"Low-Cost Trigger-Pullers"

The Politics of Policing in the Context of Contemporary 'State Building' and Counterinsurgency

by William Rosenau

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The ongoing counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have alerted U.S. policymakers and practitioners to the importance of civilian police in countering insurgent movements. Although the role of the police in counterinsurgency is receiving greater attention, there are at least three critical shortcomings in the understanding of the role of the police forces to the current practice of counterinsurgency and 'state building' or nation building. First, counterinsurgents have failed to appreciate the fundamentally political nature of external assistance to 'host nation' police forces. Second, counterinsurgents have allowed, and at times encouraged, embattled governments to misuse civilian police forces, with serious negative consequences. Finally, a state-centric view of the overall approach to counterinsurgency has resulted in ignoring, or at best minimising, the withering of the 'state'. This has, in turn, ensured that that the important role that 'non-statutory' structures could play in providing the public safety services necessary has not even begun to be considered with any degree of seriousness.

The research in this report was prepared for the United States Communications Agency and conducted by the RAND National Security Division.

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