Authored in 2006, the U.S. Army and Marine Corps’ counterinsurgency field manual essentially enshrined counterinsurgency as nation-building in U.S. military doctrine. But in both Iraq and Afghanistan, we learned that this approach required a prodigious effort without commensurate returns. The COIN doctrine’s failure in actual practice is due as much to its misguided premises as to any failures in their tactical application.

Counterinsurgency: A New Doctrine's Fading Allure

By , , Feature

The first page of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps’ Field Manual 3-24 (.pdf), entitled “Counterinsurgency,” states, "Soldiers and Marines are expected to be nation-builders as well as warriors." Authored in 2006 by Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, now the director of the CIA, and Lt. Gen. James F. Amos, currently the commandant of the Marine Corps, the manual essentially enshrined counterinsurgency as nation-building in U.S. military doctrine. This required U.S. soldiers and marines to undertake, in roughly proportionate measure, five tasks: safeguard the indigenous population, improve democratic governance, combat corruption, deliver economic projects and institute the rule of law as understood in the Western tradition.

Academia and the mainstream press applauded the military’s enlightenment. Normally intended for officers preparing to lead forces in combat, the COIN manual became the first military field manual to be reviewed positively by a Harvard professor in the New York Times Sunday Book Review. The military, which heretofore had enjoyed predominantly conservative support, was now feted by liberal commentators as well. ...

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