July 5, 2018
The Forgotten Front (Book Review)
This is an important book for theorists and practitioners of counterinsurgency alike. Ladwig, who teaches at King’s College London, begins by pointing out that most U.S. counterinsurgency thinking errs in assuming that the United States will share common goals, interests, and priorities with the local government that it is supporting. As recent experiences in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan indicate, that assumption should not be taken for granted. In fact, many U.S. elements of strategy applied in counterinsurgency—ending political and military corruption, bolstering political legitimacy by addressing the public’s concerns, engaging in economic reform—may appear just as threatening to the local government’s interests as the insurgency itself. Some local governments’ political and other interests simply do not coincide with those of the United States, and that can lead to tremendous difficulty in convincing them to adopt U.S.-backed reforms. Indeed, Ladwig’s central argument is that the “forgotten front” in these conflicts—the relationship between the United States and local government it is trying to aid—is just as important.