top result is from yahoo , and features an ad for Dollywood. They say counterterrorism is when you kill the enemies, and counterinsurgency is when you try to win over the native population. If you shoot someone and pitch the remains in a holler, that is counterterrorism; if you take his neighbors to Dollywood, that is counterinsurgency.

If you want to get confused, read What is the difference between counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism?. There seems to be confusion as to exactly what terrorism and insurgency are. Since our government is conducting a Global War on Terrorism, (aka the long war, or world war w) this might be problem.
“The question ‘What is the difference between counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism’ may be interpreted as suggesting that the two are dichotomous, but as a closer look demonstrates, they are in fact closely linked. Terrorism, as an ideological strategy of psychological warfare by political violence, falls under the aegis of insurgency, which is a situation of violent political activism directed against a government by a rebellious minority.” There is no advertising on this page.
Global Counter Terror (GCT) Magazine advertises shoes and warfighter tools. The article is poorly written nonsense.
“Insurgency is an organized movement aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government through the use of subversion and armed conflict. The definition of terrorism is much more convoluted as terrorism has been used by every insurgency throughout history to topple a government by coercing the ruling government to increase controls of its citizenry, thus creating increased popular disaffection, in an ever-increasing cycle that leads to major uprising by the majority against the ruling government. The best definition for terrorism I’ve been able to find is the one by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): Terrorism is the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a Government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

Demcracy Arsenal does not like counterinsurgency. They go on at great length, mostly about how the USA is unwilling to make the commitment to see counterinsurgency through. A comment here makes a good point:
“First, the US invaded Iraq and overthrew the government, and so the US forces were (and are) the insurgents. Iraqis resisted the invasion and the ensuing military occupation, so they are the counter-insurgents. COIN strategy is really building a new government to replace the one the US insurgents overthrew and defending it against the counter-insurgents. And so on, with any discussion on the subject making a whole lot more sense if proper English rather than incorrect military jargon were used.”
The American Prospect has a nifty piece about “The cult of counterinsurgency”. It focuses on a man named John Nagl, which rhymes with boggle. Mr. Nagl is one of the salesmen for COIN theory to the military establishment, and he has succeeded in his sales job. He uses as an example for COIN strategy the conduct of our army in Vietnam. Mr. Nagl was two years old during the tet offensive.

“Counterinsurgency means, more or less, an attempt to defeat guerilla fighters who hide among a civilian population over an extended period of time (the word “guerilla” comes from the Spanish term for “small war”). These types of “low-intensity conflicts,” as they are known, were fought by the French in Algeria, the British in Malaysia, and the Soviets in Afghanistan. “
It should be noted that, for the French and the Soviets, these conflicts ended in disastrous defeats.
A critic of the COIN approach is Edward Luttwak, a senior associate at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“And, yes, it is possible for counterinsurgency to succeed, says Luttwak of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. It depends on how much “blood and treasure” you put into it. Few people know as much about irregular warfare as Luttwak does—and he is not impressed by what he has seen in the Middle East. Luttwak, 65, who is the author of Coup d’État: A Practical Handbook, says U.S. troops should pull out of Afghanistan. “What the fuck are we doing there?” he asks. “Much better to abandon it and do occasional punitive expeditions as opposed to counterinsurgency and its enormous costs. I’ve been to Afghanistan. Basically, you’d have to kill every single Afghan and take all the children and put them in boarding school, preferably in England.”
The last result on the first google page is an academic report, Counterterrorism vs counterinsurgency: understanding Obama’s Afghanistan decision. This document does not shed much light on this murky debate. Perhaps a reader can follow the link, and explain this to PG in the comments.
To Sum up, the correct answer to the question, should we use counterinsurgency or counterterrorism in Afghanistan, is I don’t know . After reading the reports cited above, as well as this report, PG is suspicious of anyone who claims to know the difference. The two strategies seem to work together … COIN is a part of Coter, to the extent that it helps provide intelligence to the forces trying to kill the terrorists. It is a big, murky, expensive mess, and one of the reasons our country is in the economic mess it is in. Pictures today are from The Library of Congress.

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