The essence of counterinsurgency is encapsulated in the phrase "winning hearts and minds." Anything that interferes with "winning hearts and minds" -- no matter how expedient and necessary an act may seem -- undercuts the lifeblood of a counterinsurgency effort.
Iraqi Mother Watches As US Troops Search Home and Sons
T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) put it in these terms: an insurgency "must have a friendly population, not actively friendly, but sympathetic to the point of not betraying rebel movements to the enemy. Rebellions can be made by 2% active in a striking force, and 98% passively sympathetic."
In this image (right) an Iraqi mother watches nervously as US troops search her home after receiving information that armed insurgents were staying in her house. Her house, located in the Hurriyah neighborhood of Baghdad, was searched in the early morning hours of September 13,2007. Her two sons were humiliated and interrogated. Then they were ordered to stand with their faces to the wall during the search. US troops found no weapons or incriminating evidence to implicate the family.
How many times do such events occur on a daily basis across the landscape of Iraq? More than likely, too numerous to count! Yet, as this image strongly suggests, it is through such acts of disrespect and intimidation that Iraqi "hearts and minds" eventually become "passively sympathetic" to the presence of the insurgents in their midsts.