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Counterinsurgencies for Dummies

Been reading U.S. Army Counterinsurgency and Contingency Operations Doctrine, 1942-1976. This is a well-written and thoughtful work on the subject, which has been very much in vogue over the last few years. Interest is waning fast at the moment, as the US Army disengages from Iraq and Afghanistan, but perhaps it will not be as complete as after the war in Vietnam, when the US Army took steps to erase the memory of that conflict. (Much like, Jeff reminded me, how the British Army after the Great War decided that fighting the finest army in the world was not "real soldiering".)

The book notes the lessons of the experience in the conflicts of the 1942-76 period, which recurred monotonously, and more or less fall into the category of "patently evident if not blindingly obvious but unacknowledeged":

(1) American theories of nation building were "somewhat tenuous"; "utterly wrong" would be another way of putting it. The assumption that improving economic conditions would improve stability proved hopelessly wrong and completely counterproductive. The "revolution of rising expectations" proved to be another "myth". Most people rejected modernization and economic development in general. Astonishingly, there are still people today who are want to claim that eradicating poverty will help fight terrorism. History teaches us the reverse.

(2) The assumption that American values were exportable or even effective was "misguided". Most attempts to export American values failed, which was actually fortunate, as they invariably produced negative consequences. The idea that the middle class would promote stability and democracy proved false. Democracy in particular proved to be an ill-advised and fatally flawed concept. This seems glaringly obvious today in the wake of 9/11 and Iraq, with democracy on the nose around the globe, but should have been learned before.

(3) That outsiders could correctly diagnose the ills of a foreign society was "simplistic" and "materialistic", when not naive or arrogant. Peoples of the world turned out to be opposed to "progress", quite satisfied with their own way of life, and resistant to outside remedies.

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