I hate to keep hinting at a big, earth-shaking post that I keep not writing, but this bit in particular just absolutely nails something that I think is absolutely essential to understanding COIN in a broader context and to talking and writing about it in an accurate, honest way:
Yet for counterinsurgency, people do sometimes ask ‘what is the one key ingredient’? The answer is, menus do not work like that, and neither did the Malayan Emergency. There were distinct phases or stages. I would argue that many other insurgencies are also likely to have distinct stages, and indeed that within a single insurgency different provinces or regions may be at different stages at any one time. It is quite possible that Helmand and Herat, Kandahar and Nangarhar, could simultaneously be at very different stages, requiring very different policies.
The question above, therefore, encompasses what I would like to dub the ‘temporal fallacy’ (that policies abstracted from one defining moment might be equally valid in qualitatively different phases), and the spatial fallacy (that different geographic regions will be in the same phase, so allowing a single strategy for a country no matter how fractured and diverse).Much popular writing and most military messaging about counterinsurgency is guilty of both the termporal fallacy and the spatial fallacy; whether this is a matter of disingenuous manipulation of public and political opinion or innocent but misleading oversimplification is still something of an open question.