COIN: A Study of Strategic Illusion
Small Wars & Insurgencies, 26:3, 345-376, 2015.
40 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2015 Last revised: 15 Dec 2015
Date Written: March 12, 2015
Has the United States military become a learning institution, one able to transition from relying on a conventional war model to fighting against irregular adversaries such as insurgents and terrorists? This paper examines the United States’ interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan in an effort to respond to this question. It shows that there are two major ways for a military to fail to be a learning” institution: It may stick to its old dogma or — acquire a new one but one that is unrealistic. Those who saw counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine as the best way to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan made the US military into a learning organization but-- taught it the wrong lesson. They failed to take into account the absence of the sociological conditions that make a post-conflict environment amenable to nation-building — which is an integral part of the main variants of counterinsurgency. The paper closes by outlining the foremost reasons the US military continues to be a poorly adaptive organization.
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