This article argues that US counterinsurgency doctrine forms a programme of both liberal rule and liberal war whose ultimate purpose is the pacification of recalcitrant populations and their eventual (re)integration into the networks of liberal governance. Designed to promote ‘safe’ forms of life while eradicating ‘dangerous’ ones, the doctrine constitutes a response to both the biopolitical problematization of human (in)security and the geostrategic problematization of US national security. Counterinsurgency aims to harness sociocultural knowledge in order to conduct a form of triage between elements of targeted populations. It also seeks to inscribe the divisions on which such a triage is based into space by means of practices that derive from earlier methods of imperial policing. Ultimately, counterinsurgency’s production and implementation of a biopolitical differentiation between ‘safe’ and ‘dangerous’ human lives is likely not only to reinforce existing societal divisions within targeted populations but also to create new global, regional and local divisions and to generate resistance to what many people will always view as imperial domination. The societal divisions and resistance engendered by counterinsurgency may reinforce Western problematizations of insecurity and hence lead to further counterinsurgency campaigns in the future. Counterinsurgency doctrine is thus not so much a programme of peace and stability as one of spatially and temporally indeterminate pacification.