WARNING: There will be a test.
The US Department of Defense and its representatives continually use the word Counterinsurgency, or its acronym COIN, to describe the US efforts to secure, pacify and stabilize various countries such as Vietnam in the 60’s and Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia currently.
But we also know that the Pentagon is known around the world for invading, occupying and destabilizing countries. Many people around the world correctly recognize that “offense” doesn’t mean “defense” and that “destabilize” doesn’t mean “stabilize.” All Americans recognize that “security” doesn’t mean “insecurity.”
But what about the term Counterinsurgency? Do we give the Pentagon a bye on this particular word, when we know that all their other definitions are pure horsepucky? Should we just blindly accept that what US forces are doing in other countries is Counterinsurgency, and that US opponents are dead-enders, terrorists and insurgents?
Of course not. At JWN nobody gets a free ride where the truth is concerned.
Let’s look at the DOD Dictionary for two definitions:
counterinsurgency: Those military, paramilitary, political, economic, psychological, and civic actions taken by a government to defeat insurgency. Also called COIN.
insurgency: An organized movement aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government through use of subversion and armed conflict.
Well, slap me upside the head. It looks like according to the Pentagon’s own definitions that when the US overthrows a constituted government it is an insurgency! Son of a gun.
And when this insurgency results in a foreign military occupation that is resisted, which is quite natural and something you or I would do, then it’s not a counterinsurgency, it’s something else. There is no counterinsurgency, according to the DOD definition.
To stress the point, the resistance to the occupation resulting from the insurgency cannot itself be an insurgency, and therefore there can be no counterinsurgency (susequent to the initial resistance of the invaded government to defeat the US military).
This makes it crystal clear that General David Petraeus’s book on counterinsurgency, US Army Field Manual FM 3-24, “Counterinsurgency,” is really a book on, firstly, how to conduct an insurgency, undercutting any resilient government resistance, and mostly on how to overcome the subsequent occupation resistance. It is not a book on counterinsurgency.
We knew it all the time, didn’t we. The Pentagon is perfectly consistent in its reversal of the meanings of common terms.
Now the test, and no peeking:
1. COIN is-
a. something you throw in a fountain
b. a revolt of the counter help at McDonald’s
c. a government’s efforts to preserve itself
2. An insurgency is –
a. an emergency incision
b. resistance to US military forces
c. an overthrow of a constituted government
3. The Pentagon gets high marks for –
a. military success
c. consistency in fabrication
If you guessed, er, chose all the answers that begin with one of Helena’s initials you maxed the test. Congratulations!
Don Bacon is a retired army officer who founded the Smedley Butler Society several years ago because, as General Butler said, war is a racket.