Disrupting Western and Neo-Liberal Hegemony: Insurgency and Counterinsurgency Post-WWII

Module titleDisrupting Western and Neo-Liberal Hegemony: Insurgency and Counterinsurgency Post-WWII
Module codePOL3229
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Sergio Catignani (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module will provide you with a strong foundation in the historical, conceptual, strategic, operational, organisational and ethical issues associated with “low-intensity conflict”. Whilst looking at in-depth historical case studies of low-intensity conflict, the module will enable you to examine particularly from a Critical Military Studies perspective how and why varieties of low-intensity conflict have risen to prominence during the Twentieth Century. In this module you will be asked to examine such case studies and employ primary sources material (including, film and literature).

This module will help familiarise you with the sub-types of low-intensity: mainly guerrilla warfare, insurgency, terrorism, counter-insurgency/counter-terrorism and the increasingly militarised forms of urban policing operations.

This module will, in particular, enable you to explore the evolutionary phases of insurgency and counter-insurgency from the Maoist version of the “people’s war” in China to the development of global jihad. The module will focus on the dilemmas and problems that conventional militaries and other security organisations have faced in trying to adapt to low-intensity threats and help you investigate the issue of whether or not military force is the ideal instrument in countering low-intensity security threats.

No pre-requisite or co-requisite modules are required in order to register for this module. However, it would useful for you to have a basic knowledge of twentieth century conflict and diplomatic history, as this will comprise  the case study subject matter and background information that will be discussed in the module’s seminars. However, such knowledge is not vital as background readings will be provided for all of the cases examined. In any case, this module is suitable for both specialist and non-specialist students who are interested in studying sub-conventional conflicts from a Critical Military Studies interdisciplinary perspective, thus, rendering it suitable for interdisciplinary pathways.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module will provide you with:

  • A comprehensive understanding of the conceptual issues associated with the definition and study of low-intensity conflict, and particularly, of insurgency and counter-insurgency.
  • An awareness of the competing theories and practices of low-intensity conflict.
  • An understanding of the kinds of predicaments, including strategic, operational and ethical dilemmas, produced by low-intensity conflict activities.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the nature of low-intensity conflict and its evolving features.
  • 2. Demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the developing characteristics of the Western way of low-intensity warfare and internal policing and their effect on those challenging respectively Western and Neo-Liberal hegemony.
  • 3. Demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of the growing low-intensity and counter-hegemonic challenges confronted by Western states and the way that these have reacted to such challenges from the strategic, operational, ethical and organizational perspectives.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Display a Critical Military Studies understanding of the evolution of low-intensity operations, and their role in contemporary conflict;
  • 5. Exercise informed judgement about change and continuity of low-intensity conflicts;

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Study independently and manage time and assessment deadlines effectively.
  • 7. Communicate effectively in speech and writing.
  • 8. Demonstrate critical and analytical skills through tutorial discussions and module assessments.
  • 9. Demonstrate proficiency in the use of the internet, online journal databases and other IT resources for the purposes of tutorial and assessment preparation.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Introduction to Critical Military Studies;
  • Militarism and militarization;
  • Definitions of irregular warfare, insurgency and terrorism;
  • Classic theories of insurgency/guerrilla war;
  • Classic theories of counterinsurgency;
  • Changing Nature of insurgent and counter-insurgent warfare;
  • Asian Case Study 1: Malaya;
  • Asian Case Study 2: Vietnam;
  • North African Case Study: Algeria;
  • Middle East Case Study 1: Israel and the Palestinian Territories;
  • Middle East Case Study 2: Israel in Lebanon;
  • US interventionism in Central America: Panama and El Salvador
  • Revolution, Drugs & Paramilitarism: Columbia and the FARC
  • The militarisation of urban spaces – North America (USA): the politics of race/racism and police brutality.
  • The militarisation of urban spaces – South America (Brazil): poverty, social marginality, and the counter-narcotics war in the favelas.
  • The ideology of Al-Qaeda and its off-shoots: a global jihadist insurgency?
  • Post-9/11 Case Study: Iraq;
  • Post-9/11 Case Study: Afghanistan. 

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity4623 x 2-hour seminars
Guided Independent Study92Private study – reading and preparing for seminars
Guided Independent Study162Preparation for assessments – including researching and collating relevant sources; planning the structure and argument; writing up the essay and presentation brief; preparing and rehearsing presentation; reading book and writing book review


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Oral Presentation 1Over Term 11-9Oral
Oral Presentation 2Over Term 21-9Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Oral Presentation 112Individual 10-minute (equivalent to 1,000 word written assignment)1-9Written comments based on Oral Presentation Feedback Sheet
Oral Presentation 212Individual 10-minute (equivalent to 1,000 word written assignment)1-9Written comments based on Oral Presentation Feedback Sheet
Presentation Brief151,250 word brief1-9Written comments
Essay433,500 word essay1-9Written comments
Book Review181,500 word book review1-9Written comments


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Oral Presentation 11,000 word essay1-9August/September re-assessment period
Oral Presentation 21,000 word essay1-9August/September re-assessment period
Presentation Brief1,250 word brief1-9August/September re-assessment period
Essay3,500 word essay1-9August/September re-assessment period
Book Review1,500 word book review1-9August/September re-assessment period


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

Barkawi, T. Globalization and War (Rowman and Littlefield, 2006).

