Counterinsurgency: Domestic Politics by Other Means

Counterinsurgency: Domestic Politics by Other Means

by Anton Kuruc

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Clausewitz describes war in a foreign policy context that needs to be adapted to insurgencies. This paper discusses insurgency in the context of domestic rather than foreign policy. It discusses the aspects of domestic politics that help define the role of violent coercion in domestic political discourse. This paper discusses the role of a political campaign to win domestic political competitions. It identifies key assumptions that underpin demographic planning and applies some typical political campaign planning methods to better analyze the human terrain. It also explores how the military campaign should support the overarching political campaign and to better incorporate domestic policy expertise into the whole of government counterinsurgency effort.

Clausewitz defined war as '... an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfill our will' with: 'Violence ... the means; the compulsory submission of the enemy to our will is the ultimate object.' He argues that war's nature is determined by a 'wonderful trinity' of violence, chance and reason, usually attributed to a secondary trinity of: '... different parts of the nation state at war: the people, the general and his Army and the Government'. The level of direct political influence in the war also affects its nature: '... in one kind of War the political element seems almost to disappear, whilst in another kind it occupies a very prominent place, we must affirm that one is as political as the other...

Clausewitz generally portrays war as: 'The War of ... whole Nations ... [that] always starts from a political condition, and is called forth by a political motive. It is, therefore, a political act' . This leads him to conclude that 'War is a mere continuation of policy by other means.'

Clausewitz's context is invariably foreign policy: '...the plan of a campaign [is designed to cause] the disarming of the nation... [that includes] ... the military power, the country, and the will of the enemy.' Many who question Clausewitz's relevance to insurgency focus on its intrastate nature rather than the political context that animates the conflict.

'Context is ... the most important variable in the understanding of war.' Clausewitz's wrote in the post enlightenment, Westphalian context of emerging nation states. He wrote with insight on how nations conduct conventional wars, with conventional forces to compel opponents to bend to their will. We might well conclude that for Clausewitz war is the continuation of foreign policy by other means. Clausewitz is still a strong intellectual influence on Western military thought. Although counterinsurgency is different, Clausewitz's general theory remains very useful, but it needs a different context - that of domestic politics.

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Lieutenant Colonel Anton Kuruc is an infantry officer in the Australian Army who graduated from the Royal Military College Duntroon in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in Politics and History. Anton served in a variety of postings including platoon command, company command and as battalion S2, S3 and S6 at various times. In 2000, he graduated from the Australian Army Command and Staff College, Queenscliff with a Masters of Military of Studies and also completed a Masters of Business Administration. He served as an operational analyst with the Australian Defence Force in Afghanistan, Timor Leste (East Timor) and the Solomon Islands. Currently, he works for QinetiQ in Canberra contracted out to the ADF's Rapid Prototyping, Development and Evaluation program.

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He had some things to say on insurgencies (or national insurrections):

"In a national insurrection the center of gravity to be destroyed lies in the person of the chief leader and in public opinion; against these points the blow must be directed." Clausewitz, 1832.