Jacqueline L. Hazelton, "Bullets Not Ballots: Success in Counterinsurgency Warfare" (Cornell UP, 2021)

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Why do liberal great powers like the United States struggle to defeat insurgencies across the globe? In her new book, Bullets Not Ballots: Success in Counterinsurgency Warfare (Cornell University Press, 2021), Professor Jacqueline Hazelton argues that they are bringing the wrong conceptual models to the conflict. As a result, they are not just fighting the wrong war. They underestimate the costs of intervention.

An Assistant Professor in the Department of Strategy and Policy at the U.S. Naval War College, Hazelton challenges the conventional wisdom that the “good governance model” of counterinsurgency warfare offers the surest path to defeating insurgencies. She shows that effective counterinsurgency campaigns instead share three common ingredients: elite accommodation, the threat or use of force against civilian populations, and brute force against the insurgency itself. Her findings represent a far-cry from the “hearts and minds” philosophy that has dominated Western military thinking for decades.

On the episode, I talk with Professor Hazelton about why the “good governance model” represents a dangerous act of wishful thinking, why Western governments repeatedly overlook the interests and equities of local partners, how she deconstructed the historiographical flaws in the Western counterinsurgency canon, and how she hopes policymakers and military staff will avail themselves of her research.

John Sakellariadis is a 2020-2021 Fulbright US Student Research Grantee. He holds a Master’s degree in public policy from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia and a Bachelor’s degree in History & Literature from Harvard University.

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