How often do insurgents win? How much time does successful COIN require?
“Lies, damned lies and counterinsurgency“, Robert W. Chamberlain (Captain, US Army), Armed Forces Journal (May 2008) — “Not all insurgencies have been protracted affairs”
Captain Chamberlain’s article in Armed Forces Journal is another cut at replacing the “do insurgencies usually win or lose” debate with something more useful. He sorts insurgencies by placing them in a larger context: colonial wars and superporwer proxy wars are “big fires.” Local insurgents fighting local governments are “little fires.”
This is evidence that a consensus is developing that the insurgent’s opponents are the key factor. In general, a government so weak that it relies on foreign military forces is likely to lose (I doubt anything more precise can be said, given the number of other relevant factors). Not only does this bring some order to debate about the odds, but it is a more operationally useful formula for us — often the “foreign military forces”.
This formula also illuminates two oft-cited examples of successful COIN: Northern Ireland and Malaysia. Both are grey cases, with a blurred foreign-local distinction. Esp. the last, which the Brits often declare “their” victory by slighting the role of the local — soon to be sovereign — government.
This formula was controversial when first discussed in 2006. I described it in January 2007. Chet Richards discusses it at length in his new book, If we can keep it. Now it has become mainstream thinking. This is another example of our ability to quickly evolve, as described in “America’s Greatest Weapon“, Major General Charles J. Dunlap, Jr. (USAF) and Lt Colonel John Nagl (USA), posted at the Small Wars Journal (23 May 2008).
Hat tip to Zenpundit for finding this!
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