Insurgency and Counterinsurgency
- David J. BetzDavid J. BetzDepartment of War Studies, King's College London
The evolution of conceptions of insurgency and counterinsurgency can be traced across three periods: pre-Maoist, Maoist, and post-Maoist insurgency. The first and, arguably, the most influential theorist of insurgency was T.E. Lawrence, whose insights stemmed from his almost certainly exaggerated exploits in the Middle East in World War I. Lawrence described insurgency as a moral contest and not a physical one. Presaging later theorists of insurgency, he spoke of the necessity of a cause to motivate the insurgents. When analysts speak of “classical” insurgency they are referring to Maoist insurgency, whose strategic essence was the substitution “of propaganda for guns, subversion for air power, men for machines, space for mechanization, political for industrial mobilization.” Post-Maoist insurgency focuses on the “War on Terror” and its major campaigns. Three themes have emerged in insurgency research, which have gained more theoretical prominence and empirical grounding. The first is the notion that sound counterinsurgency depends upon good cultural understanding of the society in conflict. The second is the issue of reconstruction and development which is increasingly seen as the sine qua non of counterinsurgency. The third is the evolution of insurgency into the “virtual territories of the mind” caused by the advent of humanity in general into the Information Age.