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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: June 2014

11 - Conclusion


This book has made several arguments: First, the claim that COIN constitutes a separate category of warfare, one made at least since the 1840s by generations of small wars enthusiasts, is contentious at best. The assertion that COIN be considered in its own conflict category is rooted in a rejection of the Clausewitzian character of war in favor of a Jominian posture of determinism with tactics and operational methods (grand tactics), or a half-baked culturalist or meta-anthropological approach substituting for a cohesive, balanced policy and strategy rooted in sound constitutional practice and statecraft. Tactically and operationally, colonial warfare, of which COIN is the lineal descendant, required forces designed for mobility, an aptitude for independent small-unit actions, and the ability to master logistical challenges over great distances. Its adherents were and continue to be tacticians who eschew the imponderables of war made up of politics and mass psychology. Beyond these order of battle prescriptions, the hearts and minds methods of the nineteenth century based on the self-advertised cultural knowledge required for the peaceful penetration and governance of colonial territories boiled down to nothing more than the application of an Orientalized Western view of indigenous societies as immutable tribal affiliations that had either to be “improved” or preserved from contamination, depending on the political views of the respective officer-administrator. COIN writings of both the mid twentieth and the twenty-first centuries have followed these nineteenth-century trailblazers to a remarkable degree, in that they emphasize the political character of their population-centric, information warfare, Phase IV/Stability Operations, hearts and minds, aid to the civil power, and so on, tactics. But like their imperial predecessors, contemporary COIN-dinistas are basically romantics, whose strategic communications target politics and society at home while they profess to apply paternalistic theories onto biddable populations required to show gratitude for their improved conditions by outing pistoleros, bandits, terrorists, and insurgents in their midst.