15 July 2010

Overlooked Insurgencies

The recent events in Belfast, Northern Ireland--which have injured scores of people--have led me to think about insurgencies, policing actions, and other "minor" conflicts often overlooked in popular military studies.

With the US military's recent emphasis on counterinsurgency and policing actions, scores of books have examined "small wars" in Malaysia, Vietnam, Algeria, and the Hejaz War of 1916.  Still, there are far more conflicts worth studying, with the actions in Northern Ireland being among the most valuable, and the narco-insurgency in Colombia being a close second.  My regular readers also know that I also draw a lot of parallels between modern counterinsurgency and the American Revolution.

(As an aside, I'd argue foremost among the lessons worth drawing from Northern Ireland is that the tensions between Protestants and Catholics have little to do with religion, per se, but with deeper-rooted, more practical motivations, such as economic factors and political power-sharing.  For example, unemployment among Catholic youths in Northern Ireland has skyrocketed in recent years, according to the New York Times.  I've long believed a similar situation exists in the Muslim world, with religion used largely as an excuse, not a motivator, for violence)

What other "minor" conflicts are often overlooked in contemporary military studies?


Aitor said...

Actually, one often overlooked conflict that I feel might shed light on future COIN actions is Spain's efforts to combat ETA. Ethnic divisons and political identity in the region are not easily defined along religious grounds or even linguistic lines, yet they are very real and animate the local population. Also, the Basque conflict provides some case study examples of what not to do - state-sponsored death squads, cracking down on cultural groups, etc.


russ greene said...

Colombia is a huge point.

Notable that it has been a huge counter-insurgency success while being nearly a complete failure as a counter-narcotics effort. The FARC has been decimated, yet coca production remains just as high.

Also, the US role in it provides an alternative view of COIN; one with a much lighter footprint and pricetag.

Madhu said...

Starbuck - how about the Punjabi insurgency of the 80s and how the diaspora in the West was a key enabler of said Indian insurgency?

(I don't know if I've got that right, I don't study these things for real, you know!)

Madhu said...

Hey, look at this paper I found by C. Fair:


"How are diasporas involved in ethnic conflict in their homelands? This paper from the United States Institute of Peace examines the role of diasporas in north India’s Punjab insurgency and Sri Lanka’s Tamil insurgency. Both Sikhs and Tamils have mobilised financial, diplomatic, social and religious support. But while the Sikh diaspora has never developed a sophisticated over-arching structure, the Tamils have created an infrastructure with considerable global scope and strateg."

Muy interestante, no?

Renato said...

This reminds me the security problems in Rio de Janeiro. There aren´t any political or religious components, just a skirmishes between drug dealers and police resulting in hundreds or casualties por year.