A collection of essays on counterinsurgency highlighting the “cognitive dissonance” in foreign policy of America's refusal to acknowledge the implications of its chosen role as successor to Europe's colonial powers.
Editor Gurman (Foreign Relations/NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study; The Dissent Papers: The Voices of Diplomats in the Cold War and Beyond, 2012) focuses the collection on “the self-serving mythology” that has been the main feature of the doctrine adopted under Gen. David Petraeus in 2006, which justifies ongoing wars while “omitting grimmer details” of the campaigns. The contributors offer different areas of expertise. Gurman's piece on the Vietnam War serves as a kind of conceptual bridge to the essays of historians Karl Hack (The Open Univ., United Kingdom) and Vina A. Lanzona (Univ. of Hawaii, Manoa) on the early Cold War campaigns against communist insurgents in, respectively, Malaya and the Philippines; pieces written by filmmaker Rick Rowley and McClatchy Syria bureau chief David Enders on the Iraq War; and essays on the war in Afghanistan by American history professor Jeremy Kuzmarov and GlobalPost correspondent Jean MacKenzie. Collectively, they present a convincing argument that the Vietnam War subsumed the population-control methods employed in the U.K.'s Malayan campaign and the war against Huk insurgents in the Philippines—relocation and resettlement, food control, collective punishment—under the large-scale deployment of some of the military's most destructive weaponry. This combination of “force and coercion,” as Gurman writers, was also employed in Iraq and Afghanistan “to dislocate the population and dismantle the social structure of the countryside.” The essays trace the legacies of imperial methods, especially British ones, and detail the indigenous populations' responses to those methods.
These sharp criticisms of the methods and consequences of counterinsurgency campaigns merit serious consideration.