On ''Other War''

Lessons from Five Decades of RAND Counterinsurgency Research

by Austin Long

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The challenges posed by insurgency and instability have proved difficult to surmount. This difficulty may embolden future opponents to embrace insurgency in combating the United States. Both the current and future conduct of the war on terror demand that the United States improve its ability to conduct counterinsurgency (COIN) operations. This study makes recommendations for improving COIN based on RAND’s decades-long study of it.

First, organization for COIN must be improved. The Provincial Reconstruction Team model that has been implemented in parts of Iraq and Afghanistan is a good start, but does not go far enough. This model, which unites U.S. civilian and military personnel with local government, should be expanded and made the basis for current and future COIN efforts. Second, amnesty and reward programs should be implemented or expanded. These programs push insurgents out of the movement without having to fight them literally to the last person. A new study of insurgent motivation and morale should also be undertaken. Third, given the cross-border elements of insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan, border security systems should be studied for both conflicts. Finally, pacification efforts should be focused on the lowest political echelons and combined with census-taking and national identification cards.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    The Wizards of Less-Than-Armageddon: RAND and COIN

  • Chapter Three

    Analogies and War: Are Theory and Empirics from Prior COIN Relevant?

  • Chapter Four

    COIN Theory: What Are Insurgencies and How Does One Fight Them?

  • Chapter Five

    The Social Scientists’ Wars: RAND and COIN Practice

  • Chapter Six

    COIN Old and New

  • Appendix

    RAND Counterinsurgency Publications, 1955-1995: Selected Annotated Bibliography

Book Review Excerpts

"This monograph succinctly summarizes lessons learned again and again in Malaya, Vietnam, Algeria, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and other conflicts in the post-World War Two erra. In six short chapters, Long constructs what is essentially a paradigm for the conduct of counterinsurgency (COIN)… It is of great importance that the lessons summarized in this monograph be incorporated in pre-deployment training so that the actions of US combatants do not become counter-productive to the overall effort (witness the lasting impact of the 2004–2004 Abu Ghraib Prison abuses)… Conventional forces, if they are to be effective in current and future conflict, need to better understand and employ the lessons encapsulated in this book."

- Air Power History, Spring 2008

"[An] essential work for any scholar of small wars and counterinsurgency. Long's 'On Other War' contains a wealth of information on doctrinal development and two excellent bibliographies of counterinsurgency publications."

- Journal of Military History, October 2007

The research described in this report was prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The research was conducted in the the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the OSD, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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