Hearts and Minds: A People's History of Counterinsurgency

Overview


The first book of its kind, Hearts and Minds is a scathing response to the grand narrative of U.S. counterinsurgency, in which warfare is defined not by military might alone but by winning the "hearts and minds" of civilians. Dormant as a tactic since the days of the Vietnam War, in 2006 the U.S. Army drafted a new field manual heralding the resurrection of counterinsurgency as a primary military engagement strategy; counterinsurgency campaigns followed in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the fact that ...
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Hearts and Minds: A People's History of Counterinsurgency

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Overview


The first book of its kind, Hearts and Minds is a scathing response to the grand narrative of U.S. counterinsurgency, in which warfare is defined not by military might alone but by winning the "hearts and minds" of civilians. Dormant as a tactic since the days of the Vietnam War, in 2006 the U.S. Army drafted a new field manual heralding the resurrection of counterinsurgency as a primary military engagement strategy; counterinsurgency campaigns followed in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the fact that counterinsurgency had utterly failed to account for the actual lived experiences of the people whose hearts and minds America had sought to win.

Drawing on leading thinkers in the field and using key examples from Malaya, the Philippines, Vietnam, El Salvador, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Hearts and Minds brings a long-overdue focus on the many civilians caught up in these conflicts. Both urgent and timely, this important book challenges the idea of a neat divide between insurgents and the populations from which they emerge—and should be required reading for anyone engaged in the most important contemporary debates over U.S. military policy.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
08/12/2013
N.Y.U. Professor Gurman compiles essays on counterinsurgency (COIN), defined as efforts to “eliminate an uprising against a government” and whose chief aim is “to separate the insurgents from the population.” COIN is traced from the Kennedy administration all the way back to Lawrence of Arabia. Contributing authors appraise COIN in countries from Malaya (Malaysia), the Philippines, and Vietnam, to El Salvador, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and discuss various intimidating and punitive COIN tactics, including psychological warfare, night raids, police sweeps, targeted assassinations, scorched-earth campaigns, and softer techniques like the use of state-of-the-art technologies and close cooperation between military and civilian intelligence agencies. Emphasis is placed on the fact that, historically, COIN operations often worsen the “climate of misery” in war-torn nations, yet their effects are sometimes downplayed to conceal “the grisly reality on the ground.” Less attention, notably, is given to COIN successes, leading one to wonder if there have been any. Overall, the book leaves readers with a distinct impression of the difficulties of quelling insurrection when rebels, in Mao’s words, “move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea.” (Oct.)
From the Publisher

"Counterinsurgency is a tactical phoenix, dying only to rise again, ever-ready to win hearts and minds for the American empire. This essential volume makes it possible to understand the past and prepare for the next time the siren song of counterinsurgency is sung."
—Marilyn Young

"Hannah Gurman has assembled a groundbreaking volume filled with fresh perspectives and revealing insights. If you want to understand America’s recent debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hearts and Minds is essential reading.”
—Nick Turse, author of Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam

"Essential reading for anyone who wants to see beyond the illusions about counterinsurgency warfare that the U.S. and British governments and media have sold their people. These histories show that, despite decades of occupations and well-funded and well-lauded strategic thinking, the hearts and minds of the occupied have remained beyond their militaries’ ken and control."
—Catherine Lutz, author of The Bases of Empire and a contributor to The Counter-Counterinsurgency Manual

"With America creeping toward military intervention in the Syrian civil war, Hannah Gurman’s volume comes at an opportune time. While generals offer up moralistic bromides about protecting foreign populations at the barrel of an American gun, Hearts and Minds lays bare the brutal and destructive truth behind American military activism in the world."
—Colonel Gian Gentile

Kirkus Reviews
A collection of essays on counterinsurgency highlighting the "cognitive dissonance" in foreign policy of America's refusal to acknowledge the implications of its chosen role as successor to Europe's colonial powers. Editor Gurman (Foreign Relations/NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study; The Dissent Papers: The Voices of Diplomats in the Cold War and Beyond, 2012) focuses the collection on "the self-serving mythology" that has been the main feature of the doctrine adopted under Gen. David Petraeus in 2006, which justifies ongoing wars while "omitting grimmer details" of the campaigns. The contributors offer different areas of expertise. Gurman's piece on the Vietnam War serves as a kind of conceptual bridge to the essays of historians Karl Hack (The Open Univ., United Kingdom) and Vina A. Lanzona (Univ. of Hawaii, Manoa) on the early Cold War campaigns against communist insurgents in, respectively, Malaya and the Philippines; pieces written by filmmaker Rick Rowley and McClatchy Syria bureau chief David Enders on the Iraq War; and essays on the war in Afghanistan by American history professor Jeremy Kuzmarov and GlobalPost correspondent Jean MacKenzie. Collectively, they present a convincing argument that the Vietnam War subsumed the population-control methods employed in the U.K.'s Malayan campaign and the war against Huk insurgents in the Philippines--relocation and resettlement, food control, collective punishment--under the large-scale deployment of some of the military's most destructive weaponry. This combination of "force and coercion," as Gurman writers, was also employed in Iraq and Afghanistan "to dislocate the population and dismantle the social structure of the countryside." The essays trace the legacies of imperial methods, especially British ones, and detail the indigenous populations' responses to those methods. These sharp criticisms of the methods and consequences of counterinsurgency campaigns merit serious consideration.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595588258
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 10/1/2013
  • Series: New Press People's History
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,001,360
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author


Hannah Gurman is an assistant professor at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She writes on the politics, economics, and culture of U.S. diplomacy and military conflict for Salon, the Huffington Post, and Foreign Policy in Focus, among other publications. She is the author of The Dissent Papers: The Voices of Diplomats in the Cold War and Beyond. She lives in New York City.
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