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Puncturing the Counterinsurgency Myth: Britain and Irregular Warfare in the Past, Present, and Future


Puncturing the Counterinsurgency Myth: Britain and Irregular Warfare in the Past, Present, and Future - Cover

Authored by Dr. Andrew Mumford.

September 2011

38 Pages

Brief Synopsis

This monograph holds that an aura of mythology has surrounded conventional academic and military perceptions of British performance in the realm of irregular warfare. It identifies 10 myths regarding British counterinsurgency performance and seeks to puncture them by critically assessing the efficacy of the British way of counterinsurgency from the much-vaunted, yet over-hyped, Malayan Emergency to the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq in 2009. It challenges perceptions of the British military as an effective learning institution when it comes to irregular warfare and critically assesses traditional British counterinsurgency strategic maxims regarding hearts and minds and minimum force.

Summary

Britain’s numerous counterinsurgency campaigns in the post-World War II era have resulted in a generally accepted academic assessment that this volume of experience equates to competence in the realm of irregular warfare. However, the British response to the complexities of 21st century insurgencies, particularly in their decentralized and globally networked form, has threatened to expose this competency as a colonial-era myth. Quantity of counterinsurgency combat experience has not equated to outright quality.

We cannot understand the British process of relearning counterinsurgency since the beginning of the War on Terror unless certain axiomatic elements are first exposed. This monograph sets forth 10 myths of British counterinsurgency performance and learning. First among these is the allegation that the British have always been fast learners. However, the early phases of nearly every campaign in the classical era were marred by stagnancy, mismanagement, and confusion. Indeed, this trend reveals a second painful myth regarding British counterinsurgency conduct, namely, the alleged British perceptivity in COIN strategic planning. The preponderance of template solutions, however, arguably stemming from the over-hyped Malaya blueprint, has contributed to a process of biased selectivity when it comes to imbibing doctrine and disseminating a lesson-learning program. Simply, Mumford concludes on the basis of such myths as the two above that the British scorecard in counterinsurgency campaigns is not as impressive as recent credulous historiography would have us believe.


Access Full Report [PDF]: Puncturing the Counterinsurgency Myth: Britain and Irregular Warfare in the Past, Present, and Future



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