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The Political Impossibility of Modern CounterinsurgencyStrategic Problems, Puzzles, and Paradoxes$
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David Jones and M.L.R. Smith

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231170000

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231170000.001.0001

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What Is Counterinsurgency Meant to Counter?

What Is Counterinsurgency Meant to Counter?

The Puzzle of Insurgency

(p.1) 1 What Is Counterinsurgency Meant to Counter?
The Political Impossibility of Modern Counterinsurgency

M.L.R. Smith

David Martin Jones

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines whether counterinsurgency possesses any unique attributes that distinguish it from the classical understanding of war. It begins by analyzing the meaning of the term insurgency, through the philosophy of Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz, in order to understand its logical utility. Classifying insurgency as a separate category of war is self-defeating, and the attempt to detach insurgency from a wider understanding of war commits five categorical errors: (1) it exceptionalizes certain phenomena in war; (2) it deprecates the philosophical study of war; (3) it decontextualizes instances of war; (4) it leads to overprescription in war, and (5) it destrategizes the understanding of war.

Keywords:   counterinsurgency, war, insurgency, Carl von Clausewitz, philosophy of war

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