The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

“Its the Economy Stupid Comrade!”

Maoist revolutionalry war theory puts the priority of effort on the political line of operations. Our experience with our own domestic politics indicates that the key to successful politics is the economy. Therefore… maybe:

COIN = Politics

Politics = Economy

.’. COIN = Economy


February 17, 2012 - Posted by | H300, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Perhaps. There are similarities as paradoxically the economy represents the most significant power base (along with the people) for both a Maoist revolution as well as a stable democracy. Maybe economic growth and power is so important that it transcends ideology. Some would say that every four years this country attempts to execute a revolution on a smaller and more stable scale by attempting to realize a change of political party. If Clauswitz stated that war is a continuation of politics by other means then it could also be a continuation of a strong economic policy.

    Comment by Matthew Wilder 17D | February 21, 2012

  2. Maybe, but maybe not. I am not sure that the experience with our own domestic politics indicates that the key to successful politics is the economy. Rather, it is our experience with our domestic politics that the “promise” of a better economic situation for all is the key to successful politics. Either way you phrase it, the political approach is still to appeal to the majority; whether that be the lower, middle or upper classes. The problem with economics, especially within a democracy, is that it is very difficult to regulate the economy from the political scene without completely disrupting free market capitalism. Furthermore, applying this logic to COIN would prove to be a daunting, if not impossible task for the United States to accomplish in another country, however, it could prove to be a viable solution for an established host nation government.

    Comment by MAJ G. Kirk Alexander 17C | February 22, 2012

  3. Both economic growth and power are critical an important aspect of ideology. I believe that domestic politics is an important aspect of successful politics in government. However more so than not domestic politics are not enough to improving the growing unsuccessful economic situation when economics drives politics. I agree with Clauswitz statement that war is a continuation of politics by other means then it could also be a continuation of a strong economic policy.

    Comment by MAJ LaShaunda Jackson 17A | February 27, 2012

  4. Yes and no. I believe COIN may equal politics in another country; but, not in the United States (U.S.). When you look at the definition of counterinsurgency from JP 1-02, “Comprehensive civilian and military efforts taken to defeat an insurgency and to address any core grievances,” I think you may be able to see my point; unless you view the terrorist act as an insurgency, at which point, I would agree that COIN equals politics. In the U.S., domestic politics does indicate the key to a successful economy based on the people. The population determines success; and domestic politics is based on who the population chooses to select as their leader. The person would be the one who mirrors their domestic or political ideology.

    Comment by MAJ LaMaudia Bentley, 17D / March 1, 2012 | March 1, 2012

  5. “The sinews of war are infinite money”… Even in the time of Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman political leader during the time of Julius Caesar, national leaders understood the importance of a nation’s economy to its ability to wage war. The Roman Empire was a massive territory, comprised of countless peoples, religions, and ethnic groups held together by the Roman government. In order to keep its massive empire together, the Roman government spent much time deciding the best way to “pacify” its population. Sometimes the compliance of its conquered subjects was acquired through games, reduced taxes, or near autonomous local governments. Other times it meant the use of the Roman military.

    The one thing that all of these ways had in common was the dependance on the Roman economy. Without a strong economy, based on taxes, trade, and the treasure gained by conquering its rivals, the Roman government would have been unable to effectively conduct its own “COIN” operations.

    Now flash forward to any COIN-like operation, or war throughout history and research the ability of nations to conduct these operations as it correlates to their economies. The list of nations bankrupted by war and war-like ventures is endless. Likewise, the list of wars started due to a lack of resources or strong economies is endless. Quite frankly, people’s desire to wage war or COIN operations is very much tied to their economic status/capabilities, which in turn drives the political support for the governments that can improve their nations’ economies.

    Yes, “It’s the Economy Stupid Comrade” is a very fitting title…

    Comment by MAJ Chris Moore, 17A | March 4, 2012

  6. I agree with the premise because successful politics means using the passion of the people to influence policy, which I contend Clausewitz would support. We witnessed this tactic during the last election. Whether it was the “discussion” on how to best support the middle class, how to best create jobs, or the occupy wall street “movement”, economics was/is key to our politics because the people dictated what topic the national conversation would address.

    The stretch in the premise comes in how to tie COIN into our politics. However, IF you recognize the election process as a non-hostile revolution, then you could make the case, the “sitting” administration uses COIN operations to suppress insurgents (competing party/unhappy citizens). Further, you can see how each side (sitting party and opposition) tries to find the connection between the people to exploit for their own gains, similar to what Mao did with the peasants in China. The group that is best able to find that connection is the party that will win the election. Finally, being the cynic, you can also draw a correlation between how the incoming party, similar to the revolutionist, only has to make the promises needed to motivate the people during the campaign season without actually delivering on any of them once in power.

    Comment by Will Cooper, Maj, SG 11D | January 19, 2013

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