U.S. Strategic Culture and the Genesis of Counterinsurgency Doctrine


  • Jan Beneš Charles University, Prague


Counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine is a very special strategy in the art of war, which involves significantly different tactics than does conventional warfare. U.S. doctrine for combat against insurgents has gone through several changes, the most dramatic of which occurred after 9/11, when the U.S. military faced a new kind of enemy: a global network of fighters, often described as a “global insurgency.” This paper traces the genesis and further development of modern U.S. COIN doctrine. It asks two main questions: How has U.S. COIN doctrine changed after the 9/11 attack? How have its methods, organization and execution changed during the War on Terror? The author assumes that the driving force behind the development of U.S. COIN doctrine is an inter-subjective interpretation of the enemy, the threats and the situation on the battlefield, which can be described as a “strategic culture.” This article uses strategic culture to analyze the genesis and development of modern U.S. COIN doctrine. It also traces the changes in military tactics, strategic priorities and operational procedures that have occurred since 9/11. The author suggests that there have been three phases in the development of U.S. COIN doctrine during the War on Terror: Shock and Awe, Population-centric COIN and Targeted COIN. These phases reveal how the U.S. military has reacted to the emerging challenges it faces.

Keywords: United States; counterinsurgency; strategic culture; War on Terror; Afghanistan; Iraq

DOI: 10.14712/23363231.2017.18