Storm Troopers Draining the Swamps? On the Relationship between Conventional and Unconventional Military Effectiveness

Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 24 Jul 2012

See all articles by Ulrich Pilster

Ulrich Pilster

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Tobias Boehmelt

ETH Zürich

Date Written: 2011

Abstract

Policymakers increasingly express concern about possible trade-offs in military effectiveness between counterinsurgency (COIN) operations and conventional interstate wars. However, the literature lacks systematic theoretical accounts or thorough empirical analyses for this. As a first step toward addressing this gap, this paper draws upon the concepts of organizational learning and develops an argument on how optimizing a country’s military doctrine, i.e., its force structure and military routine, for one type of warfare might affect its performance in the other. Here, the authors first contend that countries’ involvement in and experiences from past COIN operations negatively influence military effectiveness in current interstate wars.

Second, they also claim that this holds the other way round, i.e., previous interstate war involvements and experiences make it less likely that states actually win their present COIN operations. For testing the derived hypotheses, the paper employs a quantitative framework that addresses the claimed simultaneity between conventional and unconventional military effectiveness and introduces explanatory variables therein, which capture the organizational experiences of national militaries in those different kinds of conflict. The results indicate that countries’ involvement in conventional wars is likely to hamper effective COINs, but not vice versa.

Keywords: Conventional Interstate Wars; Unconventional Counterinsurgency Operations; Military Effectiveness; Organizational Learning

Suggested Citation

Pilster, Ulrich and Boehmelt, Tobias, Storm Troopers Draining the Swamps? On the Relationship between Conventional and Unconventional Military Effectiveness (2011). APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1900787

Ulrich Pilster

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Tobias Boehmelt (Contact Author)

ETH Zürich ( email )

Zürichbergstrasse 18
8092 Zurich, CH-1015
Switzerland

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