Small Wars Journal

The Jones Insurgency Model

Tue, 05/18/2010 - 1:00pm

The Jones Insurgency Model


A Tool for the Prevention and

Resolution of Insurgency


by Colonel Robert C. Jones


Download the full article:


The Jones Insurgency Model


Offered here is the simple proposition that insurgency happens when

governance fails. Similarly, foreign terrorism happens when one supports these

same failed systems.



  • Not the kind of failed governance that draws so much attention to

    countries like Somalia; which is probably more accurately described as a

    rejection of forced western, Westphalian constructs of governance for forms

    more acceptable to their culture and society.


  • Not the kind of failed governance that draws so much attention to

    countries like Bangladesh; where the lack of effective government services

    and widespread poverty are largely seen as "normal" by the affected



  • Not the kind of failed governance that draws so much attention to

    countries like Liberia; where auspices of statehood are perverted to

    criminal purposes.



No, the failures that lead to insurgency are far more fundamental, and often

so insidious that they are not even recognized or acknowledged by their equally

failing leaders; even when pointed out to them, often quite violently, by their

own populaces. What makes countering such insurgent causation even more

complicated is that these failures do not even have to be real; all that is

required is that some key segment of the populace reasonably believes them to be

true.  The irony is not that this happens in countries like those described

above, but that it also afflicts the most developed, upright, and law abiding

countries as well. This is the paradox. This is why counterinsurgency is so

difficult: it can happen anywhere, its causation is rooted in perceptions of

governmental failure; and its resolution is rooted in governmental recognition

and resolution of those same perceptions.


Download the full article:


The Jones Insurgency Model


Colonel Robert C. Jones, U.S. Army Reserve, is a Special Forces officer

currently assigned as the Chief, Strategic Studies for U.S. Special Operations

Command; with duty in Kandahar, Afghanistan as the Chief, Special Operations

Planning and Liaison Element to Regional Command-South.  The opinions he

expresses here are his own and represent no NATO, U.S. Government or Department

of Defense positions.


See also this article as published here in the ISAF Counterinsurgency Blog.


About the Author(s)


gian p gentile (not verified)

Tue, 05/18/2010 - 7:55pm

Are you arguing that the United States should start conducting a "preventive" counterinsurgency within our own borders?

If so, who should do it and how should it be done?

Robert C. Jones (not verified)

Tue, 05/18/2010 - 4:33pm

A major point of the model is that Civil Governments are essentially conducting "counterinsurgency" every day. The best time to "defeat" an insurgency is before it crosses into full insurgency and exceeds the capacity of Civil Governance to handle. The West is so focused on the Level I and II insurgencies in the Middle East that they are missing the growing insurgencies at home. By understanding the signs and the trends, they can be addressed early, without the need to bring in the military or foreign assistance.

The trend of labeling all political violence as "terrorism" is not particularly helpful either, as it tends to cause a victim mentality that externalizes the blame rather than recognizing it as a warning sign that the government may well be losing the bubble on one or more of the critical causal perceptions at home. Often this is coupled with supporting a failed regime abroad that has an immigrant populace within ones own borders that has not been fully incorporated into the larger populace, so still identifies with their oppressed kinfolk back in the old country.

Liberal policies of enabling immigrants to retain their old languages and customs in distinct communities provide rich soil for the the growth of future insurgencies.

slapout9 (not verified)

Tue, 05/18/2010 - 3:18pm

Outstanding model. There are some folks in the USA that should be looking at this model to see what is really going on in our country before it becomes a "Civil Emergency".

Bob's World

Tue, 05/18/2010 - 2:46pm

The model is an attempt to capture an underlying essence, that is generally common to insurgency. An effort to get past the "noise" of the specific facts of culture, geography, specific government in power, specific ideology applied to rally the masses, etc; and to understand what it is that is fundamental to the relationship between those who govern, and those who are governed.

So, a level of violence that is seen as "insurgency" in one society, may well be considered "subversion" in another, and "business as usual" in another still. Just as some families are very physical as a matter of course, while others become physical when there is a major problem.

Frank Kitson described such movements that were relatively non-violent as subversion. It could also simply be the political process of a country. I think so long as the government maintains the populace in "phase 0" they are doing ok. If the government fails to address the failures that give rise to subversion, they will likely grow in violence as popular frustration spreads (Unless the leader of the movement opts for non-violent tactics [Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement]; or the government acts to suppress with heavy hand any hint of violence as it occurs [Saudi Arabia today]).

The Huntington quote applys to the Oil rich nations of the Gulf, that collect no taxes, so do not feel compelled to grant any representation to their populaces. By comparison, during the time of the Zahir in Afghanistan not only were the Shura and Jirga systems quite functional in giving the people of Afghanistan a voice; they also had the position of Khan in each district that is currently missing. This was a leader selected locally, but recognized by the King. A perfect blend of bottom up popular legitimacy and top down governmental officalness that is sadly lacking in Afghanistan today.


Tue, 05/18/2010 - 1:58pm

Doesn't this model suggest that the higher the tolerance for violence, the less likely there is to be an insurgency? And the lower the tolerance for violence, the higher the likelihood of insurgency? If so, does a relatively bloodless insurgency really pose much a problem for us? Would we be unconcerned with a bloodbath that does not reach the level of insurgency?

Also, regarding the quote from Huntington - how does this jibe with Afghanistan's history? Afghanistan was relatively stable during the rule of Zahir, arguably in large part because the state obtained more tax revenues from foreign sources and tariffs and thus antagonized the people much less by not imposing onerous taxes upon them.

Anonymous (not verified)

Tue, 05/25/2010 - 1:40pm

Tough to do any form of goveranance when the the following comment comes out yesterday.

'By day there is government. By night it's the Taliban,' says one Afghan tribal leader." Referencing the first major push on the pop focused COIN efforts.

Until the debate over pop focused or enemy focused COIN gets resolved the Taliban continues to march along--personally not so sure it has been resolved.

So any discussion on the Jones methodology seems to be a mute point as any form of improved governance is being met by an equally determined insurgent counter COIN effort.

We can discuss the Jones method until we all drop, but until the issue of "nighttime control by the Taliban" is eliminated it is I think a waste of dicussion time and effort.

Bob's World

Wed, 05/26/2010 - 3:40am


Actually these point help to validate the model. The model is not a recipe for sustaining the current government in power and defeating insurgent. The model is for bringing stability to a populace by understanding and addressing the root causes of insurgency.

Sometimes, as history shows, the best hope at Good Governance comes from the insurgent. This was the case in the United States.

The challenge for US foreign policy is to devine how to not become mired in proping up dictators; or in enabling impunity of governance by our very support in the same. How to shift our focus to be more focused on the populace and tying our national interests to them, rather than any particular form of government or manning of government.

What we have to ask ourselves about Afghanistan, is what truly are the national interests we are protecting there, and how do we, in this emerging age of empowered poplulaces and networked, non-state UW actors (as AQ is), best accomplish this age old task?

The purpose of my model is to take us back to the timeless basics, so that we can more clearly assess what the TTPs for the emerging future should be.