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School of International Service

“Insurgency & Counterinsurgency”

Spring Semester 2009


Instructor: Bill Belding 202.360.8404;

Description: In an age of globalization and a traumatic restructuring of the world’s

financial markets, insurgencies pose one of the greatest challenges to the established
order, whether that order is a democracy, a monarchy, a dictatorship or a theocracy. This
course will analyze the historical roots of insurgencies and counterinsurgencies,
beginning with the Roman Empire, and assess the causes, conduct and consequences of
these actions, with an emphasis on applications since World War II. Though military
aspects will be included, the principal focus will be on the political, economic and social
forces that have informed and directed insurgents and those who oppose them. Through
an understanding of the currents defining this complex and often misinterpreted field,
students will seek to define the issues these movements pose and create a framework to
assess the factors that precede their rise, determine their outcome and shape the world.

The course will be taught by Bill Belding, who with the US military conducted counter-
insurgency operations throughout Southeast Asia. Decades later he headed an
international non-profit entity conducting humanitarian work in support of war victims in
Africa and Asia.

The required texts will be:

Bard E. O’Neill, Insurgency and Terrorism: From Revolution to Apocalypse, 2nd Edition,
revised, Washington DC, Potomac Books, 2005.

Thomas X. Hammes, The Sling and the Stone, Zenith Press, 2006

Students will be required to read the assignments and view the film listed in this syllabus.
They will write a short critical review (5 pages) on an approved topic and present a
formal case study (30 pages, 20 minute presentation, 20 minutes of defense/questions) of
an insurgency to be selected from a list that will be available at the first class. Two
students will be assigned to each case, and the presentation will be made during the final
three sessions. The final grade will be based on class participation (30%), the critical
review (20%) and the case study (50% - 40% paper and 10% presentation).

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Week One: Introduction: Course description and expectations. The definition of
Insurgency and Counterinsurgency and their historical paths from Rome to
Iraq. (January 14)

Reading: None

Week Two: Elements of an Insurgency: What constitutes an insurgency? What is

necessary to challenge an existing political order? (January 21)


Bard E. O’Neill, Insurgency and Terrorism: From Revolution to

Apocalypse, 2nd edition, revised, Potomac Books, 2005, Chapters 1 – 3
Thomas X. Hammes, The Sling and the Stone, Zenith Press, 2006,
Chapters 1 - 4
Joshua Tanzer, Bard O’Neill on Insurgency, Terrorism and the Iraq War,
OffOffOff Opinion, 2004,,
Steven Metz and Raymond Millen, Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in
the 21st Century: Reconceptualizing Threat and Response, Strategic
Studies Institute, 2004
Richard A Gabriel, The Warrior Prophet, 2007
Niall Ferguson, The Last Iraqi Insurgency, New York Times, April 18,

(Optional) Noam Chomsky, Perilous Power - The Middle East and US

Foreign Policy: Dialogues of Terror, Democracy, War and Justice,
Paradigm, 2007
Ralph Peters, Beyond Terror: Strategy in a Changing World, Stackpole
Books, 2002

Week Three Asymmetrical Resources and Force: Why Bigger Is Not Always Better.
Is conventional war extinct? In a world of disproportionate allocation of
resources and power, why and how the advantage can go to a small group
with a tight focus and disciplined operations. (January 28)


O’Neill, Insurgency and Terrorism, supra, Chapter 6

Hammes, The Sling and the Stone, supra, Chapters 5 - 10
Sun Tsu, The Art of War, Lionel Giles (translator), 2005.
Mao Tse-tung, On Guerilla Warfare, translation by Samuel B. Griffith,
University of Chicago Press, 2000

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Jeffrey Record, Why the Strong Lose, Parameters, Winter 2005-06,

Week Four The People - The Ocean in Which the Fish Must Swim: How does an
insurgency begin? How is it sustained? How is popular support obtained
and maintained? What are the psychological determinants of a successful
action? How are “hearts and minds” won or lost? Is violence an
indispensable element? (February 4)


O’Neill, Insurgency and Terrorism, supra, Chapter 5

George Packer, “War After the War”, The New Yorker, November 24,
Michael Scheuer, “Assessing the Six Year Hunt for Osama bin Laden”,
Terrorism Focus, September 25, 2007

Week Five: Political Forces: How is the existing order attacked and defended? What
role does politics play in a movement and the defending authority? Can a
democracy counter an insurgency with sufficient violence and brutality to
prevail? A critical look at Algeria, Lebanon, Vietnam, El Salvador,
Kashmir and Rhodesia. (February 11).


