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.