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ECPR Virtual General Conference 2020

It Takes a Network: The Rise and Fall of Social Network Analysis in US Army Counterinsurgency Doctrine

Public Policy
David Knoke
University of Minnesota
David Knoke
University of Minnesota

During the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, a group of warrior-thinkers developed a new U.S. Army counterinsurgency doctrine to fight modern “jihadist” insurgencies. Drawing heavily on social network analysis ideas, COIN doctrine emphasized population protection and organizational learning and adaptation. As implemented in Iraq by General David Petraeus, the doctrine greatly reduced intercommunal violence although other factors also contributed. But, COIN in Afghanistan under General Stanley McChrystal was unsuccessful in ending the Taliban insurgency. Although the Obama Administration greatly reduced the U.S. Army’s counterinsurgency capabilities, one legacy of COIN doctrine is the pervasive use of social network analytic ideas in the Army’s current Operations field manual.
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