Small Wars Journal

Strategic Studies Institute Twofer

Fri, 10/28/2011 - 8:09am

Puncturing the Counterinsurgency Myth: Britain and Irregular Warfare in the Past, Present, and Future by Dr. Andrew Mumford, Strategic Studies Institute monograph.

This monograph holds that an aura of mythology has surrounded conventional academic and military perceptions of British performance in the realm of irregular warfare. It identifies 10 myths regarding British counterinsurgency performance and seeks to puncture them by critically assessing the efficacy of the British way of counterinsurgency from the much-vaunted, yet over-hyped, Malayan Emergency to the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq in 2009. It challenges perceptions of the British military as an effective learning institution when it comes to irregular warfare and critically assesses traditional British counterinsurgency strategic maxims regarding hearts and minds and minimum force.

Mexico's "Narco-Refugees": The Looming Challenge for U.S. National Security by Dr. Paul Rexton Kan, Strategic Studies Institute monograph.

Since 2006, when Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared war on the drug cartels, there has been a rise in the number of Mexican nationals seeking political asylum in the United States to escape the ongoing drug cartel violence in their home country. Political asylum cases in general are claimed by those who are targeted for their political beliefs or ethnicity in countries that are repressive or are failing. Mexico is neither. Nonetheless, if the health of the Mexican state declines because criminal violence continues, increases, or spreads, U.S. communities will feel an even greater burden on their systems of public safety and public health from "narco-refugees." Given the ever increasing cruelty of the cartels, the question is whether and how the U.S. Government should begin to prepare for what could be a new wave of migrants coming from Mexico. Allowing Mexicans to claim asylum could potentially open a flood gate of migrants to the United States during a time when there is a very contentious national debate over U.S. immigration laws pertaining to illegal immigrants. On the other hand, to deny the claims of asylum seekers and return them to Mexico where they might very well be killed, strikes at the heart of American values of justice and humanitarianism. This monograph focuses on the asylum claims of Mexicans who unwillingly leave Mexico rather than those who willingly enter the United States legally or illegally. To successfully navigate through this complex issue will require a greater level of understanding and vigilance at all levels of the U.S. Government.


Robert C. Jones

Fri, 10/28/2011 - 5:32pm

In reply to by Dave Maxwell


Very true, and particularly salient in regards to the Malaya example is that the aspects focused on the most are perhaps the ones that matter least...

I will offer, however, that when one studies dozens of insurgencies, and is able to look past, or rather through, all of the fascinatingly unique facts and factors, one can indeed derive a family of common factors rooted in the universality of human nature and the dynamics of how humans react in common ways to common perceptions (rather than common conditions) of governance.

While many scoff at the idea, the legend of Robin Hood, for those of us of Anglo-Saxon descent at least, is what is known as an "archetypal hybrid" for insurgency. Based in hundreds of years of what our culture inherently perceives as "poor governance" and equally inherently perceives as reasonable and even noble illegal and (if necessary) violent responses to the same. Where fact and fantasy merge or depart is moot (just as the "facts" captured by governments or historians regarding insurgency are often moot), it is our innate sense of right and wrong that shapes both the characters, and the character of the characters, of this tale.

Government officials in real life can rarely see the reasonableness of insurgent causation, nor their own contribution to the same; but they have no problem recognizing the illegitimacy of Prince John, the lack of equity in his policies, or the injustice under the rule of law as he had carried out by the notorious Sheriff of Nottingham.

Frankly, we would be far better served by allowing ourselves to be guided by the fantasy of Robin Hood, than by the fantasy of what history tells us actually happened and turned the tide in Malaya.



Dave Maxwell

Fri, 10/28/2011 - 1:36pm

In reply to by Red Rat

I think this is a useful and insightful piece.
I like number 9 the best:

I would add a "truth" that if you have seen or studied one COIN campaign you have seen or studied one COIN campaign. (emphasis on one because no two are alike)

But I also think it is somewhat counter-productive to throw stones.  I think there is important analysis in this but it will raise the hackles of some for sure.  To me we spend far too much time arguing about whether my theory or your theory is better or my campaign or experience is better than your campaign or experience when we should be respect all theories and experience, study and analyze them in detail and the study the situation in which we find ourselves - and then seek to find the proper balance and coherency among the various ends, ways, and means (including risk and opportunity analysis) to ensure we are properly and effectively supporting the political policy set forth by our leadership.  All the while keeping in mind myth #9 above (the truth being there is no archetypal COIN Campaign).

Red Rat

Fri, 10/28/2011 - 11:38am

I found 'Puncturing the Counter-Insurgency Myth', albeit good in parts, a disappointing read.

While I have no issues in acknowledging the recent or historical failings in British military performance the good points in this article were obscured by the inconsistencies and inaccuracies. At times it read like a diatribe. There is more detailed comment and analysis on Small Wars Council.