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Repression, Civil Liberties, Right-Wingers, and Liberals:
Resisting Counterinsurgency and Subversion Panics

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Life During Wartime:

Resisting Counterinsurgency

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About Kitson and COIN <--You are here

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About Kitson

Adapted from the chapter, Copyright 2014 by Chip Berlet.
All rights reserved. Do not copy or share online.

The COIN theory of subversion recognizes contemporary sociological theories of how social movements are built and sometimes become insurgent and challenge the government for control. These social movement theories gained strength beginning in the mid-1970s. Up until that time the predominate sociological explanation for social unrest was that people who joined dissident social movements were ignorant, incompetent, politically-dysfunctional, mentally unstable, or all of the above.

In an essay on “Counterinsurgency Warfare: The Use & Abuse of Military Force,” in South Asia Intelligence Review, Vijendra Singh Jafa observes that Lt. Col. Frank Kitson “is the best known exponent of the new ideas on special operations (counter-terrorism, raids, rescue and commando operations etc.) which form much of the basis of the British army’s training in counterinsurgency warfare.” Kitson is praised as having “had counterinsurgency experience in Malay, Kenya and Cyprus, as well as having commanded the 19th Airportable Brigade in Northern Ireland during the 1970s” and therefore Kitsons “qualifications are beyond question.”

Anti-repression researcher Kristian Williams explains that in Kitson’s view of counterinsurgency:

  • The main battle in revolutionary warfare is political rather than military;
  • The Left challenges the state’s legitimacy before it challenges its military.
  • If the state can prevent the challenge to its legitimacy, it can easily handle any armed challenge.

This can be construed by the most zealous ideologues in government law enforcement and intelligence agencies that civil disobedience may be the prelude to armed struggle—so best nip it in the bud. The consequences to the Left of the widespread adoption of Kitson’s model are significant. Kitson’s “well-known book,” Low Intensity Operations “is considered to be an outstanding professional manual on the subject” according to the Jaffa essay. Cynical anti-repression activists quip that in this scenario “Low Intensity” means that while the bullets from state agents are still high velocity…the corporate media coverage is of low intensity.

The Jaffa essay continues:

===The only problem with [Kitson’s] views, however, is that they are based on the assumption that the enemy is the ‘Left’, the protesters, organisers of strikes and demonstrations in Third World countries, and maker of movements for national liberation – in short, a colonial orientation. He sees all types of political protest by the Left, the ‘subversives’, as a preparation for armed action. This plants the idea in the minds of the soldiers that the radical elements in the society or the exercise of the democratic rights by the people must be dealt with by military methods.

Well…that’s hardly the “only problem” with Kitson’s theories…but it is an accurate appraisal nonetheless.

International solidarity work is frequently framed by law enforcement as subversion or treason. This is extended to any person or group that is seen as adopting any form of Marxism, anarchism, or collectivism. The overlap between right-wing ideology, countersubversion, and counterinsurgency in this regard is very clear. It can lead to violence by state actors and individual right-wing terrorists.

For example, Christian Right ideologue William S. Lind has not only propounded a theory that “Cultural Marxism” is a subversive conspiracy to destroy Western Culture, but also is considered a leading theorist on “Fourth Generation” warfare, a form of counterinsurgency analysis discussed and used by U.S. military strategists. Lind’s essay should be mandatory reading for any student of repression and counterinsurgency. One reader was Norway terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, a right-wing Christian who based his murderous actions in part on reading the conspiracist Islamophobic work of Lind.

Frank Kitson, 1971, Low Intensity Operations, Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books.

Personal correspondence between author and Kristian Williams, 2012.

Frank Kitson, 1971, Low Intensity Operations, Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books.

Vijendra Singh Jafa, “Counterinsurgency Warfare: The Use & Abuse of Military Force,” South Asia Intelligence Review, http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/publication/faultlines/volume3/Fault3-JafaF.htm.

William S. Lind, 2004, “Understanding Fourth Generation War,” Lew Rockwell website, January 6, http://www.lewrockwell.com/lind/lind3b.html. The website is a clearinghouse for White Nationalist Paleocons. Note that LewRockwell.com has a slogan “anti-state, anti-war, pro-market.” For a principled anti-racist critique by a conservative economic libertarian, see Tom Palmer, 2005, “From Lew Rockwell to Racist Collectivism,” March 2, http://tomgpalmer.com/2005/03/02/from-lew-rockwell-to-racist-collectivism/.

Chip Berlet, 2011, “Breivik's Core Thesis is White Christian Nationalism v. Multiculturalism,” Talk to Action, http://www.talk2action.org/story/2011/7/25/73510/6015.





Also on this website:
Security for Activists Collection Common Sense Security
By Sheila O'Donnell
Encountering and Countering Political Repression
By Chip Berlet
Disruption: Warning Signs
Sexism, egos, and lies:
Sometimes you wake up and it is not different

By Lisa Fithian / The Rag Blog / March 22, 2010

Stop Spying US
An online collection of survellance documents from various government agencies.
No More With Hunts: A National Campaign in 1981



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