Basham, Victoria M. War, Identity and the Liberal State: Everyday experiences of the geopolitics in the armed forces (London: Routledge, 2013).

Beckett, I. Modern Insurgencies and Counter-Insurgencies: Guerrillas and their Opponents since 1750 (Routledge, 2001).

Black, J. Insurgency and counterinsurgency [electronic resource]: a global history (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).

Catignani, S. Israeli counter-insurgency and the Intifadas: dilemmas of a conventional army (London: Routledge, 2008).

Cordell, K. & Wolff, S. Ethnic conflict: causes, consequences, and responses (Cambridge: Polity, 2009/2010).

Dyvik, Synne L. Gendering counterinsurgency: performativity, experience and embodiment in the Afghan 'theatre of war' (London: Routledge, 2017).

Enloe, C. Globalization & Militarism: Feminists Make the Link (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007).

Farrell, T. The Norms of War: Cultural Beliefs and Modern Conflict (Lynne Rienner, 2005).

Farrell, T. Unwinnable: Britain’s War in Afghanistan, 2001–2014 (Vintage, 2017).

Graham, S. Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism (London: Verso, 2010).

Gross, M.L. The ethics of insurgency: a critical guide to just guerrilla warfare (Cambridge: CUP, 2015).

Higate, P. R. (ed.) Military Masculinities: Identity and the State. (London: Praeger, 2003).

Jones, C. and Catignani, S. Israel and Hizbollah: an asymmetric conflict in historical and comparative perspective (London: Routledge, 2010).

Kaldor, M. New Wars and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era (Polity, 2006).

Kinsey, C. and Patterson, M.H. Contractors and War: The Transformation of United States' Expeditionary Operations (Stanford University Press, 2012).

Porter, P. Military Orientalism: Eastern War through Western Eyes (Hurst, 2009).

Rabi, U. International intervention in local conflicts: crisis management and conflict resolution since the Cold War (London: Tauris, 2010).

Rich, P.B. and Duyvesteyn I. The Routledge handbook of insurgency and counterinsurgency [electronic resource] (New York: Routledge, 2012).

Shaw, M. The New Western Way of War: Risk-Transfer War and its Crisis in Iraq (Polity, 2005).

Smith, R. The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World (Allen Lane, 2005).

Von Clausewitz, C. On War. Edited and translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret. (Princeton University Press, 1976).

Wacquant, L. Urban Outcasts: A Comparative Sociology of Advanced Marginality (Cambridge: Polity, 2007).

Whittaker, D. J. (ed.), The Terrorism Reader 3rd edition (London: Routledge 2007).

Woodward, R. and Duncanson, C. (eds.) The Palgrave International Handbook of Gender and the Military (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Web based and electronic resources:

Complex Terrain Laboratory: http://www.terraplexic.org/

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute: http://www.sipri.org/

Combating Terrorism Centre (Westpoint): http://ctc.usma.edu/sentinel/

UK Defence Academy: http://www.da.mod.uk/podcasts

‘MERLIN’ US National Defence University: http://merln.ndu.edu/

US Institute of Peace: http://www.usip.org/

Institute for War and Peace Reporting: http://www.iwpr.org

US Army War College: http://www.carlisle.army.mil/

International Studies Association web resources: http://www.isanet.org/links/

US Naval Postgraduate School: http://www.nps.edu/

RAND Corps: http://www.rand.org/

Center for Strategic and International Studies: http://csis.org/

Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies: http://www.rusi.org

Chatham House (Royal Institute for International Affairs): http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk

International Institute for Strategic Studies: http://www.iiss.org

Brookings Institute: http://www.brookings.edu/

Bitter Lemons: http://www.bitterlemons.org/

Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies: http://www.ciss.ca/

Centre for Defence Information: http://www.cdi.org/

CIA Factbook: http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/

Human Rights Watch http://www.hrw.org/

International Crisis Group: http://www.icg.org/home/index.cfm

Rand Corporation: http://www.rand.org/


Key journals:

Armed Forces & Society

Civil Wars

Conflict, Security & Development

Critical Military Studies

Critical Studies on Terrorism

Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict

European Journal of International Security

International Affairs

International Political Sociology

International Security

Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding

Journal of Strategic Studies

Journal of War & Culture Studies

Low Intensity Conflict & Law Enforcement

Review of International Studies

Security Dialogue

Security Studies

Small Wars & Insurgencies

Studies in Conflict & Terrorism


Terrorism & Political Violence

Third World Quarterly

Module has an active ELE page

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Other materials and resources will be identified by the module convener in lectures and via ELE and by tutors in tutorials.

Key words search

Insurgency, counterinsurgency, guerrilla warfare, terrorism, critical military studies; militarism

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date