Historically, insurgency is one of the most prevalent forms of armed conflict and it is likely to remain common in the foreseeable future. Recent experiences with counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan offer many lessons for future counterinsurgents, but the discourse on the subject continues to be mired in a traditional dichotomy pitting population-centric approaches to counterinsurgency against enemy-centric approaches. Historical analysis suggests that this traditional dichotomy is not a sufficiently nuanced way to understand or plan for such operations. Instead, discussions of counterinsurgency should focus on two dimensions: actions (use of physical force vs. political or moral actions) and targets (active insurgents vs. insurgent support). This perspective divides the space of possible counterinsurgency efforts into four quadrants, suggesting that effective counterinsurgency campaigns find a balance of effort across the four quadrants that is well matched to the specific context.
This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.
Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/research-integrity.
The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.