Article

Counterinsurgency

Ivan Arreguín-Toft

in International Relations

ISBN: 9780199743292
Published online March 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0064
Counterinsurgency

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As suggested by its name, “counterinsurgency” is defined as a set of strategies and practices intended to halt insurgency. “Insurgency,” in turn, generally refers to a broad set of strategies and practices (such as guerrilla warfare, terrorism, or nonviolent resistance) intended to destroy or replace an existing structure of authority. In this context, counterinsurgency’s proper focus is how to reestablish a given structure of authority. Variation in existing authority structures across space and time introduces variation in both the choice and effectiveness of counterinsurgency strategies: for example, a counterinsurgency expected to support an authoritarian authority structure may prove ineffective or counterproductive if used against a democratic one (the reverse proving true as well). Cultural differences also play a role, introducing important variation in how a given act of violence (or nonviolence) is interpreted across relevant audiences. Finally, the literature on counterinsurgency has become increasingly divided (since 2001) between academic and military-practitioner communities; leading to a great deal of duplication. General literature on counterinsurgency can be roughly divided into four periods: (1) those written in the early period, from ancient times until the end of World War I; (2) those written during the main period from 1919 to 1979, encompassing the two world wars and decolonization; (3) those written in the “gap” during 1980–2000, during which most students of strategy, security, and foreign policy turned their attention to major conventional and nuclear war; and (4) those written in the contemporary period from 2001 to the present, emerging primarily as a result of a series of spectacular attacks by transnational terror networks, by the Second Intifada in Palestine, and by the rise of insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Article.  5093 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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