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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Are We all Clausewitians Now? Reflections on the Work of John Keegan

“I have not been in a battle; not near one, nor heard one from afar, nor seen the aftermath.”  Thus John Keegan, later Sir John, began his landmark book, The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme, published in 1976.  Despite this bit of caution, Keegan’s book was immediately hailed as a classic; one that conveyed what the experiences of combat was like for the participants, above all the common soldier. 

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