Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Negotiating Counterinsurgency: The Politics of Strategic Adaptation
by Goodman, Joshua Ross, Ph.D., Yale University, 2018, 738; 10957325
Abstract (Summary)

What explains the tendency of counterinsurgents to adopt and retain ineffective strategies? Under what conditions do counterinsurgents replace ineffective strategies and what factors shape the strategies eventually adopted? While most studies explaining poor counterinsurgent performance focus on the preferences and pathologies of military organizations, I shift attention to civilian policymakers, explaining strategic choice as the product of their political preferences and the wider political and grand strategic pressures they face. By distinguishing between policymaking principals and bureaucratic agents tasked with implementing strategy, two challenges to successful adaptation can be identified: the challenge of decision, in which policymakers must overcome pressures to retain existing strategies, and implementation, in which policymakers must ensure agents tasked with implementing strategy comply with strategic directives. A solution to each is individually necessary, and together they are jointly sufficient for adaptation.

Counterinsurgency strategy is selected by policymaking principals who arbitrate between the competing recommendations of their bureaucratic agents and advisors. Because policymaker preferences are shaped by their wide responsibilities, an important determinant of counterinsurgency strategy is to be found in the way strategy impacts policymakers' core interests, notably their wider foreign policy objectives and their political security, both of which shape the objectives and strategies of a counterinsurgency campaign. As long as the political and geostrategic pressures that led counterinsurgents to select current strategies persist, counterinsurgents retain ineffective strategy. When domestic political or geostrategic changes lead policymakers to perceive that existing strategies have become liabilities for these higher priority issues, their preferences shift in favor of alternate strategies. Policymakers also face the challenge of ensuring all agents implement policymakers' preferred strategy rather than pursue their own preferred ends using their preferred means. The most effective solution is to empower a single agent, whose preferences most closely align with those of policymakers, to direct the campaign.

I combine comparative analysis and process tracing, drawing on case studies from the 20th century British Empire. Beginning in the British Mandate for Palestine, I draw on a most similar comparison of two phases of the Palestinian Rebellion (1936, 1937-39) and the Jewish Rebellion (1945-1947), each demonstrating a different outcome: 1936 represents a case of successful decision but failed implementation; 1938 represents a case of successful decision and successful implementation; and 1946-7 represents a case of failed decision. Each is then matched to a most-different extension from Malaya and Ireland.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Wood, Elisabeth J.
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 79/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Middle Eastern history, International Relations, Military history
Keywords: British Empire, Counterinsurgency, Palestine, Policymaking, Strategic Studies
Publication Number: 10957325
ISBN: 978-0-438-27370-2
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