Accession Number:



Counterinsurgency Force Ratios: An Investigation into Military Logic

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Technical Report,01 Jul 2017,31 May 2018

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U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth United States

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The study of force ratios, particularly those intended for application in the counterinsurgency environment, reveals an element of the greater issue of military thinking. After the failures of Vietnam, the US military machine reimagined their brand to exclude the intrusions of politics within military decision-making. These particular ideas manifested themselves in the Weinberger-Powell Doctrine and Samuel Huntingtons theory of objective control of the military. Both of these popular modes of thinking provided similar intuitive outlets for military professionals to continue separating the political realm from military action. Within the context of this time period John T. Quinlivan produced research suggesting that success in a counterinsurgency environment rested in an optimum force ratio applied to the problem. He produced the basis for US military planning models with the twenty troops to 1000 inhabitants ratio for counterinsurgencies. More recently, John McGrath expounded upon Quinlivans work but largely reached a similar conclusion concerning the value of the force ratio. Quinlivan and McGrath missed a critical element when attempting to discover a historical continuity for success in a counterinsurgency environment. Using the method of popular military logic, they both left out the political realm and isolated the detection of a solution to solely military aspects of historical examples. In doing so, they both committed the miscalculation of using history as a dogmatic lessons learned model instead of employing history as an analytical tool for evaluating action. The application of both Quinlivan and McGraths theories on specific historical anomalies like the French Algerian War and the Kenyan Emergency exposed gaps in the theories themselves. Additionally, the analysis displayed that a historical continuity did in fact exist however, it occurred in the realm of political actions and decisions.

Subject Categories:

  • Unconventional Warfare
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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