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From Belfast to Basra: Britain and the 'tri-partite counter-insurgency model'

By Andrew Mumford


Counter-insurgency assumed a status during the twentieth century as one of the British military‟s fortes. A wealth of asymmetric warfare experience was accumulated after World War Two, as the small wars of decolonisation offered the army of a fading imperial power the opportunity to regularly deploy against an irregular enemy. Yet this quantity of experience has been misguidedly conflated with quality. This thesis holds that the British, far from being the counter-insurgent exemplars that history has benevolently cast them, have in fact consistently proven to be slow learners and slow strategic burners in the realm of counter-insurgency warfare.\ud The case study-based nature of this thesis, utilising the chronologically and geographically dispersed examples of Malaya (1948-60), Kenya (1952-60), South Yemen (1962-67), the first decade of the Northern Irish „Troubles‟ (1969-79), culminates with an analysis of the recent British counter-insurgency campaign in southern Iraq (2003-09).\ud This thesis will blend historical narrative with critical analysis in order to establish a new paradigm through which to interpret and analyse British inertia in counter-insurgency and help unpack the mythology of inherent British competence in the realm of irregular warfare. Three major dimensions emerge. These elements constitute a „Tri-Partite Counter-Insurgency Model‟, and were carefully selected as comprising the major causal and impacting factors contributing to success or failure in counter-insurgency, and were settled upon after an exhaustive review of primary and secondary literature relating to counter-insurgency, both historical and doctrinal. The Tri-Partite Model is constructed by three interactive and interdependent factors: the counter-insurgent, the insurgent, and the international political context

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