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Qualitative Comparative Analysis of 30 Insurgencies, 1978–2008

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We use Charles Ragin's Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) to quantitatively test the performance of 20 distinct counterinsurgency (COIN) approaches against the historical record. This method allowed us to apply mathematical principles to fundamentally qualitative data without compromising the qualitative nuance necessary to identify and resolve exceptions. The five main takeaways from the research were: (1) effective COIN practices tend to run in packs; (2) the balance of effective versus detrimental COIN practices discriminates all 30 cases into wins or losses without recourse to narratives of exceptionality; (3) poor beginnings don't necessarily lead to poor endings; (4) repression wins phases, but usually not cases; (5) insurgent tangible support appears to be a critical center of gravity. Our results provide useful recommendations for US engagement in and support for COIN operations.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2012

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