How to “Win Hearts and Minds”?: A Historical Criminological Approach to Policing Disorder, Terrorism, and Insurgency During Occupation

Dr Thomas Kehoe1

1University Of New England, Armidale, AUSTRALIA

Military control of foreign territory—broadly termed “occupation”—unfortunately remains common. In the last decade, Australia has deployed peacekeepers to seven overseas locations, notably East Timor, and to US-led control of Iraq and Afghanistan. This ongoing reality necessitates developing salient theories for effective occupation governance. Ensuring social order in these fragile areas is critical to ensuring the peace and to nation-building, and it has been hypothesised that effective policing and criminal justice are instrumental to the success of these missions. Further, their effectiveness extends beyond actual counter-criminal and counterinsurgency actions to instilling popular perceptions of security, with various scholars having linked beliefs about the level of insecurity to the extent of insurgency and terrorism.

While the unique socio-cultural and historical context of different cases of occupation creates multiple confounders, historical experience provides one route to a more robust theory of occupation governance that effectively addresses the connected issues of social disorder, crime, terrorism, and insurgency. Using historical case studies, this paper presents a four-component model for occupation that includes collaborative policing, predictable criminal justice, proactive counterinsurgency, and reconstruction of the economy and infrastructure. In the past, failed missions have tended to ignore one or more of these components. Moreover, for the four-component model to succeed, historical precedent suggests that policing and criminal justice must balance respect and sensitivity for local culture and social systems against rapid responsiveness to unforeseen obstacles and a need to instil feelings of security amongst the populace through assertive policing that prioritises enforcing peace and order.


Thomas Kehoe is a historical criminologist and is Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at the University of New England. His research examines crime, policing, and criminal justice through history, which has resulted in publications on diverse topics, including crime rates in colonial Australia, trials for witchcraft in the Roman Empire, and the treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses by the Nazi military justice system. His current research focuses on policing and criminal justice during occupation and post-conflict reconstruction, which is addressed in a forthcoming book—The Art of Occupation: Crime and Governance in American-Controlled Germany, 1944-1949—which will be released by Ohio University Press in October this year. This book examines the important connection between crime control and American success in post-World War II Germany. His new research expands this work by focusing on counterinsurgency and counterterrorism during military occupation through the latter half of the 20th Century and during the 21st Century. These are essential elements of conflict and post-conflict governance.


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