Tuesday 14 Aug 2018 | 05:19 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 14 Aug 2018 | 05:19 | SYDNEY

COIN and security: Chicken or egg?


Mark O'Neill

19 August 2009 14:01

Peter Wilson’s post correctly highlights the complexities of counterinsurgency campaigning. However, his assertion that '(t)raditional military campaign plans…are woefully ill-equipped to manage such complexity' is baseless. 

Military campaign plans are developed precisely because of the requirement to manage complexity. The campaign plan is the vehicle whereby the elements of strategy – method, means and political ends — are orchestrated to produce a harmonious effect. 

Sound military campaign plans are exhaustingly comprehensive. The relative success of the surge in Iraq under General Petraeus was not delivered by any combination of 'counterinsurgency experts' (surely a questionable title worthy of further detailed analysis), 'security sector reform experts' or developmental agencies.  It happened through the development and execution of a 'traditional military campaign plan' under appropriate leadership.

Having denied the utility of the campaign plan, Wilson’s proposed solution is:

We need a cross-disciplinary approach, involving counter-insurgency and security sector reform experts and learning from specialists in institutional development, change management, strategy and economics who have long studied the challenges of making strategy in complex environments. 

This will do absolutely nothing to address the most immediate and fundamental imperative of any counterinsurgency campaign – the provision of secure environment. Nothing is possible without it. And it has never been delivered, in any conflict, without an adequate campaign plan. Which is why experts talk of security sector reform and COIN professionals speak of security and campaign plans.

Photo by Flickr user keith stanski, used under a Creative Commons license.