The Use of Knowledge in Counterinsurgency

Devon S. Miller

Advisor: Christopher Coyne, PhD, Department of Economics

Committee Members: Richard Wagner, Peter Boettke

Online Location, #D150
April 21, 2020, 09:30 AM to 11:30 AM


Three dimensions of counterinsurgency are examined through different economic lenses. Virginia Political Economy informs the effectiveness of targeted killing campaigns in creating security. Austrian Economics illuminates the performance of economic development initiatives. Finally, Institutional Economics guides an evaluation of competing strategies to achieve governance objectives.

· Security The effects of decentralization on terrorist groups are examined through the lens of Virginia Political Economy. Two case studies—the Provisional Irish Republican Army and Al Qaeda—find the efficiency of organizational coordination and effectiveness of organizational control to be higher in the periods of relative centralization. These findings extend the literature on targeted killings in order to more completely assess the effectiveness of such campaigns.

· Development: The knowledge requirements of economic development inform a critical evaluation of the ability of the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP)—a United States Department of Defense (DOD) reconstruction program in Iraq and Afghanistan—to achieve the Coalition’s economic counterinsurgency objectives. The shortcomings of the CERP program are illuminated through the analytic framework of economic calculation and the planner’s problem.

· Governance: Modern cases of direct institutional competition—judicial institutions in Afghanistan, Liberia, and Peru—are evaluated, resulting in the identification of a relationship between Northian adaptive efficiency and institutional performance. This

examination of how non-market institutional arrangements operate inform the development of access to justice initiatives, such as those in counterinsurgency.

The generation, transmission, and consumption of information underlies all three cases, as the ultimate fitness of an organization, an economy, or an institution relies on its use of knowledge.