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More on Galula

At SWJ Blog:

Octavian ManeaPros and cons on Galula model

In response to the interest raised on the relevance of the Galula model for understanding and dealing with today’s insurgencies, I conducted a brief inquiry with key experts on the topic – Peter Mansoor, Steven Metz, David Betz, and Alex Marshall.

Dr. Peter Mansoor

The Galula model applies in those cases where the population of a country is more concerned about the effectiveness and legitimacy of its government than in its sectarian or ethnic make-up. “Classic” counterinsurgency efforts to improve the legitimacy of a government are then operative. In those cases where sectarian or ethnic identity trumps other factors (e.g., Sri Lanka or Chechnya), then protecting the people will avail the counterinsurgent little in the way of gaining their trust and confidence. In these cases, other strategic or operational approaches need to be considered….

Dr. Steven Metz

To me, the Cold War/Maoist model of insurgency applied in situations where new segments of a society were becoming politically aware or mobilized and thus made demands on the state which it could not fulfill. These demands were both tangible–infrastructure, security, education–and intangible (a sense of identity). That’s why I think it has very little applicability to current insurgencies. Granted current insurgencies attempt to emulate the Maoist strategy because it worked in the past, but I think this will lead to failure.

Dr. David Betz

The work of the French officer David Galula was clearly very influential on the thinking of the authors of FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency. There is certainly a lot to like. For one thing, his book Counterinsurgency Warfare is less than 150 pages long which makes it an easy read-four cups of tea and a Sunday afternoon will get you through it. For another, it’s written in a very aphoristic style which is highly memorable. So if you’re trying to get across to a large number of people a number of ‘best practices’ or paradoxes of COIN then Galula is a very good assigned reading. The truth is though that most COIN best practice would fit on a bumper sticker. In fact the new UK Field Manual on COIN comes with a laminated credit card sized aide memoire on one side of which are printed the principles of COIN and on the other ISAF’s game plan for stabilizing Afghanistan. I’m not criticizing-I think it’s a handy thing; my point is rather that Galula and his interpreters sometimes sound a bit like Kipling’s ‘Just So’ stories. In practice, it’s complicated, as one sees in Galula too if you read his longer, messier, more ambiguous and more rewarding book Pacification in Algeria. Anyway, to get to the point I have three main reservations about Galula…..

Dr. Alex Marshall

My issue with the Maoist Paradigm is really two-fold.

My first reservation, as a historian, is that we lack a definitive English-language study of Maoist insurgency itself beyond some fairly stereotyped notions of a three-stage or five-stage revolutionary process (from political agitation to guerrilla conflict to regular warfare). Galula and Thompson were great generalizers, but one can scarcely call their work proper historical studies-their general view was that Maoist-style insurgencies involved a degree of mass brainwashing for example. We possess some interesting case studies of how Maoist mobilization worked in practice on the ground, in individual villages or Shanghai for example, but there is so much more that could be done. Thus Western writing during the Cold War in general generated a shorthand stereotype, when in reality insurgency practice was often more diverse. The reason was simple I suggest-most successful insurgents aren’t particularly pithy writers (Guevara and Mao were exceptions), most unsuccessful ones are very quickly dead.

My second concern is more overarching however. The majority of discourse on COIN doesn’t take into account the strategic context, remaining locked into the operational level instead…..

Read the whole thing here.

A very productive piece by Manea and the gents above. Galula’s historiographic importance in COIN should be undisputed and his contribution to theory acknowledged and respected. Application of Galula’s framework (or, really, anybody’s) for understanding COIN, in analyzing insurgencies should be used cautiously or lightly until there is enough of an emprical understanding of the structure and motivations of the insurgents and the political deficiencies of the state, to see to what extent the model fits, before the operational assumptions of a military bureaucracy and theater command harden into place.

Lacking the reliable contingency of a superpower patron on an ideological crusade in the 21st century to impose a stamp of identity and tactics on it’s proxies, insurgencies are likely to be as diverse as La Familia is from FARC, the Taliban or the Real IRA.

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