A Vision So Noble

'Counterinsurgency Warfare'


Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice
(David Galula)

The U.S. Army and Marine Corps could have done worse than adopt this wonderful little book as their counter-insurgency manual, rather than go to all that effort to call down FM 3-24. And to think that it was first published in 1964! Good grief, not only could we have headed off that debacle in Iraq from 2004 to 2007, we might have won the Vietnam War as well. Here are my notes from a first reading:

Don't follow the Little Red Book! "What [Mao Zedong] he calls 'the laws of revolutionary war' are in fact those of the revolutionary side, his side." (p.xiii)

"Whereas in conventional war, either side can initiate the conflict, only one--the insurgent--can initiate a rvolutionary war, for counterinsurgency is only an effect of insurgency." (p.1)

"Thus the battle for the population is a major characteristic of the revolutionary war." (p.4)

An abrupt transition from peace to war, typical of conventional conflicts, "is hardly possible in the revolutionary war, because the aggressor--the insurgent--lacks sufficient strength at the outset." (p.5)

"Once the insurgent has acquired strength and possesses significant regular forces, it would seem that the war should become a conventional one, a sort of civil war in which each camp holds a portion of the national territory from which he directs blows at the other. But if the insurgent has understood his strategic problems well, revolutionary war never reverts to a conventional form." (p.9)

"The importance of a cause ... decreases progressively as the insurgent acquires strength. The war itself becomes the principal issue, forcing the population to take sides, preferably the winning one." (p.16)

"A country is run in its day-to-day life by its bureaucracy, which has a force of its own that has sometimes no relation to the strength or weakness of the top political leadership.... Since an insurgency is a bottom-to-top movement, an administrative vacuum at the bottom, an incompetent bureaucracy, plays into the hands of the insurgent." (p.19)

"Paradoxically, the less sophisticated the counterinsurgent forces, the better they are." (p.21)

"What makes it possible for the guerrillas to survive and to expand? The complicity of the population. This is the key to guerrilla warfare, indeed to the insurgency, and it has been best expressed [by Mao Zedong] in the formula of the fish swimming in the water." (pp.33-34)

"Where to operate? In the areas that the counterinsurgent cannot easily control, and where the guerrilla gangs can consequently survive and develop." (p.34) The factors: insurgent has strong among the populace; geographically remote; inaccessible due to terrain and communications; straddles administration borders.

"Guerrilla warfare cannot win the decision against a resolute enemy. Protracted guerrilla activity, so cheap to carry out and so expensive to suppress, may eventually produce a crisis in the counterinsurgent camp, but it could just as well alienate the population and disintegrate the popular front. The enemy must be met on his own ground; an insurgent regular army has to be created in order to destroy the counterinsurgent forces." (p.36)

"The strategy of conventional warfare prescribes the conquest of the enemy's territory, the destruction of his forces. The trouble here is that the enemy holds no territory and refuses to fight for it." (p.50)

"The First Law: The Support of the Population Is as Necessary for the Counterinsurgent as for the Insurgent" (p.52)

"The Second Law: Support Is Gained Through an Active Minority" (p.53)

"The Third Law: Support from the Population Is Contingent" (p.54) "The counterinsurgent needs a convincing success as early as possible in order to demonstrate that he has the will, the means, and the ability to win." (p.55)

"The Fourth Law: Intensity of Efforts and Vastness of Means Are Essential" (p.55)

"1. Concentrate enough armed forces to destroy or expel the main body of armed insurgents.
"2. Detach for the area sufficient troops to oppose an insurgent's comeback in strength, install these troops in the hamlets, villages and towns where the population lives.
"3. Establish contact with the population, control its movements in order to cut off its links with the guerrillas.
"4. Destroy the local insurgent political organizations.
"5. Set up, by means of elections, new provisional local authorities.
"6. Test these authorities.... Replace the softs and the incompetents, give full support to active leaders. Organize self-defense units.
"7. Group and educate the leaders in a national political movement.
"8. Win over or suppress the last insurgent remnants." (p.56)

"What does it matter if the counterinsurgent is unable on the whole to run as fast as the insurgent? What counts is the fact that the insurgent cannot dislodge a better-armed detachment of counterinsurgents from a village, or cannot harrass it enough to to make the counterinsurgent unable to devote most of his energy to the population." (p.58)

"A single boss must direct the operations from beginning until the end." (p.61) "That the political power is the undisputed boss is a matter of both principle and practicality. What is at stake is the country's political regime and to defend it is a political affair." (pp.62-63)

A committe structure vs. an integrated staff: "There seems to be room for both in counterinsurgency warfare. The committee is better for the higher echelons ... the integrated staff for the lower echelons.... For counterinsurgency, at the bottom levels, is a very small-scale war, with small-scale and fugitive opportunities that must be seized upon instantly." (p.64)

"It seems natural that the counterinsurgent's forces should be organized into two types of units, the mobile ones fighting in a rather conventional fashion, and the static ones staying with the population in order to protect it and to supplement the political efforts.... For his ground forces, [the counterinsurgent] needs infantry and more infantry, highly mobile and lightly armed; some field artillery for occasional support; armored cavalry, and if terrain conditions are favorable, horse cavalry for road surveillance and patrolling. For his air force, he wants ground support and observation planes of slow speed, high endurance, great firepower, protected against small-arms ground fire; plus short-takeoff transport planes and helicopters.... The navy's mission, if any, is to enforce a blockade...." (p.65)

"A system of military rewards and promotions, such as that in conventional warfare, which would encourage soldiers to kill or capture the largest number of enemies, and thus induce him to increase the scope and the frequency of his military operations, may well be disastrous in counterinsurgency warfare." (p.66)

"On the eve of embarking on a major effort, the counterinsurgent faces what is probably the most difficult problem of the war: He has to arm himself with a competing cause." (p.71)

"The administrative and the military limits [of a region] should coincide at every level even if the resulting borders seem nonsensical from a strictly miitary point of view. Failure to observe this principle would result in confusiong that would benefit the insurgent." (p.78)

"Resettlement clearly is a last-resort measure, born out of the counterinsurgent's weakness." (p.79)

"The deployment [of static units] must not follow a set pattern, such as a company or a platoon for every village. It must be flexible...." (p.79) "The deployment of static units marks the beginning of a long campaign to shake the population from its neutral, if not hostile, stance. The deployment is a convincing argument to to show that the counterinsurgents are there to stay, for they would not spread out if they contemplated leaving the area after an extensive but one-shot operation." (p.80)

"Build (or rebuild) a political machine from the population upward." (p.95)