O’Neill, Insurgency and Terrorism, supra, Chapter 4

Gil Merom How Democracies Lose Small Wars, Cambridge University
Press, 2003
Jeffrey Record, Vietnam in Retrospect: Could We Have Won?, U S Army
War College Quarterly, Winter 1996-97
Sumit Ganguly, “Explaining the Kashmir Insurgency: Political
Mobilization and Institutional Decay”, International Security, Vol. 21, No.
2, Fall 1996
Bobby Ray Pinkston, “The Rhodesian Insurgency: A Failure of Regional
Politics”, U.S. Army War College, 2005,

Optional: General Paul Aussaresses, The Battle of the Casbah, Enigma

Books, 2006

Week Six: Economic Forces: What role do wealth and the allocation of resources
play in an insurgency? What role does poverty play? Can an insurgent

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movement be sustained during a period of economic growth? (February


Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion, Oxford University Press, 2007

William Easterly, The White Man’s Burden, Penguin Books, 2006

Video: “The Battle of Algiers” - link to be provided

Week Seven: Sociological Forces: How ethnic, religious and psychological aspects of
a population determine the course of an insurgency. The emerging role of
social anthropologists in understanding the will of the people. (February

O’Neill, Insurgency and Terrorism, supra, Chapters 6 and 7
George Packer, “Knowing the Enemy”, The New Yorker, December 18,
David Kilcullen, “Countering Global Insurgency”, 2006,

5 page Critical Review due at the beginning of class

Week Eight: Information: Can the existing order only be challenged by a message that
moves a critical mass of the population to action? The role of technology,
propaganda and psychology in determining the course of change.
(March 4)

George Packer, “Knowing the Enemy”, The New Yorker, December 18,
2006, supra
Tim Foxley, The Taliban’s Propaganda Activities: How Well Is the
Afghan Insurgency Communicating and What Is It Saying?, SIPRI, June
Tim Dickenson, “The Online Insurgency”, Rolling Stone, February 24,

Spring Break

Week Nine: Terror: Is it a tactic or a strategy? How is it applied? What can it

achieve in attacking an established order? Is it with us forever? A critical
look at the targeting of non-combatants for political purposes in both
insurgencies and counterinsurgencies. (March 18)

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Louise Richardson, What Terrorists Want, Random House, 2006

Nicholas Kristof, “Terror That’s Personal”, The New York Times,
November 30, 2008,

Optional: Jessica Stern, Terror in the Name of God, Harper Collins, 2003

Week Ten: Heroes or Tyrants? Leaders of insurgent movements: What is their

motivation? How do they gain power? What is their legacy? William
Wallace, T.E. Lawrence, Mao Tse Tung, Che Guevara, Nguyen Van Giap,
Osama bin Laden. (March 25)


Jon Lee Anderson, Guerillas: Journeys in the Insurgent World, Penguin

Books, 2004
Major Donald R. Selvage, USMC, Che Guevara in Bolivia,

Optional: T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph,

Harcourt, 1991

Week Eleven: Counterinsurgency: How is an insurgency defeated? What are the

elements of a successful counterinsurgency strategy? What has worked
and what has not? What is the Future: Are insurgencies doomed to
irrelevancy or are they inevitable in fragile and failed states? (April 1)

O’Neill, Insurgency and Terrorism, supra, Chapter 8
Hammes, The Sling and the Stone, supra, Chapters 15 - 17
U S Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24,
University of Chicago, 2006
David Kilcullen,

Optional: Thomas Ricks, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in

Iraq, Penguin Press, 2006

Week Twelve: Case studies to be presented by class members (April 8)

Week Thirteen: Case studies to be presented by class members (April 15)

Week Fourteen: Conclude case studies (April 22)

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Critical dates:

February 11: Topic for Critical review due

February 25: Critical Review due

March 4: Partner and topic for Case Study Due

April 8: Case Study due; presentations commence

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