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Abstract

Insurgency has been the most prevalent form of armed conflict since at least 1949, as well as the subject of countless historical and contemporary studies. Contemporary discourse on the subject is voluminous and often contentious, but to date there has been a dearth of systematic evidence supporting the counterinsurgency (COIN) approaches, practices, and tenets that make for successful operations. Relying on a collection of the 30 most recent resolved insurgencies, along with a bank of factors that helped or hindered the COIN force in each case and in each phase of each case, several commonalities emerge. For instance, the data show that good COIN practices tend to “run in packs” and that the balance of selected good and bad practices perfectly predicts the outcome of a conflict. The importance of popular support is confirmed, but the ability to interdict tangible support (such as new personnel, materiel, and financing) is the single best predictor of COIN force success. Twenty distinct approaches to COIN are rigorously tested against the historical record, providing valuable lessons for U.S. engagement in and support for COIN operations. A companion volume, Victory Has a Thousand Fathers: Detailed Counterinsurgency Case Studies, presents in-depth profiles of each of the insurgencies.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    The Cases

  • Chapter Three

    Testing the Approaches to Counterinsurgency

  • Chapter Four

    Broader Findings

  • Chapter Five

    Conclusions and Recommendations

  • Appendix A

    Methods and Data

  • Appendix B

    Details of Qualitative Comparative Analysis

  • Appendix C

    Possible Criticisms of the Analyses and Response Commentary

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

This report is part of the RAND Corporation monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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