on 2 May 2015
Written by a very experienced French officer who served in WW2, China and Algeria, David Galula examines first the characteristics of revolutionary war. He makes useful distinctions between insurgency, revolution, plots/coup d’etat and civil war. He comments extensively on the asymmetry of the strengths of the insurgent and counter-insurgent and draws out the implications. In this context he emphasizes the control/loyalty of the population and the advantages of time, cost and flexibility to the insurgent.
Galula deals at some length with the cause of the insurgent, the political strength or weakness of the state and the other characteristics (geography, outside support) which may influence the success of the insurgency. Ironically enough, the ideal geographical conditions seem remarkably similar to those found in a certain land-locked Central Asian country. He deals with the possible progress and vulnerable periods of insurgencies, basically (I think) in terms of the patterns set out by Mao and Guevara.
Galula then discusses the various options open to the counter-insurgent in the early (non-violent) periods and the later (violent) periods. He proposes four laws for the counter-insurgent:
The Support of the Population Is as Necessary for the Counterinsurgent as for the Insurgent.
Support is Gained Through an Active Minority (of the population)
Support from the Population Is Conditional
Intensity of Efforts and Vastness of Means are Essential
Naturally he teases out the detail of all this to gain further insight. He then makes some very clear and pertinent remarks about the interaction of civilian and military leadership. Interestingly, he explicitly assumes that the leader of the counter-insurgency effort will be a civilian.
Lastly, Galula looks more closely at the operational techniques that a counter-insurgent might/should employ. Galula proposes the following broad sequence for such operations:
Destruction/Expulsion of Insurgent Forces (from the selected area)
Deployment of Static (i.e. Garrison) units
Contact With/Control of the Population
Destruction of the Insurgent Political Organization
Testing the Local Leaders
Organizing a (political!) Party
Winning Over/Suppressing the Last Guerrillas.
Again, the details of these are expanded in the text.
The book is short, sensible and very readable. It is useful as both a piece of history and a still worthwhile framework for a modern counter-insurgent practitioner to consider. Personally I think it may show its age most in the lack of consideration of the limitations imposed on a counter-insurgency by public opinion outside of the strict target area. However, it is still more clear than much current thought on the problems of counter-insurgency: his thoughts on the transformation of conventional forces to those suitable for counter-insurgency, for instance, still ring absolutely true. Highly recommended to those interested in the field.
on 13 April 2013
I found about this book on a recent issue of "Foreign Affairs (vol.92/1, page 75). It seems that it had a major influence on general Petraeus and on the USA counterinsurgency field manual of 2007. It is a really absorbing reading for its clarity, logical depth and underlying experience. David Galula was a French officer and served in WW2 and then in China, Greece, Indochina and Algeria. He died in 1967and the book is particularly based on the operations in the wars in those areas..
Its first and major point is the "asymmetry" between Insurgency and Counterinsurgency, arising from the disproportion of strength at the outset and from the difference between their assets and liabilities. The established armed forces find their training, organization and weapons largely irrelevant to the new task and need to re-adjust to a new form of warfare in which the object is not killing enemies but to control and gain the support of the population.
The book details the prerequisites and doctrine of Insurgency, as applied with success by Mao Tse-tung .and the Vietminh, as well as the failures in Greece and Malaya.
The second half of the book presents a sharply clear analysis of the strategy, tactics and operations of Counterinsurgency. Four laws are listed as essential: 1) support of the population is necessary - 2)support is gained through an active minority - 3)support by the population is conditional - 4) intensity of effort and vastness of means are essential..
The strategy must be based on a step-by-step approach, selecting areas and making their control irreversible.
The tactics require single direction, with the primacy of the political over the military power, coordination of efforts, primacy of the territorial command, adaptation of minds and of the armed forces to the new requirements.
The last chapter, "Operations" , details eight steps to apply in each selected area: 1) expulsion of the insurgent forces - 2) deployment of static units in close contact with the population, while a mobile unit is kept ready to intervene where and when necessary - 3)contact with and control of the population 4) destruction of the insurgent political organization - 5) local elections - 6) testing the local leaders - 7) organizing a party - 8) winning over or suppressing the guerrillas.
The book is only 99 pages long but its depth, clarity and concentration of logics, common sense and practical examples, make its reading a really unforgettable experience.One really feels to have learned a lot and to be more prepared to understand the present and more recent military events.
on 22 March 2011
I needed to carry out some research for a presentation, I bought this book along with two others.
This uses a wealth of examples to help understand key insurgency/coin concepts. My pages are now covered in extra notes(pencil) which I can only take as a good sign. I really couldn't put this book down. The author effectively argues through the key points of a COIN model. Which actions have worked , which haven't as well as the motivations and catalysts for insurgency itself. A very balanced book, and a great read.
Very happy with my purchase. I would especially recommend to anyone employed in the military or military environments.