The British Approach to Counterinsurgency: From Malaya and by Paul Dixon (eds.)

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By Paul Dixon (eds.)

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Extra resources for The British Approach to Counterinsurgency: From Malaya and Northern Ireland to Iraq and Afghanistan

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US politicians and military adopted the phrase ‘hearts and minds’ to describe their approach to counterinsurgency in Vietnam, but the phrase concealed the reality of a far more conventional and coercive approach (Hunt Chapter 8). The US approach to counterinsurgency included: the strategic hamlet programme (moving villagers into guarded camps); poisoning the rice crop; assassination campaigns (including the controversial Phoenix programme which set a monthly quota of guerrillas to be ‘neutralized’ and has been rehabilitated by some modern US supporters of counterinsurgency); saturation bombing (more bombs were dropped on Vietnam than in all previous conflicts combined); and designating free-fire zones where anything living was presumed to be hostile (Young 2007; Hunt Chapter 8.

The British approach in Afghanistan In Afghanistan the British and other NATO forces have generally attempted to pursue a different approach to counterinsurgency than that of the United States. Although there have also been differences within the British army and between regiments over the use of force. Generally speaking the Labour government tended to favour a more political rather than military approach to managing the conflict. The British have been more willing than the US to contemplate reconciliation and a negotiated settlement with the neo-Taliban, although this was a sensitive issue particularly for the US (Chapter 11; Cowper-Coles 2011: 120; The Times 5 October 2008; The Observer 23 March 2009).

In a highly controversial interview in October 2006, General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, publicly declared that the British should withdraw from Iraq ‘sometime soon’ because the army’s presence was exacerbating the situation. (Daily Mail 12 October 2006; Dixon Chapter 3). 28 The British Approach to Counterinsurgency For Dannatt, Iraq was a ‘bad’ war because it was an invasion and occupation. Afghanistan, by contrast, was the ‘good war’: party, media and public opinion were behind the war and the British operated with the consent of the elected President.

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