Academic journal article Military Review

Bad Strategies: How Major Powers Fail in Counterinsurgency

Academic journal article Military Review

Bad Strategies: How Major Powers Fail in Counterinsurgency

Article excerpt

BAD STRATEGIES: How Major Powers Fail in Counterinsurgency, James S. Corum, Zenith Press, Minneapolis, MN, 2008, 304 pages, $28.00.

James S. Corum's Bad Strategies is a well-written, coherent argument that adaptive, flexible military organizations are necessary but insufficient to win against insurgents. Corum argues that the key to winning against insurgents is to have the right strategy in place. He further argues that democracies tend not be particularly effective in developing effective counterinsurgency strategies and in persevering to execute the strategies, at least in the case of insurgencies.

His conclusions are both cautionary and a prescription for actions democratic governments might take to preclude developing bad strategies and avoiding defeat. Perhaps the most useful of these is to avoid insurgency where possible by effective long-term strategic thinking in the first place and by seeking political accommodation when it appears that an insurgency will develop. Corum raises more questions than he answers in his conclusion, but this book is a worthy effort that contemporary officers and policy makers should read.

Corum considers four cases in developing his thesis--France in Algeria, Britain in Cyprus, and the United States in Vietnam and Iraq. Given the current American infatuation with David Galula, Corum's chapter on France is, in some ways, the most interesting. He asserts that France, including its political elite at the time, viewed losing Algeria as emotionally intolerable because Algeria was technically part of metropolitan France. That, along with the loss of Indochina, made the potential for losing Algeria unbearable. …

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