On October, 22, 2007, the 21st Century Defense Initiative and the Strategic Studies Institute launched the Future Defense Dilemma series with a day-long seminar entitled “COIN of the Realm: U.S. Counterinsurgency Strategy.” The event was inspired by the recent U.S. military experience in Afghanistan and Iraq and the subsequent renewed interest in counterinsurgency (COIN). This has far-reaching effects on military doctrine, education, training, knowledge management, force structure planning, personnel management, as research, development and acquisition priorities. In a very real sense, the U.S. military of the future will be shaped by efforts to become more effective at counterinsurgency. Given this wide-ranging and deep impact, the seminar explored two key questions: 1) Is the United States pursuing and executing the right strategy? and, 2) Does the military’s focus on counterinsurgency detract from other defense and security needs?
To address these issues, the seminar organizers assembled an impressive group of experts from the military, government and academia to present their assessment of the current effort, lay out the challenges, and offer options for further increasing U.S. effectiveness at counterinsurgency. The event was not-for-attribution to encourage candid debate. This paper summarizes the presentations, arguments and discussions at the general level without attribution to any particular speaker or participant. Professor Douglas Lovelace, Director of the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, and Dr. Peter W. Singer, Director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at Brookings provided introductory remarks, introduced panel speakers, and moderated the discussions.