Rhetoric or reality : US counterinsurgency policy reconsidered

by Maurice L. Todd

Institution: University of St. Andrews
Year: 2015
Keywords: 287 ; Insurgency ; Counterinsurgency ; Philippines ; Greece ; Greek Civil War ; Huk Rebellion ; Truman Doctrine ; Cold War ; US foreign policy ; Military assistance ; Nation building ; Marshall Plan ; Covert action ; Central Intelligence Agency ; CIA ; Office of Policy Coordination ; OPC ; Edward Lansdale ; Ramon Magsaysay ; Office of Strategic Services ; OSS ; Guerilla ; Intelligence ; Intervention ; Civic action ; Psychological warfare ; US Army ; Case study ; Process tracing ; Strategic influence operations ; Propaganda ; National security ; US counterinsurgency policy ; US counterinsurgency doctrine ; Counterinsurgency – Government policy – United States ; Counterinsurgency – Case studies ; United States – Military policy ; Greece – History – Civil War, 1944-1949 ; Philippines – History – 1946-1986
Record ID: 1410549
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10023/6431


This study explores the foundations of US counterinsurgency policy and doctrine in order to better understand the main historical influences on that policy and doctrine and how those influences have informed the current US approach to counterinsurgency. The results of this study indicate the US experience in counterinsurgency during the Greek Civil War and the Huk Rebellion in the Philippines had a significant influence on the development of US counterinsurgency policy and doctrine following World War II through the Kennedy presidency. In addition, despite a major diversion from the lessons of Greece and the Philippines during the Vietnam War, the lessons were re-institutionalized in US counterinsurgency policy and doctrine following the war and continue to have significant influence today, though in a highly sanitized and, therefore, misleading form. As a result, a major disconnect has developed between the “rhetoric and reality” of US counterinsurgency policy. This disconnect has resulted from the fact that many references that provide a more complete and accurate picture of the actual policies and actions taken to successfully defeat the insurgencies have remained out of the reach of non-government researchers and the general public. Accordingly, many subsequent studies of counterinsurgency overlook, or only provide a cursory treatment of, aspects that may have had a critical impact on the success of past US counterinsurgency operations. One such aspect is the role of US direct intervention in the internal affairs of a supported country. Another is the role of covert action operations in support of counterinsurgency operations. As a result, the counterinsurgency policies and doctrines that have been developed over the years are largely based on false assumptions, a flawed understanding of the facts, and a misunderstanding of the contexts concerning the cases because of misleading, or at least seriously incomplete, portrayals of the counterinsurgency operations.