The Global Rush to COIN

In noting the retirement of Australia’s Chief of Army Peter Leahy, Sam Roggeveen at The Interpreter points out that the gathering consensus among Western militaries emphasizing counterinsurgency-based force structures (of which Leahy was a proponent) is not necessarily well-suited to Asia’s potentially volatile realignment of power that is taking place between nation-states. Sam’s point is well-taken, and illustrates the dangers of pack thinking. I just got back from interviewing a French general who’s a vocal advocate of adapting the French force structure for “wars of proximity,” and it’s striking how rapidly and how widely COIN doctrine is winning acceptance, even if it still encounters dissent. The problem isn’t necessarily with the COIN tactics themselves (although it bears mentioning that they haven’t been thoroughly vetted yet), but with the way in which they’re being universally embraced. Military operations aren’t “one size fits all”, and a broad consensus on both the nature of the threats (the interaction between weakened states and domestic security) and the nature of the response (COIN wars) is as often the harbinger of a strategic surprise as it is the proof of an effective solution.

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