- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

JACQUELINE (JILL) HAZELTON: Does Counterinsurgency as State-building Work?

  • Maria Costigan
| Spring 2011

For her dissertation, Jacqueline (Jill) Hazelton, a research fellow with the Belfer Center’s International Security Program, compares two models of counterinsurgency (COIN): the conventional wisdom influencing U.S. foreign policy today, which focuses on building representative, responsive, distributive states and limiting the use of force to gain broad popular allegiance, versus a of what actually works in COIN and under what conditions.

The conventional prescription for COIN success – state-building – has never been applied, Hazelton argues. Instead, successful counterinsurgencies have relied heavily on the use of force, including, unfortunately, the use of force against civilians, while providing few or no political and economic reforms.

“Empirically, what has succeeded in counterinsurgency is a lot of fighting, not necessarily a lot of killing, but a lot of fighting, and a little bit of political accommodation of political entrepreneurs,” she says. “We have two very different models.  One is visionary, and ambitious, and optimistic, and one is not at all pretty -- it’s very, very ugly.”

The appeal of COIN as state building, Hazelton says, is its reflection of U.S. ideals about how states should treat their citizens, and how citizens want to be treated by their states.

To set attainable goals, and reach them, the United States must recognize the costs of succeeding in COIN, and recognize that attempting to build states in order to defeat insurgencies is likely to hinder COIN success.

Hazelton’s research focuses on six cases: Dhofar, Oman; El Salvador; and Vietnam in the advisory period, 1956-1965; plus Turkey-PKK, France-Algeria, and the Philippines-Huks. In her three core cases, the British-backed Dhofar campaign was a decisive military victory, while the U.S.-backed El Salvador campaign ended with negotiations. Vietnam was a loss because U.S. and South Vietnamese goals did not closely align, and the United States did not focus on the narrow band of shared interests.

Hazelton’s approach to her research draws on her previous studies in English literature and her work as a journalist. Her experience in journalism instilled a respect for all perspectives and an understanding that many forces are at play.

“There is a multiplicity of actors, with a multiplicity of perspectives, and none of them necessarily has the edge in accuracy,” she says.

In studying literature as an undergrad and for an MA, Hazelton learned to separate causes from effects from camouflage, and to examine them all critically. “Teasing apart the strands, seeing how they fit together…that’s exactly what you need to do in political science and journalism also.”

See more about Jill Hazelton at:  http://belfercenter.org/Hazelton/

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Costigan, Maria. JACQUELINE (JILL) HAZELTON: Does Counterinsurgency as State-building Work?.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Spring 2011).

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