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Situating global counterinsurgency


After World War II, in order to reduce the probability of nuclear and massive conventional war, the U.S. provided police training to allies in order to reify their aspirations for liberal self-determination while addressing political stability. As a tool of global counterinsurgency, police training helped accomplish those goals in part but also caused unanticipated problems. Too often, police oppressed those whom they were supposed to protect. Shortly after, some of the philosophy and tactics of counterinsurgency-through-policing migrated into U.S. law enforcement institutions. But despite this migration, U.S. law enforcement efforts cannot be reduced to counterinsurgency surreptitiously foisted upon vulnerable U.S. citizens. Citizens and elected politicians exert substantial influence over law enforcement institutions

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    Stewart Schrader, Badges without Borders: How global counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing (Oakland: University of California Press, 2019) 41.

  2. 2.

    Schrader, Badges without Borders,2ff.

  3. 3.

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    T.R. Fehrenbach, This Kind of War: The Classic Korean War History (New York: Macmillan, 1963) x.

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    William Inboden, "Statecraft, Decision-Making, and the Varieties of Historical Experience: A Taxonomy," Journal of Strategic Studies 37, 2 (November 2013): 298.

  6. 6.

    Ernest Hemmingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls (New York: Scribner, 1968) 103, 106.

  7. 7.

    Thanks to Clements Center Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. deRaismes Combes, whose exploration of the difference between the objectives of 19th-20th century French Counterinsurgency and 21st century U.S. counterinsurgency has helped me shape and clarify my ideas and evaluation of counterinsurgency in general, and of the U.S. experience in both Iraq and Afghanistan in particular. 

  8. 8.

    Gary Beckman, Hittite Diplomatic Texts, 2nd ed. (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1999) 19–20.

  9. 9.

    Beckman, Hittite Diplomatic Texts, 21.

  10. 10.

    Schrader, Badges without Borders, 79–112. While this chapter is largely dedicated to tracing institutional and philosophical changes toward security projection, Schrader notes several of the locations where security assistance went awry, like South America and Vietnam.

  11. 11.

    Andy Hinds, “Why Does My Kids’ Elementary School Need a Tank?” The Daily Beast, Sept. 13, 2014. Sept. 14, 2014. Adam Nagourney, “Police Armored Vehicle is Unwelcome in California College Town,” New York Times, Sept. 14, 2014.

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    “Some Wisconsin Police are Returning Military Vehicles,” Military Times, April 2, 2018. “San Diego Unified School District to Return Armored Personnel Vehicle to Department of Defense,” News Release from San Diego Unified School District, Sept. 18, 2014.

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Correspondence to Paul Edgar.

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Edgar, P. Situating global counterinsurgency. Int Polit Rev 8, 32–40 (2020).

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  • Insurgency
  • Counterinsurgency
  • Riots
  • Race
  • Police
  • Liberal