How to End an Insurgency

History tells us that insurgencies end in one of two ways.  Either the insurgency alienates the local population until, bereft of support, it disintegrates.  The Huk insurgency in the Philippines and the Maoist insurgency in Malaysia both ended ostensibly due to a lack of public support.   Often in these cases, military action is combined with greater political outreach.  As the local population’s grievances are addressed through politics (as opposed to violence) the social infrastructure becomes depleted and eventually the insurgency dies through lack of support.

The second way insurgency “ends” is through political reconciliation.  In the case of El Salvador, violence only came to end when the FMLN was allowed to enter in the political process as a legal political party.  In the United Kingdom, the IRA followed a similar pattern.  In these cases, extensive negotiations preceded a political settlement ending the conflict.  Similar to the first case, insurgents must believe that they can take political non-violent recourse to address core grievances.  In some cases, such as Iraq both political reconciliation and loss of public support for the insurgency were critical in reducing the violence.  The Sunni “Awakening” meant that Al Qaeda no longer had a home base to launch attacks.  Simultaneously, the decision of Moqtadr Al Sadr to disarm the Mahdi army and achieve political reconciliation played a role in the declining violence.

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