Monday, August 9, 2010

Great COIN read

Counterinsurgency’s Impossible Trilemma

We currently live in an epoch where there is often a tension between political ends and military means, which seems to have reduced the political effectiveness of the Western use of force in those contexts. If war as an instrument of foreign policy has become a less politically effective means, then its use should be drastically reconsidered. In a world where the most important goals of states are political and in which, as Rupert Smith correctly notes, military conflicts are fought ‘‘for the people,’’ it is not the development of new high-tech weapons and novel military strategies that secure victory. It is instead the political capacity of accepting and tolerating human costs, which is the key to winning these wars.

The impossible trilemma explains that to protect populations, which is necessary to defeat insurgencies, and to physically defeat an insurgency, forces must be sacrificed, risking the loss of domestic political support. Over the next few months, this is likely to become one of the most important challenges for the
Obama administration.

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