Counterinsurgency as Ideology - The evolution of expert knowledge production in U.S. asymmetric warfare (1898-2011): The cases of the Philippines, Vietnam and Iraq
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This PhD thesis examines the status of ‘expert knowledge’ in the history of U.S. asymmetric, or ‘counterinsurgency’ (COIN), warfare during the last century. The historical rise of expert influence has so far been neglected in the study of wars within the field of International Relations and the thesis will give us an indication of the importance and utility of expert knowledge. With a specific focus on the campaigns in the Philippines (1899-1902), Vietnam (1954-75) and Iraq (2003-11), the central research question guiding the project is as follows: “What were the conditions for the evolution, the constitution and the use of ‘outside’ expert knowledge in U.S. counterinsurgency campaigns?” The thesis claims that military and academic ‘experts’ had a key role in framing and implementing the problem-sets and solutions to these conflicts. They have, in Iraq in particular, played an important part in developing the campaigns’ ex-post-facto justification of success. Within the framework of organisational knowledge production, this knowledge does not necessarily play an instrumental role for the military. Instead, it can also serve a merely symbolic function, demonstrating to the audience and stakeholders within the political environment that the organisation is willing to solve the problems the insurgents pose, but without any interest in long-term utilisation of the knowledge. This thesis argues that across time, from the beginning of the Philippine-American War in 1898 to the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011, ‘counterinsurgency’ has developed from a tactical and operational tool, used instrumentally to fight insurgencies, to a strategy or even ‘ideology’ in its own right. Whilst the methods or techniques of counterinsurgency remain basically the same, expert knowledge is increasingly used in modern – that is post-World War II – campaigns to support a politico-strategic narrative.
Catignani, Sergio, Dr.
PhD in Strategy and Security