America's Modern Wars - Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam, Christopher A. Lawrence

America's Modern Wars - Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam, Christopher A. Lawrence

This is a largely statistical study of post-war counterinsurgency warfare, looking at a large number of conflicts and a series of possible reasons for the success or failure of the insurgents. This covers areas such as force ratios, use of elections or rules of engagement, and attempts to produce some conclusions that can be supported by hard evidence.

There are occasions when one feels that the human element is being ignored. As an example, the statistics suggest that population control methods actually increase the chance of an insurgent victory. The authors suggest that this is counter-intuitive, but I disagree. Most of these efforts to control a potentially hostile population have involved large scale forced population movements, surely just the sort of arrogant behaviour that is going to turn people against the existing regime and towards the insurgents.

There isn't much qualitative analysis of the wider data set of insurgencies. I'd have liked a bit more examination of why some conflicts ended as they did, especially when they don't fit the pattern. I'd have also liked more examination of the validity of an insurgency's aims – there is an overall classification into three types – regional, nationalist and 'overarching theory' (generally Communist), but these aren't quite the same as the different between a campaign against a brutal dictatorship or a vicious uprising such as the Shining Path or FARC. There is plenty of use of the statistical analysis to see how an insurgency can be defeated, and no effort to look at the moral reasons for supporting or opposing insurgencies – the basic assumption is that defeating an insurgency is the correct outcome.

Despite these quibbles, the authors do make a compelling case. You can break their conclusions down into several key comments. First, high force ratios are important – the counterinsurgency forces need to significantly outnumber the rebels. Second, insurgencies must be defeated before they get too large – once the commitment by external or internal counterinsurgency forces reaches a  key percentage of the national populations, the rebels normally win. Third, external support doesn't always help – democracies are better off fighting insurgents without external support.

1 - The Iraq Casualty Estimate
2 - The Art and Science of Counterinsurgency Warfare Studies
3 - The Acid Test: Predicting the Present
4 - Force Ratios Really Do Matter
5 - Cause Really is Important
6 - The Two Together Seem Really Important
7 - Other Similar Work
8 - Outside Support and Structure of Insurgencies
9 - Rules of Engagement and Measures of Brutality
10 - Sanctuaries, Border Barriers and Population Resettlement
11 - Estimating Insurgent Force Size
12 - The Value of Elections
13 - The Influence of Terrain on Insurgencies
14 - Other Issues
15 - The Burden of War
16 - A Model of Insurgencies
17 - Other Theorists
18 - The Other Side
19 - Withdrawal and War Termination
20 - Relating a Force Ratio Model to Iraq
21 - Relating a Force Ratio Model to Afghanistan
22 - Relating a Force Ratio Model to Vietnam
23 - Conclusion
24 - Where Do We Go From Here?
25 - A Tale of Two Books

1 - Briefing Slides from January 2005
2 - The Bosnia Casualty Estimate
3 - List of Cases
4 - Force Ratios
5 - Force Ratios as Divided by Political Concept
6 - Results of Testing the Model back to Data
7 - Characteristics of Selected Modern COIN Barriers
8 - List of all 83 Cases by Indigenous Government Type, The Presence of Elections, Duration, Winner and Type of Insurgency
9 - Staying the Course (an analysis of duration of insurgencies)
10 - Data on 62 Insurgencies used for the Test of Anthony James Joes Theory

Author: Christopher A. Lawrence
Edition: Hardcover
Publisher: Casemate
Year: 2015

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