Small Wars Journal

COIN

“Accidental Guerrilla” Syndrome in California, 1836-1846

Sun Tzu’s injunction to “know your enemy” is never more critical than in counterinsurgency (COIN) warfare. During its COIN conflicts in the last hundred years, the United States military has fallen especially prey to the thinking trap of lumping all its opponents into the same category. COIN expert David Kilcullen identified this phenomenon as “accidental guerrilla syndrome” in his 2009 book of the same name.

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Taliban Fragmentation: Fact, Fiction, and Future

For years, the U.S. military pursued a "divide and defeat" strategy against the Afghan Taliban, attempting to exploit the supposedly fragmented nature of the group. Drawing on the academic literature on insurgency, civil war, and negotiated peace, this report finds that the Taliban is a far more cohesive organization than a fragmented one.

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Winning Small Wars in Contests for the People

A dilemma is now facing western militaries, in-so-far as, the contextual terrain has shifted to such an extent that their enemies refuse to engage them in a manner that would ensure their own destruction. Focus on this modern Sphacterian-dilemma has led to discussions and debates that are encapsulated within the ‘War amongst the people’ arena.

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The Three Misunderstandings of Soviet Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan

Several major actions taken by the United States and coalition in the last 18 years share much in common with the efforts of the Soviet Union during its combat operations in the country (1979-1989). It is therefore incumbent upon any student of the current conflict to firmly understand the Soviet conflict, its doctrine, execution, and most importantly, the Soviet methods of counterinsurgency.

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Improving the Understanding of Political Legitimacy in COIN Doctrine

Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Doctrine was initially developed in the midst of the Iraq War as the military struggled to accept the situation it found itself in and struggled to create a strategy to address it. Initially published in 2004 as an interim doctrine, and then in 2006 as a completed publication, the Army and Marine Corps’ primary counterinsurgency doctrine has only been updated once since then.

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PLAN COLOMBIA: Learning from a Light-footprint “America Second” Military Strategy

The United States has intervened repeatedly in the southern hemisphere for a myriad of reasons, but primarily to address growing problems metastasizing at the “Southern strategic approaches” to American territory. While today’s problem of 2015-2020 is one of human mass migration, the previous crisis of 2000 to 2010 stemmed from of an epidemic of illicit drugs. This threat was so pernicious at that period, the United States felt compelled to act with our partner nation of Colombia. With a combination of all instruments of national power, a holistic strategy with a small but powerful military theme emerged.

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Revisiting an Alternative Approach to Fighting Small Wars: The Works of Charles Wolf Jr. and Nathan Leites, 1965 to 1970

All too often academics and practitioners concern themselves with the latest theory or framework addressing some aspect of security studies, in this case insurgency and counterinsurgency. An excessive focus on the “now” does a disservice to the knowledge and hard work of those thinkers who came before. Often times the “new” drowns out the voices of the recent past who may have pushed against the current tide and offered an alternative to what may have become common wisdom.

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