In a pre-Thanksgiving center-plate bounty, Vegetius writes with elegance and precision over at Small Wars Journal that it’s time to liberate COIN theory from the “hearts and minds” misunderstanding:

Hearts and Minds is a wonderful name for a teen romance novel, but I’ve always thought it to be a poor name for a counterinsurgency concept. The idea of winning the hearts and minds of the population carries the connotation that there is somehow a magic formula that will turn the population from willing puppets of the insurgency into enthusiastic supporters of the national government. The reality is that the key to defeating an insurgency is in shaping the human terrain so that the host nation can conduct governance and economic development in conditions approaching normalcy.

Of course, I agree wholeheartedly (har har):

At no time did the U.S. set its aims back more stunningly than when we presumed that Iraqis and Afghans would rally to the nebulous cause of “freedom.” That sort of ideological effort is the actual meaning of “hearts and minds,” and experience demonstrates that amidst an insurgency it’s the strategic equivalent of prayer. Counterinsurgency, by contrast, gains its force from the recognition that offering up nice ideological platitudes is gibberish when a population is getting killed at will; has no plausible path to material prosperity; and no legitimate means to settle its grievances.

In short, counterinsurgency isn’t about winning hearts and minds. It’s about tending to heartbeats, stomachs and wallets. (Yes, that’s a tweaking of a previous formulation of mine.)

The best that can be said for the “hearts and minds” formulation is that it provides an excuse to post the eponymous apocryphal Clash track, whose coda reworks a 101ers number to brilliant effect. But given the actual framework on offer here, the ideal COINdinista album would have to be Ghostface’s Bulletproof Wallets.