Academic journal article Military Review

FIGHTING THE WAR ON TERROR: A Counterinsurgency Strategy

Academic journal article Military Review

FIGHTING THE WAR ON TERROR: A Counterinsurgency Strategy

Article excerpt

FIGHTING THE WAR ON TERROR: A Counterinsurgency Strategy, James S. Corum, Zenith Press, St. Paul, MN, 2007,304 pages, $25.95.

Insurgencies-conflicts in which factions attempt to take over state power by force-have been around almost as long as there have been organized states. In fact, James S. Corum asserts that insurgency is one of the most common types of conflict. Through detailed historical analysis utilizing his extensive background as a historian and military intelligence officer, Corum advances a superbly researched, well-articulated, and convincing argument that there is nothing fundamentally new in counterinsurgency, but that the United States nevertheless remains ill-prepared to execute it. According to Corum, this is so because "war remains a highly human and personal activity, and no amount of social theory or technological development will change that."

Skillfully drawing on relevant historical events, Corum explains why insurgents cannot be defeated by the rapid, decisive campaigns preferred by a U.S. doctrine that remains rooted in the cold war. He recounts how forces employing a superior longterm strategy often defeat insurgents, citing the United States' experience in the Philippines, France's in Algeria, and the United Kingdom's in Malaya. For counterpoint, he discusses unsuccessful attempts by the United States in Vietnam, Somalia, Haiti, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Corum believes the United States is still fighting like it did during the cold war, with an emphasis on high-tech weapon systems and intelligence-gathering methods rather than on more effective medium to low-tech capabilities, ground forces, and human intelligence. A poor human-intelligence capability, Corum argues, is a prescription for disaster. Until we address these deficiencies, we are doomed to repeat historical mistakes made in combating insurgencies, and enemies will continue to target American weakness (i.e., the lack of forces, organization, doctrine, and strategy to fight insurgencies).

Fighting the War on Terror sets forth actions necessary to engage future insurgencies successfully. …

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