"The Graduate Level of War" – Continuity and change in U.S. counter-insurgency strategy


  1. Neill, D.A.
Corporate Authors
Defence R&D Canada - Centre for Operational Research and Analysis, Ottawa ON (CAN)
In December 2006, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) issued FM 3-24/MCWP 3-33.5 Counterinsurgency. This new doctrine manual was billed as a significant departure from the U.S. military’s previous approach to counterinsurgency (COIN) warfare, elements of which dated back to the immediate post-Vietnam period. This document has since been cited as the foundation upon which General David Petraeus built the “surge” strategy that has been credited with forestalling civil war and stabilizing the security situation in Iraq. This Technical Memorandum examines that claim by comparing the new manual to the publications that it superseded (FMI 3-07.22 Counterinsurgency Operations, issued by the U.S. Army in October 2004; and MCWP 3-33.5 Counterinsurgency Operations, issued by the U.S. Marine Corps in January 1980) with a view to identifying how the U.S. military’s understanding of, and strategic approach to, COIN warfare was transformed by the new manual. It concludes that while most of the key strategic elements that enabled the COIN campaign in Iraq to succeed are drawn from earlier doctrine and historical experience, three factors¯catering to the greater manpower requirements of COIN versus conventional operations, the importance of identifying and exploiting internal division in the insurgency, and the need to secure the population as the primary goal of a COIN force¯were relatively recent innovations, and played a crucial role in the success of the surge strategy between

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Report Number
DRDC-CORA-TM-2008-041 — Technical Memorandum
Date of publication
01 Aug 2008
Number of Pages
Electronic Document(PDF)

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