Western counterinsurgency doctrine proposes that cultural intelligence is an important requirement for those forces operating amidst the unfamiliar socio-political structures often found in distant conflict zones. Yet while the determination to understand the intricate nature of alien societies may appear a rational undertaking in such circumstances, Christian Tripodi argues that these endeavours rarely help deliver success. The frictions of war and the complex human, cultural and political 'terrain' of the operating environment render such efforts highly problematic. In their attempts to generate and instrumentalize local knowledge for the purpose of exerting influence and control, western military actors are drawn into the unwelcome realm of counterinsurgency as a form of political warfare. Their operating environment now becomes a space charged with phenomena that they rarely comprehend, rarely even see and which they struggle to exert any meaningful control over. All in pursuit of a victory that might literally mean nothing.
1. Culture warriors; 2. Themes and issues; 3. Knowledge, influence and control from the Imperial era to the modern day; 4. 'Peaceful penetration' on the north west frontier 1919-1939; 5. 'Hearts and minds' vs French revolutionary war: Algeria 1954-1962; 6. Pacification in Vietnam 1964-1972; 7. Political warfare in Iraq: Al Anbar and Basra 2006-2009; 8. Political warfare in Afghanistan: Helmand province 2006-2012; Conclusion.
Christian Tripodi is a Senior Lecturer at the Defence Studies Department, King's College London. He is the author of Edge of Empire: The British Political Officer and Tribal Administration on the North-West Frontier 1877–1947 (2011).
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