Academic journal article Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review

Deportations and Counterinsurgency A Comparison of Malaya, Algeria and Romania

Academic journal article Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review

Deportations and Counterinsurgency A Comparison of Malaya, Algeria and Romania

Article excerpt

Like Molière's bourgeois, who wrote prose without knowing it, the American armed forces fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan between the invasion of the respective countries in 2001-2003 and roughly 2006 practiced counterinsurgency (COIN) without knowing it or, more accurately, without admitting it1. Ever since the end of the Vietnam War, COIN had been perceived as having very little to do with the "American Way in Warfare", which concerned mostly large-scale conflicts fought for vital objectives and mobilizing vast numbers of soldiers supported by tremendous material resources2. Very few officers had any formal theoretical or practical training in fighting armed rebels, and the political leadership in the Department of Defense had even forbidden the use of the word "insurgency" in the initial post-occupation stages in Iraq. The situation changed after 2005-2006, when the U.S. elite decided to put its trust in a particular group of military officers and academics who advocated the doctrine of counterinsurgency (COIN) as the best solution to the twin nightmares of Afghanistan and Iraq3. Led by General David Petraeus, the group rewrote the American tactical and strategic guidelines for conflicts in occupied countries and then, under his direct command, applied this strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan4. This particular school elevated the experiences of late colonial warfare, notably the French experience in Algeria and the British campaign in Malaya to the status of policy guides for the early 21st century world5.

This article attempts two things: to briefly recall the argument that in order to understand the contemporary COIN approach we must go back to its actual and professed intellectual and practical roots, the study of the classical counterinsurgencies fought immediately after the Second World War both by Western and Eastern states; and to highlight the centrality of internal deportations for military victory against the rebels by discussing this approach in Malaya, Algeria and Romania. This centrality makes it very hard for contemporary democratic states to pursue successful COIN, as doing so would place their governments in a moral breach with their own standards and values and in a tenuous position concerning internal and international law.

The significance for the theory and practice of contemporary COIN of the campaigns fought after the Second World War needs hardly be demonstrated. Critically or not, all major COIN authors and practitioners ground their works and conclusions on the supposedly "golden era of COIN"6. David Kilcullen, one of the academic and military brains behind the anti-insurgent approach in Afghanistan and Iraq consciously posits his theory of a comprehensive approach to a globalized insurgency as both a continuation and sharp correction of the lessons learned from the theorists of the 1960`, especially British expert Robert Thompson7. To advance a relatively similar position another foremost analyst of the phenomenon, John Mackinlay frames his approach of the contemporary global insurgency as a postMaoist phase, thus basing his theory on the presumed importance of Mao Zedong's influence on the classical, Cold War armed rebellions8. Probably more importantly from a practical perspective, the 2006 US Army Counterinsurgency Field Manual, co-authored by General David Petraeus, the top COIN officer in Iraq and then Afghanistan, contains historical sections with lessons learned from previous conflicts in Malaya, Algeria or Vietnam, as well as a quite significant bibliography of the works on which the entire approach is based9.

Present-day theorists and practitioners see the classical counterinsurgencies of the early post-1945 period in a particular light. The "hearts and minds" approach, which forms the consensus in contemporary Western COIN and stands for a strategy that centres on winning the active and willing support of the civilian population in the struggle against armed rebels, is essentially the conventional wisdom about what happened in Malaya in the 1950's10. …

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