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Uncovering the French Origins of COIN

The history of COIN doctrine can be traced across Francophone Africa and Southeast Asia to better understand how it is used or misused today. Perhaps because many counterinsurgency tactics have evolved and been adapted away from those used in the nineteenth century, analysis of contemporary COIN often ignores the doctrine’s colonial origins. Doing so, however, fails to consider how the foundational assumptions of the doctrine may well still limit its successful application in the twenty-first century. This essay, accordingly, sets out to unearth the possible repercussions of adopting the heart of a doctrine without a firm understanding of its initial purpose, seeking to understand whether that is compatible with today’s geostrategic objectives.

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War By Other Means: An Examination of Clausewitz and Modern Terrorism

Clausewitz can help us to think about the historical evolution and present character of terrorism. A handful of scholars, notably M.L.R. Smith and Peter Neumann, have applied Clausewitzian ideas to terrorist campaigns. They show how his foundational idea of the “trinity”—composed of popular passion, military strategy, and political objectives—describes a terrorist cell just as readily as a conventional army or guerrilla outfit. As they describe it, terrorism is one option among many in the complex strategic environment of a decidedly weaker force struggling to “maximize its advantage vis-a-vis an opponent.” Here, Eric Fleury argues that terrorism is not merely one example of modern warfare among many that exhibits the continuing relevance of Clausewitz, but rather occupies a more fundamental role within his theory.

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Aristotle and Foreign Policy: An Examination of the Common Good and its Effects in International Affairs

The purpose of this essay is not to give Aristotelian warrant for some crude version of Realpolitik. Its purpose is to show the deep significance of the political common good, and that acting morally requires a robust notion of the common good. The implication, I believe, is that we cannot approach international politics from the neutral standpoint of an outside observer, but from the standpoint of citizens and statesmen within real and existing political communities which have their needs, desires, and fears. Abstraction from this standpoint, according to Aristotle, is a kind of abstraction from political and ethical thinking. Likewise, it is difficult to see how one can actually approach the problems of the international system as a citizen of the world, say, rather than as a citizen of a real place. Acting justly and prudently has to do with how we act toward our fellow citizens first and foremost, rather than the great undifferentiated mass of humanity.   Aristotle, then, gives a different account than Morgenthau regarding the place of the national interest. For while Morgenthau himself makes a deeply impassioned argument on behalf of the national interest with an eye toward alleviating the misery of totalizing war, Aristotle would remind us the fundamental purpose of the political community: the achievement of the common good. He reminds us that that pursuing the political common good is not the lesser of two evils, but rather a choiceworthy end, perhaps the most choiceworthy end.

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