The Failure of Counterinsurgency
Why Hearts and Minds Are Seldom Won
by Ivan Eland
July 2013, 189pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3009-9
$45, £35, 40€, A62
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3010-5
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Despite having the technical advantage, American forces are often outmatched in counterinsurgency operations.

This book examines the implications of counterinsurgency warfare for U.S. defense policy and makes the compelling argument that the United States' default position on counterinsurgency wars should be to avoid them.

Given the unsatisfactory outcomes of the counterinsurgency (COIN) wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. military is now in a heated debate over whether wars involving COIN operations are worth fighting. This book provides a comprehensive analysis of the effectiveness of COIN through key historic episodes and concludes that the answer is an emphatic “no,” based on a dominant record of U.S. military or political failure, and inconsistency in the reasons for the rare cases of success. The author also examines the implications of his findings for U.S. foreign policy, defense policy, and future weapons procurement.


  • Examines a wider breadth of historical cases than other books on counterinsurgency, allowing for more accurate assessments and conclusions about the efficacy of COIN based on the lessons learned across history
  • Presents research-based evidence that the Unites States should get involved in counterinsurgency warfare only in the rare cases in which U.S. vital interests are at stake
  • Provides thought-provoking discussion of the domestic negative effects resulting from overseas counterinsurgency operations
  • Questions the effectiveness of COIN strategy by utilizing numerous historical examples covered throughout the book
  • Covers major instances of COIN warfare in history, including the French in Algeria and Indochina, the British in Malaysia and Afghanistan, the United States in Vietnam and the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and numerous others
  • Appeals to readers and students of military history, strategy, and defense
Ivan Eland, PhD, is director of the Center on Peace and Liberty at The Independent Institute in Oakland, CA. Previously he was director of defense policy studies at the Cato Institute. Prior to that, he worked for Congress for 15 years, including a stint on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Eland holds a doctor of philosophy degree in public policy with an emphasis in national security policy from George Washington University. His published works include Praeger's Putting Defense Back into U.S. Defense Policy: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World as well as No War for Oil: U.S. Dependency and the Middle East and Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq.

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