For those following the War in Iraq and for those interested in contemporary warfare and strategy generally, this is one article you simply can’t miss.
Arthur Herman examines the one historical conflict that must be examined if we hope to learn how to defeat an insurgency — the Algerian War of Independence.
…As he had learned from watching the British mount successful counterinsurgencies in Malaya and Greece, neither heavy casualties, nor the loss of weapons and bases, nor even the loss of leaders would stop the rebels. Ultimately, indeed, “military action [was] but a minor factor in the conflict.”
What then? Essentially, Galula grasped that the new form of warfare had reversed the conventional relationship in war between combatant and civilian. No longer bystanders or useful adjuncts to the war effort, as in World War II, civilians were the critical determinants of success or failure. Without the help or at least the passive acquiescence of the local population, the government would be doomed. In a crucial sense, it did not matter how many guerrillas were killed, or how many regular soldiers were on the ground; the center of gravity was the opinion of the local community…
….Galula’s approach boiled down to three stages, each with its own lesson for Iraq today…
Really, you want to read the entire thing. That’s not something I will say often. (Usually when I do, it’ll be in reference to a Jack Handey short)
Make no mistake about it. We the West–I use the word in the broadest sense; Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, you’re with us too!–must master counterinsurgency and counterterrorism sooner better than later. How to fight bastards who with their IEDs hide among civilian populations is something we were going to need to learn eventually. Even if the present Iraq enterprise fails, even if there had never been an Iraq enterprise.
Related reading: TJ explains why more boots on the ground does not necessarily make your war effort go smoother. It’d be nice if I could believe a sudden burst of wisdom to the above was the reason Harry Reid and pals reversed their positions on sending more troops to Iraq so soon after the Bush administration had decided to do exactly this.
(via Austin Bay)