Academic journal article Prism : a Journal of the Center for Complex Operations

Galula in Algeria: Counterinsurgency Practice versus Theory

Academic journal article Prism : a Journal of the Center for Complex Operations

Galula in Algeria: Counterinsurgency Practice versus Theory

Article excerpt

Galula in Algeria: Counterinsurgency Practice versus Theory By Gregor Mathias Praeger, 2011 143 pp., $37-00 ISBN: 978-O-313-39575-8


With the outbreak of insurgency in Iraq (followed by Afghanistan), an urgent requirement emerged for concise and easily comprehensible answers to the complex question of how to counter an insurgency. In the midst of two wars, with no time or current doctrine and with a Presidential mandate for solutions, strategic thinkers and generals were desperately searching for a foothold to halt what seemed to be the inevitable descent into chaos in Iraq. The works of David Galula played a significant role in fulfilling that mandate. Touted by General David Petraeus and other military leaders - General Stanley McChrystal, for instance, claimed to keep Galula's publications on his nightstand to read every night - Galula's work has been influential in forming current U.S. counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine. Indeed, his influence on Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency, which was authored under the leadership of General Petraeus, is undeniable.

Amidst his notoriety and acclaim, there is a limited amount of information about who exactly David Galula was and how his military record measures up - specifically his successes and failures. Gregor Mathias has finally shed light on Galula's previously opaque personal history. He juxtaposes Galula's eight principals from Counter insurgency Warfare and his success in applying these theoretical constructs in Algeria in methodical detail. Through Mathias's exhaustive research and primary source evidence, the real historical narrative of Galula in Algeria has now been brought to light. After examining all eight principals as applied by Galula in Djebel Aïssa Mimoun in Algeria (the district he commanded), the results were abysmal.

Particularly salient steps to current U.S. COIN doctrine are the second, "Assign sufficient troops to oppose the insurgent's comeback and install these troops in each village," and the fourth, "Destroy the local insurgent political organizations."

Galula's second step is interesting because this is where "[he] practiced the ink-spot strategy. . . . The ink spot refers to the idea of creating military posts that are gradually extended with economic and social development (markets, clinics, schools) and the establishment of local government, control of the populace, elimination of adversaries, and arming supporters before moving on to another region" (p. 23). This obviously sounds familiar to us all by now. It is commonly and simplistically referred to as "clear, hold, and build" in Afghanistan. By no means was this a new strategy; in fact, it was not even original to Galula. As Mathias points out, it was "invented by Marshall Gallieni in Tonkin from 1892 to 1896 and developed by Marshall Lyautey in his article 'Du rôle colonial de l'armée' (The Army's role in the Colonies) in the journal Revue des Deux mondes" (p. 23). Galula's experience in applying this strategy was the primary point of influence on current U.S. doctrine; therefore, one would assume that it would have been further investigated before it became the centerpiece of American strategy. Unfortunately, if we had looked deeper, as this book does, we would have realized that Galula's application of this was not successful. Although the platoons' presence in Djebel Aïssa increased security, it did not prevent or slow down the insurgent political cadre from exerting effective control over the population.

Similarly, when examining the forth step, we realize that although there was initial success in the implementation of this principle, it was short lived. However, at the time Galula continued to publicize his self-proclaimed successes. Indeed, he wrote in Lettre d'informations that:

[I]n four purged villages, five members of the OPA [insurgent political organization] were killed, two imprisoned, 30 members were arrested and released on conditional liberty, and several became councilmen or harikis. …

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