Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

COIN at Yale

Yale political scientist Nicholas Sambanis and a couple of his homeys had an article in Science magazine (May 18, 2012 issue) titled "Parochialism as a Central Challenge in Counterinsurgency." I am pretty sure I don’t understand the article well, because I am not familiar with the political science literature on parochialism. But I can read, ...

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Yale political scientist Nicholas Sambanis and a couple of his homeys had an article in Science magazine (May 18, 2012 issue) titled "Parochialism as a Central Challenge in Counterinsurgency."

I am pretty sure I don't understand the article well, because I am not familiar with the political science literature on parochialism. But I can read, and it seems to me that  core conclusions of the article are that:

--Counterinsurgency is harder and more complex than it looks.

Yale political scientist Nicholas Sambanis and a couple of his homeys had an article in Science magazine (May 18, 2012 issue) titled "Parochialism as a Central Challenge in Counterinsurgency."

I am pretty sure I don’t understand the article well, because I am not familiar with the political science literature on parochialism. But I can read, and it seems to me that  core conclusions of the article are that:

–Counterinsurgency is harder and more complex than it looks.

— It was only partially responsible (at best) for the decrease in violence in Iraq in 2007.

–It didn’t work in Afghanistan.

I think anyone who spent time on the ground in either war would find those conclusions uncontroversial.

My one problem with the article is that it assumes that the counterinsurgent desires peace, and that this is the goal of any counterinsurgency campaign. But I suspect that for many people, the central goal of the American COIN campaign in Iraq in 2007-08 was to extricate the U.S. military from Iraq in a way that didn’t look like the Americans were just running away. I think that if that was indeed the case then, whatever ultimately happens in Iraq, then the 2007-08 COIN campaign succeeded.

(HT to JB)

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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