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Strategic Principles of Counterinsurgency
by Colonel Robert C. Jones, Small Wars Journal Op-Ed
Currently there are many voices speaking at once, all competing for attention as to their unique perspective as to what is causing the current unrest in the world. Far too much focus is placed on the tactic of "terrorism," and many are far too quick to simply label those who apply that tactic as "terrorists." While certainly this characterization is true, it is not particularly helpful. Instead, I believe it is best to look at the purpose for a man's actions rather than his actions themselves in order to best judge, and thereby label him. Most that we are so quick to label as terrorists are actually insurgents. Bin Laden, however, is no insurgent. Mr. Bin Laden is in fact a terrorist. He is using his Al Qaeda network to wage a regional unconventional warfare campaign to leverage many nationalist insurgent movements that lay within Muslim populaces in states where those populaces are experiencing poor governance, from the Philippines in the East, to England in the West.
Some who speak on this topic have expertise born of years of engagement at the tactical level, and their perspective reflects that experience. Others who speak have little to no direct experience, but have read and studied the problem in great detail based upon the experience of others. The principles I offer below are my own, and are born of (and limited by) my own experience and studies. They are intended to be neither too tactical, nor too theoretical. They are intended instead to provide what I like to call "pure strategy." These are not insights that are deemed strategic based upon the level of command to which they apply; but are instead intended to be strategic in that they offer fundamental truths on the nature of insurgency that can be applied at every level of command. Hopefully these can guide squad leaders and presidents alike, and help them all to be a little more successful in their endeavors.