Mar 22, 2007
RAND Counterinsurgency Study -- Paper 1
Published Feb 4, 2007
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Current U.S. counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy has relied heavily on the use of force against Islamist insurgents — a tactic that has increased their ranks. What is needed instead are stronger cognitive capabilities that will enable more effective COIN against an elusive, decentralized, and highly motivated insurgency — capabilities that will enable the United States to “fight smarter.” Cognitive COIN goes beyond information technology and encompasses comprehension, reasoning, and decisionmaking, the components that are most effective against an enemy that is quick to adapt, transform, and regenerate. Countering the challenges of a global insurgency demands the ability to understand it, shape popular attitudes about it, and act directly against it. The four cognitive abilities that are most important to COIN operations are anticipation, opportunism, decision speed, and learning in action, applied through rapid-adaptive decisionmaking. In 21st-century COIN, tight control and bureaucracy must yield to the power of networked intelligence, with each operative authorized to act, react, and adapt. With these notions as a backdrop, this paper offers concrete ideas for gaining the cognitive advantage in anticipating and countering the new global insurgency.