Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version



Norvell, A. 2022. The Importance of Cultural Knowledge in Counterinsurgency. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Allee Norvell 2022.


This thesis discusses the importance and usefulness of cultural knowledge in counterinsurgency. When combatting insurgent groups, it can be difficult to identify insurgents and utilize conventional warfare. Insurgents use various tactics and strategies to promote their goals while living among the local population. These aspects require intervening countries and counterinsurgency to take the varying strategies into consideration when making their military decisions. The most important aspect needed for these counterinsurgency operations is cultural knowledge. Having an understanding of the intervening population and its dynamics with the insurgent group can be proven to be very beneficial. Specifically, in the cases of the US, their counterinsurgency tactics have varied across cases. This thesis will observe three cases of US intervention: Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. These cases show the need for cultural knowledge. The cases of Vietnam and Afghanistan have little utilization of cultural knowledge, and this can be a main explanation to why these wars ended with shortcomings and loss. It can be argued that cultural knowledge could have improved the US’s position in these interventions. Iraq shows that a switch to a population based military strategy that incorporated cultural knowledge can be successful. This paper argues the importance of cultural knowledge in the cases of counterinsurgency and intervention and how it could have influenced and changed the outcome of three US interventions. This thesis will present the significance of cultural knowledge in these specific three cases as well as counterinsurgency as a whole.