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Counterinsurgency's Failures, from Afghanistan to Vietnam

Winning hearts and minds doesn't defeat insurgent groups, author Jacqueline Hazelton argues. So why does the United States still rely on counterinsurgency?
Bombs in Afghanistan
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About the Episode

After weeks of finger-pointing and accusations about the catastrophic US retreat from Afghanistan, we’re taking a step back to ask some big-picture questions. What if the problem isn’t the exit, but the strategy that started the intervention in the first place: counterinsurgency? US Naval War College author Jacqueline Hazelton joins Deep Dish to explain what went wrong and why we’re doomed to repeat our mistakes if we don’t shift strategies. 

Key Moments

  • Defining counterinsurgency doctrine (COIN) - 2:24
  • Elite politics vs. “Winning Hearts and Minds” - 7:19
  • Why its so hard for outside powers to influence local choices - 13:42
  • Civilians as tools  - 15:48
  • Breaking insurgents’ will to fight - 18:53
  • Use of force - 22:40
  • The Afghanistan case - 25:33
  • Policy lessons for the United States - 31:32

Reading List 

  • Jacqueline argues against the "Hearts-and-Minds Myth" for Foreign Affairs
  • Max Boot explains why "America Still Needs Counterinsurgency" in Foreign Affairs
  • How to think about counterinsurgency after Afghanistan from Defense One
About the Experts
Associate Professor, Department of Strategy and Policy, US Naval War College
Jacqueline Hazelton
Dr. Jacqueline Hazelton is an Associate Professor at the US Naval War College and the author of “Bullets Not Ballots: Success in Counterinsurgency Warfare.”
Jacqueline Hazelton
Vice President, Studies
Council expert Brian Hanson
Brian Hanson is the Vice President of Studies at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs with expertise in policy and politics. He oversees the Council's research operations and hosts the weekly podcast, Deep Dish on Global Affairs.
Council expert Brian Hanson

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