The U.S. Military and Counterinsurgency: What We Have Learned in Iraq and Afghanistan

November 2, 2006

America’s conventional military supremacy has failed to deliver decisive results against irregular forces employing unconventional military tactics. The U.S. military learned some useful counterinsurgency lessons in Vietnam but had completely forgotten those lessons by the end of the Cold War. Military leaders and defense experts are attempting to resurrect some of those old ideas, while also developing new approaches to counterinsurgency in the age of transnational terrorism. Are there deeper cultural problems that prevent the U.S. military from waging effective counterinsurgency campaigns? Does the American public have the will to risk American lives on such operations, and is the public prepared to wage limited, indecisive military campaigns for long periods of time? What lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan might be applied to future conflicts?

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