The Insurgency in Chechnya, by Robert W. Schaefer

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MWSA Review

Robert Schaefer's book on the insurgency in Chechnya is comprehensive and informative. He takes a conflict about which many readers have only a passing familiarity gleaned from newspaper headlines and explains the historical and cultural origins of what he argues is an insurgency spanning three centuries. Military audiences will appreciate his discussion of the differences between terrorism and insurgency, and his efforts to discuss the Chechen case study using current military doctrinal terms.  Others will enjoy his in-depth discussion of the historical origins of this conflict and its implications for the Caucasus and the rest of the world, including the relationship between religion and insurgency. Schaefer argues that insurgency is fundamentally different from traditional or conventional warfare, a view that is widely debated in current strategic circles.  Since the focus of his book is on Chechnya and not the nature of warfare itself, his arguments in support of this view are likely to reaffirm the beliefs of those who agree with him on this point but not sway those who come down on the opposite side of the argument. Schaefer’s informed analysis of the Chechen insurgency makes this a book that every student of counterinsurgency or the Caucasus region should own.

Reviewed by: Edward Cox (October 2011)

Author's Synopsis

The shocking events of the Moscow airport terrorist attack make it clear that the North Caucasus insurgency is still strong – despite the Kremlin’s announcement in 2008 that the conflict was “over.” Find out why Russia has been promised a “year of blood and tears” in 2011 and what this means for the Sochi Olympics in 2014. For the first time, a military expert on both Russia and insurgency offers the definitive guide on activities in Southern Russia, explaining why the Russian approach to counterterrorism is failing and why terrorist and insurgent attacks in Russia have sharply increased over the past three years.

The Insurgency in Chechnya and the North Caucasus: From Gazavat to Jihad is a comprehensive treatment of this 300 year-old conflict. Thematically organized, it cuts through the rhetoric to provide a contextual framework with which readers can truly understand the "why" and "how" of one of the world’s longest-running contemporary insurgencies, despite Russia's best efforts to eradicate it.

A fascinating case study of a counterinsurgency campaign that is in direct contravention of US and Western strategy, the book also examines the differences and linkages between insurgency and terrorism; the origins of conflict in the North Caucasus; and the influences of different strains of Islam, of al-Qaida, and of the War on Terror. A critical examination of never-before-revealed Russian counterinsurgency (COIN) campaigns explains why those campaigns have consistently failed and why the region has seen such an upswing in violence since the conflict was officially declared "over" less than two years ago.

The book's features include: information drawn from the North Caucasus Incident Database (NCID), compiling every violent incident in the region over a two-year period; charts showing the complex strategies of the insurgency and the Russian counterinsurgency campaigns; declassified intelligence reports; as well as maps and a bibliography. Presented through the lens of counterinsurgency theory, this incisive analysis explores the historic roots of each issue, the key players, and the farthest-reaching effects. It is the first doctrinal analysis (classified or unclassified) produced on the conflict in over 10 years and is already being used as a textbook at the Program on Terrorism and Security Studies at the Marshall Center.