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Not Getting This….

Dr. Bernard Finel, explaining his views on COIN theory:

….I am not wholly convinced as a matter of ontology that there exists a coherent phenomena that can be termed “insurgency.” My sense, instead, is that there are various sub-state armed threats that exists to states, several of which we usually lump in together under the rubric of insurgency, but which have very different causes and consequences, and hence require different strategic approaches.  I am not just referring, by the way, to the various motivations for “insurgency” – i.e. religious vs. leftist vs. ethnic – but also that there are at least some groups that have strategic orientations quite at odds from the image of an organized group with ambitions to replace the existing government.

Just a few examples:  Some of what we call insurgency is simple criminality.  There is no desire to replace the state for these groups, but rather  just to weaken the state so that it cannot enforce laws, etc.  There are also other economically motivated groups – those who profit from the existence of conflict and seek to continue it for that reason.  For these groups, promoting conflict is more important than pursuing victory.

Why are submaximum strategic goals (i.e. something < regime change) an indicator of “non-insurgency” ? I think this standard would eliminate most of the popular uprisings in recorded history – for every Taiping Rebellion or Emelian Pugachev, there’s a dozen smaller, hopeless, desperate, peasant revolts.

Why the implicit use of the Maoist model as the defining characteristic of “insurgency”? That is, to the extent Bernard considers insurgency to exist. 

4 Responses to “Not Getting This….”

  1. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    The distinctions would seem to relate with goals.  "Insurgency" may imply a general commonality, perhaps a common vision, for at least the removal of a regime if not also for the creation of a new type of regime or system..The groups that work for economic reasons, or to profit from continual conflict, may not be composed of people who share common visions.  I would think that most of the ground troops (so to speak) are largely self-interested and that they would often fall in different niches.  These niches may work in combination to weaken the state or destroy the state; the top-level figures may have some ulterior goals and more or less common vision with other such leaders — or, may be competitors w/ the other leaders; but such an uprising or structural development would not be very much like the first example..Different orientations probably would require different responses in the so-called counter-insurgency, if not entirely different then different in some key aspects.  Whether it is easier to break up a crime-based/economy-based system or an ideology-based/religious insurgency may depend on the case and the numbers of individuals involved..Maybe his point is to point out the futility of defining all these (and whatever other varieties of social unrest) under the universal "insurgency" because then the temptation to define "counter-insurgency" as a universally applicable strategy is too great.

  2. Joseph Fouche Says:

    I’ve been quelling an insurgency among the sales team at work all week. They dissented from the engineering department’s recommended last week and have been insufferable ever since. However, things have turned around. I’ve found that establishing small engineering outposts and living with the sales team is helping to bring them around to the engineering department’s perspective. After achieving some degree of interdepartmental reconciliation, we can proceed with building proper IT governance in sales and begin reconstruction projects to win their hearts (minds in sales is a stretch). Engineering purists would argue that engineering should just ignore sales and proceed with our own departmental goals irregardless. I suspect Finel would argue that any effort at engaging the sales team is due to failure due to their incompatible and alien culture. They have their own culture and we should respect it. Unfortunately, I don’t know how engineering neutrality would show up on our corporate balance sheet. However, I will have avoided the sin of intervention over too small a goal.

  3. morgan Says:

    Joseph, and you did this without have to utilize kinetic methods. The COINISTAS will be proud.

  4. Larry Dunbar Says:

    Motivation, hmmmm, could be. The word motivation is a domain with perpendicular structural forces. If you take the structural forces Ying and Yang they are not two linear forces opposing or attracting each other, they represent two forces perpendicular to each other with the same motivation. This motivation creates the structure called, let’s say, the human social media. Labeling one an insurgency and the other an incumbent; red team or blue team; or however you want to label the perpendicular forces is useful in structuring an image of what we are talking about, but maybe it is not accurate. Care is needed to identify not only the motivation, but the structural forces within a “movement” of quantum energy. Once the perpendicular forces are identified, a structure forms the image of the movement associated with the motivation. Quantum energy is more of an association within a domain of a movement, than force at a distance. Perpendicular forces within a domain create a structural image, if not an actual command and control structure. In the case of academia motivation, a gap is formed by the command and control forces, a tipping point is reached somewhere in the gap between student and teacher, and a judgment is made between emotion and non-emotion motivation. From this moment of inertia, a student becomes (or not) the teacher or Doctor. The thing is, to be structural forces, they need to come from the same force, and that force is the ethics of the movement.  Ethics creates both the command and control (logic) forces of a single association. If the ethics are different (instead of either just attractive or repulsive forces), then you have two different associations (civil war) and not an insurgency. Of course once one “movement” joins the other, they form an insurgency, similar to what happened when the southern democrats joined the red team. While the first Civil War in the USA may have started out as an insurgency of incumbent forces (the gray), the ethics changed between the forces and it became a civil war. The change in ethics was a planned strategic move, Boydian in nature. It was an escape from a single OODA loop, with the motivation to form two loops, one of greater strength than the other. Up until that point they were both pieces of the same puzzle.

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