Counterinsurgency in a Test Tube

Analyzing the Success of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI)

by Russell W. Glenn

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With a matter of weeks to prepare, Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) personnel landed on July 24, 2003, armed for conflict but equally ready to restore peace without firing a shot in anger. RAMSI’s aim was to assist the existing government in reestablishing order and rebuilding this island nation plagued by escalating militia violence, crime, and corruption. RAMSI police forces, with the much larger military component in a supporting role, were patrolling the streets alongside their Solomon Islands counterparts on the very day of arrival. This and many other early actions on the part of RAMSI leadership presented a clear and cohesive message that would characterize operations from that day forward: RAMSI had not come to take charge through the use of force, though it had the capability to do so; it had come to assist and protect. This study reviews the remarkable successes, and the few admitted shortcomings, of RAMSI operations through the lens of broader application to current and future counterinsurgency efforts. Foremost among these lessons is the need for consistency of mission and message from leadership down to the lowest echelons of an operation, ensuring that the population is appropriately and consistently informed.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Background and Brief History of Operation Helpem Fren, the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI)

  • Chapter Two

    Considering the Nature of Insurgency and Counterinsurgency

  • Chapter Three

    July 2003 Solomon Islands as an Insurgency: Participant Perspectives

  • Chapter Four

    Successful COIN: Three Crucial Conditions

  • Chapter Five

    RAMSI: Was It a Counterinsurgency?

  • Chapter Six

    Fitting the RAMSI Square Peg into the World’s Round Holes

The research described in this report was prepared for the United States Joint Forces Command. The research was conducted in the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, 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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