Field Manual 3-24 and the Heritage of Counterinsurgency Theory

The Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24 has been accused of being over-dependent on the counterinsurgency ‘classics’ Galula and Thompson. But comparison reveals that it is different in spirit. Galula and Thompson seek practical control; the Manual seeks to build ‘legitimacy’. Its concept of legitimacy is superficially Weberian, but owes more to the writings of the American Max Manwaring. The Manual presupposes that a rights-based legal order can (other things being equal) be made to be cross-culturally attractive; ‘effective governance’ by itself can build legitimacy. The fusion of its methods with an ideology creates unrealistic criteria for success. Its weaknesses suggest a level of incapacity to think politically that will, in time, result in further failures.