Negotiating Counterinsurgency: The Politics of Civil-Military Coordination

The importance of civil-military cooperation has become a tenet of faith among scholars and practitioners or counterinsurgency, but, historically, effective cooperation has been a major challenge . While we tend to picture counterinsurgents as a unified actor with a single goal, the reality is that counterinsurgents are composed of multiple actors with distinct responsibilities . Due to the complexity of counterinsurgency campaigns, it is often the case that the actions preferred by one agent threaten the objectives of another. Coordination is hindered by often antagonistic preferences, undermining cooperation. This challenge often must be solved through the creation of command and control institutions which subordinates one set of interests to another.

The book adopts a principal-agent approach to examine two dimensions of command and control: Centralization vs. dispersion – or whether chains of command are integrated or maintained separately; and Delegation – whether policymakers give agents independent command authority or maintain control over strategy and operations. Through an analysis of a number of British and American campaigns, the most effective solution is a centralized, delegated command structure. When chains of command are maintained, coordination is hindered by independence. When policymakers maintain control over strategy, the restrictions they impose undermine strategic effectiveness.

The challenge of civil-military cooperation is highlighted through a survey of tensions in historical campaigns and the evolution of structures of command and control in the British Empire, and the United States. I examine South Africa, Ireland, Palestine, Malaya, Cyprus, and Oman, with extensions to Vietnam and the Philippines.

Article in-progress:Coordination or Control? Reassessing Civil-Military Cooperation during Counterinsurgency”

The Article, currently in progress, focuses on the impact of the famed British War Executive Committees in Palestine and Malaya. I show that the early versions of these committees, designed to facilitate discussion and cooperative planning, failed to promote coordinated campaigns in situations where civilian and military preferences were incompatible. The frustrations that resulted transformed competition over the strategic direction of the campaigns to a competition for command. In both cases, perceptions of strategic failure led British policymakers to centralize command in military authorities, resulting in integrated chains of command that overcame problems of cooperation.

Deterring Defection or Compelling Collaboration? The Multiple Logics of Violence against Non-Combatants

This project presents a theoretically-driven typology of the multiple logics behind non-combatant targeting during wartime. Specifically, I show that the use of collective targeting and collective punishments can be used in a number of distinct strategies, drawing on Thomas Schelling’s typology of violence and coercion, focusing on the distinction between strategies designed to deter defection, compel collaboration, and brute-force “drain the sea.”

I use the example of changing British strategies during the Palestinian Rebellion to highlight the differences in each logic and the conditions which are likely to render them more or less effective.

Saudi Arabia and the Arab-Israeli Peace Process

Saudi Arabia has been a leading Arab player in the Arab-Israeli peace process since the 1980s and the creation of the Fahd Plan. More recently, following 9/11, Crown Prince (and later King) Abdullah created the Arab Peace Initiative. Saudi leaders see the Arab-Israeli conflict as a source of three of distinct threats to the state’s security and the regime’s hold on power.  First is the emergence of domestic (especially Islamist) challenges to Saudi Policy, which is seen to be strongly pro-US and pro-Israel, undermining its Arab and Islamic legitimacy. Second is the ways in which support for the Palestinians and aggression towards Israel encourages a process of outbidding by regional rivals, at various times Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, which encourages conflict and undermines regional stability. Third is the ways in which Saudi Arabia’s negative image in the West, especially following 9/11, might undermine US support for Saudi security. Saudi rulers saw active leadership in the Arab-Israeli peace process as a way to simultaneously address all three challenges, rendering it an instance of “omnibalancing,” or the use of foreign policy to simultaneously address internal and external security threats.

Future Research

Plans for upcoming projects

Military Ineffectiveness in the Middle East

My next major research project will address the ongoing debate over the sources of military ineffectiveness among Middle East, especially Arab, armies. Recent research has adopted the conservative, culturalist trope arguing that deficiencies in Arab culture undermine their ability to train, coordinate, and fight. This research has ignored the recent structuralist turn demonstrating how regimes facing internal threats tend to create armies ill-adapted for conventional combat, while also adopting inconsistent theoretical foundations and orientalist conceptions of Arab inferiority.

I aim to extend the structural argument to explain variation in battlefield performance in the Middle East by examining the ways in which different internal security and coup-proofing strategies impact military preparedness and battlefield performance. The project will examine the performance of Arab armies, including Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq in successive wars against Israel (’48, ’67, and ’73) to compare different armies against a single adversary as well as changes in each army over time to show that the cultural argument fails to explain variation in battlefield performance. I will then extend the analysis to analyze variation in battlefield performance in recent conflicts in the Middle East including wars in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

Past research

contesting identities cover

My first book, Contesting Identities in South Sinai, examines the impact of Egyptian development policies in South Sinai on the culture and identity of the Bedouin tribes that inhabit the area, arguing that increasing state penetration has led to the emergence of a Bedouin “ethnic” identity mobilized to resist state policies that favor migrants and multinationals over local inhabitants, and that increasing stateness is failing to encourage national integration and the internationalization of national identities and ideologies.

%d bloggers like this: