Counterterrorism vs. Counterinsurgency

Jul 8th, 2010 | By | Category: Africa, Asia, Book Reviews, Clothing, Cultural, Equipment, Europe, Historical, Latin America, Mexico, Middle East, Military/LE, North America, Psychological, Sociological, Strategies, Tactics

Even after having fought terrorism and insurgencies for more than 150 years, the military and the Capitol still have problems defining the difference between counter-terrorism (CoTer) and counter-insurgency (CoIn). And, in understanding the differences constructing and conducting appropriate responses.

According to the US Army/US Marine Counterinsurgency Field Manual:

Insurgency is an organized movement aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government through the use of subversion and armed conflict.

The definition of terrorism is much more convoluted as terrorism has been used by every insurgency throughout history to topple a government by coercing the ruling government to increase controls of its citizenry, thus creating increased popular disaffection, in an ever-increasing cycle that leads to major uprising by the majority against the ruling government.

The best definition for terrorism I’ve been able to find is the one by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI):

Terrorism is the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a Government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.

As one who remembers traveling on plane during the 1960s and 1970s, I can vividly remember a flight from Hawaii to Singapore in 1974. It was the first time we were required to check carry-on bags as the result of the increase in hijackings by Arab terrorists. It was also the day that I was told it was exactly what the hijackers wanted to happen in the United States: effecting daily routines of the American people.

In a time when we’re now required to arrive so many hours before departure, with full-body scans and metal detectors, it seems like a much more innocent and relaxed time in America, and International society, for that matter—cause the ruling government to respond terrorist actions by actions and laws not previously in place.

Now that we know what insurgency and terrorism are. Let’s move on to counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. This is what’s been perplexing the governments for years…and there’s a very good reason this.

To follow the traditional definition of “terrorism”, and therefore create a campaign of “counterterrorism”, brings into the question the difference between a “terrorist” and a “freedom fighter”.

Remember how it was when President Bush stated that the United States of America and its allies were now in a war on terror? And recall how much trouble the President Obama’s administration wouldn’t even call it the “War on Terror”? Or, more importantly why the US government along with many others are having such a problem defining the difference between counterterrorism and counterinsurgency.

Part of the problem, is that the terrorists depict themselves as revolutionaries, when in fact they are only terrorists. They’re trying to say that by using past techniques they are the same. On one level they’re right. Many of the techniques and tactics, though with technology nowhere as advanced, have been used in terrorism in the past by “guerrilla” movements and revolutionaries, such as the American and French revolutionaries, the Viet Cong, and the Bolsheviks that created many present governments.

What the present major type of terrorist is ignoring is that most of the “terrorist” attacks were directed at the military. In the French, Vietnamese and American insurrections, attacks were predominantly against the government and then against the local populace loyal to the prior government.

What we have now in the new terrorists is a tool used by a new global insurgent—the religious fanatical global insurgent. Unlike the American and French Revolutionary (both insurgents were occupied with home rule), yet very much like the Bolshevik Revolutionary, which saw Russia as only a first step, this terrorist is focused on the whole populace with an objective of turning the world into an Islamic state…much like the past militant Leninist and Stalinist following Marxist rhetoric.

In the past, the national insurgent was occupied with creating fear locally. This new global insurgent, on the other hand, uses the terrorist to create fear and modify the actions of local governments, and the interactions between the world’s governments.

Also, unlike the spreading of Communism that was fueled by terrorist acts committed by insurgents in countries throughout Latin America, Asia and Africa, not to mention the Red Brigades in Japan and Germany, had focused on taking political power. The Islamic global terrorist, on the other hand is focused on simply creating mayhem and fear amongst the populace…and that includes not only in the US, Russia and Europe, but within the Islamic nations, such as Arabia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The separation of the definition is between Al Queda and the Taliban; and the Sunnis and their ilk, and say the Hamas, which is not only a terrorist organization, but a political party. Fighting a political party that has terrorism wing is a lot easier than fighting a global jihad that has not intention of taking anything, only creating wave of hysteria and fear, often using tactics contrary to the very religion they espouse.

Effectively implementing CoTer and CoIn, takes into the account these differences and doesn’t get sucked into focusing on CoTer when CoIn is more appropriate, and vice versa.

© Rigel Media 2010

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