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Crafting a new counterinsurgency doctrine.

The new U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual has not only "raised the banner of human rights" but also "offers the most strategic approach to terrorism currently available within the U.S. government," according to Professor Sewall. Moreover, its principles should be adopted by civilian foreign affairs and national security professionals and leveraged into a broader and more effective national counterinsurgency framework including civilian agency capabilities to support it, she maintains.

Professor Sewall wrote the introduction to the University of Chicago's edition of the Manual, of which General David Petraeus was the principal author. She outlines its doctrine in this essay and finds great merit in it. This positive view is especially notable because she is not a Bush partisan, having served as a Defense Department deputy assistant secretary in the Clinton administration and as long-time foreign policy advisor to former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.

She acknowledges that because of Iraq, "it is understandable that the bureaucracy and public suspect that better counterinsurgency tools will be used offensively against governments, rather than defensively to support or mend them. ... Before civilians build counterinsurgency capability, they want to know what it is for." While calling for a national policy to tackle this issue head-on, she also points out that "as a method for stabilizing governments by enhancing their legitimacy, counterinsurgency is self-evidently not suited to destroying and replacing existing political systems." Moreover, she maintains that if the Foreign Service cannot meet the needs of counterinsurgency, "it risks irrelevance to the policies that matter most."

Summarizing, Professor Sewall writes that the Manual "provides more than military doctrine. It suggests how to fight and win the 'ideological struggle:' enshrine civilian protection, restrain the use of military power, and recognize the primacy of politics. It offers the rest of the government an opportunity to recalibrate its approach to terrorism and even its national security strategy. What a missed opportunity, then, if civilians fail to build upon it."

By Sarah Sewall, Director, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard

Reviewed by J. R. Bullington
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Author:Bullington, J.R.
Publication:American Diplomacy
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 25, 2007
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