America's Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam

By Hanley, John C. | Military Review, July-August 2016 | Go to article overview

America's Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam


Hanley, John C., Military Review


AMERICA'S MODERN WARS

Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam

Christopher A. Lawrence, Casemate Publishers, Havertown, Pennsylvania, 2015, 376 pages

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Analyzing the outcomes of historical events can assist leaders in their future decision-making processes. Christopher Lawrence provides a well-researched and well-analyzed study of the nature of insurgencies and guerrilla warfare since World War II. He conducted his analysis in conjunction with The Dupuy Institute's long-term insurgency research. Their research provides a unique quantitative historical analysis of this subject using a wide array of influencing factors to anticipate the outcome of a particular type of insurgency. However, Lawrence does not dismiss the unpredictability of the human element in his conclusions.

Over the past forty years, strategic and tactical counterinsurgency thinking has had limited advancement. The author looked at a number of variables that affected the outcomes of insurgencies as a means to advance knowledge in this area. Specifically, the author uses data from numerous cases since World War II to illustrate how selected variables have affected the outcomes of insurgencies and counterinsurgencies. He also examines conditions where there was no decisive winner. His analysis includes comparing and contrasting specific variables (e.g., terrain, location, sanctuary, and others) and, then, considers thoughts from renowned insurgency theorists. Overwhelmingly, the data he analyzed proves that force ratios and insurgent causes are the two most important factors that influence insurgencies.

The author and the Dupuy Institute use selected models to predict the outcomes of insurgencies. The results of these models continually produce patterns showing that the motivation of insurgents and high force ratios are key factors that influence success in either insurgencies or counterinsurgencies. Taking into consideration these two key variables, along with the results of his studies, Lawrence argues that the United States has engaged in counterinsurgencies with half or less of an optimum number of forces.

During the Gulf War in 1990-1991, the Dupuy Institute used their combat model to provide multiple casualty estimates to the U. …

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