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Deconstructing counter-insurgency: COIN discourse and the devaluation of strategy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Celeste Ward Gventer, David Martin Jones, M. L. R. Smith

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)348-372
Number of pages25
JournalCambridge Review of International Affairs
Issue number3
Early online date13 Aug 2013
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2015

King's Authors


Observers have begun to scrutinize the prominence of counter-insurgency (COIN) in the military, security and political discourse of the major Western powers, questioning whether COIN's precepts account for its claimed successes and whether they offer valid policy prescriptions. The key research questions this study seeks to examine, however, are of a more theoretical nature: what is COIN exactly, what are its conceptual underpinnings and why has what might otherwise be regarded as an obscure military doctrine gained such public notoriety? The examination explores whether COIN can be said to constitute a strategy and analyses the sometimes problematic aspects of COIN theorization. Ultimately, this analysis suggests that when the contemporary discourse of COIN is unpacked and deconstructed the phenomenon presents itself as a number of unrelated ideas that when put together in a single package offer a consoling narrative to both military and political constituencies about the purpose of Western involvement in often unpopular external entanglements in an age of relative neo-imperial decline.

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