IRG member Dr. David Ucko has an essay in the current edition of Orbis (Spring 2008, not yet online), the policy journal of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Entitled Innovation or Inertia: The U.S. Military and the Learning of Counterinsurgency, it provides an assessment of how well the US is adapting to the lessons learned from its recent counterinsurgency campaigns, and the extent to which necessary changes are being institutionalised.
Following its encounter with insurgent violence in Iraq, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has sought to improve the U.S. military’s ability to conduct counterinsurgency. This effort suggests a potential turning-point in the history of the U.S. military, which has traditionally devoted its attention and resources to ‘‘high-intensity’’ or ‘‘conventional’’ combat. Given this institutional culture, what are now the prospects of the U.S. military ‘learning counterinsurgency’? In many ways, the ongoing reorientation is promising and targeted, informed directly by the U.S. campaign in Iraq. At the same time, Pentagon priorities still reveal a remarkable resistance to change, and this in spite of the radically altered strategic environment of the War on Terror. Given this intransigence – and the eventual fallout from the troubled Iraq campaign – the ongoing learning of counterinsurgency might very well fail to produce the type of deep-rooted change needed to truly transform the U.S. military.
Frank Hoffman has written a review of the essay on the Small Wars Journal site, available here.
The full essay is accessible below: