“Retribution Must Succeed Rebellion”: The Colonial Origins of Counterinsurgency Failure

  title={“Retribution Must Succeed Rebellion”: The Colonial Origins of Counterinsurgency Failure},
  author={Paul K. MacDonald},
  journal={International Organization},
  pages={253 - 286}
Abstract What can explain the decline in incumbent victory in counterinsurgency wars? Political scientists offer a variety of explanations for these trends. Some focus on the structure and doctrine of counterinsurgent forces, while others emphasize the lethality and motivation of insurgent adversaries. I challenge these explanations. Declines in incumbent victory in counterinsurgency wars are not driven by fundamental shifts in the character of these conflicts, but in the political context in… 
Bringing the Insurgents Back In: Early Wars in British India
What role do weaker actors play in determining the outcomes of irregular wars? The literature on counterinsurgency outcomes has tended to explain weak-side victory either as a result of informational
Why Allies Rebel
Why do powerful intervening militaries have such difficulty managing comparatively weak local partners in counterinsurgency wars? Set within the context of costly, large-scale military interventions
Force structure and counterinsurgency outcome: the case of the Cyprus Emergency (1955-1959)
ABSTRACT This article examines the Cyprus Emergency (1955–1959) to test the force structure thesis. According to the thesis, armies that deploy more manpower per armored vehicle would succeed in
Sex as the secret: counterinsurgency in Afghanistan
Abstract I explore the construction of women as the secret for the ‘successful’ prosecution of war in Afghanistan. To do so, I take up the mobilization of gender in the US counterinsurgency doctrine
Political Devolution and Resistance to Foreign Rule: A Natural Experiment
Do foreign occupiers face less resistance when they increase the level of native governing authority? Although this is a central question within the literature on foreign occupation and insurgency,
External Resources and Indiscriminate Violence: Evidence from German-Occupied Belarus
Within a single conflict, the scale of government violence against civilians can vary greatly—from mass atrocities in one village to eerie restraint in the next. This article argues that the scale of
Local Minorities in Counterinsurgency: U.S. Approaches to Baghdad and Saigon Regarding Marginalized Populations
  • Barbara Elias
  • Political Science
    Studies in Conflict & Terrorism
  • 2019
Abstract In counterinsurgencies, minority groups such as the Sunnis in Iraq are important elements of the “population,” the social–political terrain where population-centric counterinsurgency is
The Dynamics of Global Power Politics: A Framework for Analysis
We call for a research program focused on the dynamics of global power politics. Rather than link realpolitik to structural-realist theoretical frameworks or the putatively anarchical character of
Contentious colonies: The positional power of imperial peripheries
Abstract While structural models of empire have recently re-emerged in the theoretical debates in the field of International Relations, a lack of attention has been paid to peripheral actors therein.
Stability abroad, instability at home? Changing UN peace operations and civil–military relations in Global South troop contributing countries
ABSTRACT This article highlights the domestic effects of the ongoing changes in United Nations peacekeeping practice on troop contributing states from the Global South. It juxtaposes scholarship on


Rage Against the Machines: Explaining Outcomes in Counterinsurgency Wars
Abstract During the nineteenth century, states routinely defeated insurgent foes. Over the twentieth century, however, this pattern reversed itself, with states increasingly less likely to defeat
Why Big Nations Lose Small Wars: The Politics of Asymmetric Conflict
The Vietnam and Algerian wars have demonstrated that the overwhelming conventional military superiority of major powers is no guarantee against their defeat in wars against small nations. For
Desperate Times, Desperate Measures: The Causes of Civilian Victimization in War
Despite normative and legal injunctions against targeting civilians in war, as well as doubts regarding the effectiveness of such strategies, belligerents have frequently turned their guns on
Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War
An influential conventional wisdom holds that civil wars proliferated rapidly with the end of the Cold War and that the root cause of many or most of these has been ethnic and religious antagonisms.
The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism
During the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, while key decisions were debated by the victorious Allied powers, a multitude of smaller nations and colonies held their breath, waiting to see how their
Covenants without the Sword: International Law and the Protection of Civilians in Times of War
Do the international laws of war effectively protect civilian populations from deliberate attack? In a statistical analysis of all interstate wars from 1900 to 2003 the authors find no evidence that
An Autopsy of the Iraq Debacle: Policy Failure or Bridge Too Far?
This article examines whether the outbreak of an insurgency after the U.S. invasion of Iraq was an avoidable policy failure or whether the structural conditions surrounding the occupation made such
Westmoreland was right: learning the wrong lessons from the Vietnam War
More than thirty years after the fall of Saigon, historians still argue about the lessons of the Vietnam War. Most fall into two schools of thought: those who believe that the United States failed to
How Democracies Lose Small Wars: State, Society, and the Failures of France in Algeria, Israel in Lebanon, and the United States in Vietnam
1. Introduction 2. Military superiority and victory in small wars: historical observations 3. The structural original of defiance: the middle-class, the marketplace of ideas, and the normative gap 4.
Constraints on America's Conduct of Small Wars
It is the characteristic military dilemma of a world power that it finds itself forced to prepare for two entirely different kinds of wars, large-scale conflicts on the continent of Europe, on the