The Other Side of the COIN: Counterinsurgency and Community Policing

by Kristian Williams

The following discussion of U.S. domestic counterinsurgency is adapted and condensed with permission from “The Other Side of the COIN: Counterinsurgency and Community Policing” by Kristian Williams.  Williams is a member of Rose City Copwatch in Portland, Oregon, and the author of Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America (Soft Skull, 2004; South End Press, 2007)The full paper appeared in the May 2011 issue of Interface, and a full list of bibliographic sources can be found there.
The unrest of the 1960s left the police in a difficult position.  The cops’ response to the social movements of the day — the civil rights and anti-war movements especially — had cost them dearly in terms of public credibility, elite support, and officer morale.  Frequent and overt recourse to violence, combined with covert surveillance, infiltration, and disruption (typified by the FBI’s COINTELPRO operations), had not only failed to squelch the popular movements, it had also diminished trust in law enforcement.

The police needed to re-invent themselves, and the first place they looked for models was the military. Military training, tactics, equipment, and weaponry, made their way into domestic police departments — as did veterans returning from Vietnam, and, more subtly, military approaches to organization, deployment, and command and control.  Police strategists specifically began studying counterinsurgency warfare.

“Counterinsurgency” (or “COIN” is military jargon) refers to a kind of military operation outside of conventional army-vs.-army war-fighting, and is sometimes called “low-intensity” or “asymmetrical” combat.  But counterinsurgency also describes a particular perspective on how such operations ought to be managed.  This style of warfare is characterized by an emphasis on intelligence, security and peace-keeping operations, population control, propaganda, and efforts to gain the trust of the people. Continue reading

Philippines to adopt US strategy in counter-insurgency starting January 1

Monday, December 20, 2010

Asian Defense News

ANN – Tuesday, December 21 Manila – A Filipino lawmaker on Monday bared that the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) new counter-insurgency strategy had the mark of the United States’ own counter-insurgency operation plan, but said it is bound to fail if the government will not address the root causes of the armed conflict.

Left-leaning Anakpawis party-list Representative Rafael Mariano said Oplan Bayanihan was patterned after the US Counter-Insurgency (COIN) Guide in January 2009, which shifts the strategy of combating insurgency toward a “whole of nation and people-centered” approach.

This file photo taken on July 2, 2010 shows Philippine soldiers marching during a parade at the handover ceremony for the new military's chief of staff, attended by President Aquino (not pictured) at the military headquarters in Manila. The Philippines said Decmber 7, 2010 it was set to sign a 'substantial' deal to buy military equipment from China, but insisted it should not impact on its close ties with the United States.

This file photo taken on July 2, 2010 shows Philippine soldiers marching during a parade at the handover ceremony for the new military's chief of staff, attended by President Aquino (not pictured) at the military headquarters in Manila. The Philippines said Decmber 7, 2010 it was set to sign a 'substantial' deal to buy military equipment from China, but insisted it should not impact on its close ties with the United States.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr. said Oplan Bayanihan, which will be implemented starting Jan. 1, 2011, will shift to the “whole of nation approach,” which means that “even ordinary people should be involved.”

Mabanta had said that it will also be a “people-centered approach which gives primordial consideration to human security.”

The direction of the new counter-insurgency strategy, which replaces Oplan Bantay Laya of the Arroyo administration, takes after the US COIN’s “population-centric (focused on securing and controlling a given population or populations) than enemy-centric (focused on defeating a particular enemy group),” according to the COIN Guide furnished by Mariano.

“Note that this does not mean that COIN is less violent than any other conflict: on the contrary, like any other form of warfare it always involves loss of life,” the COIN Guide added.

Mariano said that “in reality, COIN campaigns will rarely be purely enemy-centric or population-centric, but will generally include elements of both, with the relative balance changing over time.” Continue reading