I am a bit of a military and political buff and recently saw something rather interesting, just published by the US Army. Entitled “Counterinsurgency”, it’s a detailed look (281 pages) at practically all aspects of counterinsurgency.
1-5. Governments can be overthrown in a number of ways. An unplanned, spontaneous explosion of popular will, for example, might result in a revolution like that in France in 1789. At another extreme is the coup d’etat, where a small group of plotters replace state leaders with little support from the people at large. Insurgencies generally fall between these two extremes. They normally seek to achieve one of two goals: to overthrow the existing social order and reallocate power within a single state, or to break away from state control and form an autonomous entity or ungoverned space that they can control. Insurgency is typically a form of internal war, one that occurs primarily within a state, not between states, and one that contains at least some elements of civil war.
Interesting to me were the short case studies (in grey boxes) providing historical perspectives on past insurgencies. Makes you wonder if anyone at the top levels of our government ever took a history class. What we’re going through in Iraq has happened so many times in the past it’s almost a joke.
For example, under a case study entitled: “Lose Moral Legitimacy, Lose the War”, we see this example:
During the Algerian war of independence between 1954 and 1962, French leaders decided to permit torture against suspected insurgents. Though they were aware that it was against the law and morality of war, they argued that—
• This was a new form of war and these rules did not apply.
• The threat the enemy represented, communism, was a great evil that justified extraordinary means.
• The application of torture against insurgents was measured and nongratuitous.
This official condoning of torture on the part of French Army leadership had several negative consequences. It empowered the moral legitimacy of the opposition, undermined the French moral legitimacy, and caused internal fragmentation among serving officers that led to an unsuccessful coup attempt in 1962. In the end, failure to comply with moral and legal restrictions against torture severely undermined French efforts and contributed to their loss despite several significant military victories. Illegal and immoral activities made the counterinsurgents extremely vulnerable to enemy propaganda inside Algeria among the Muslim population, as well as in the United Nations and the French media. These actions also degraded the ethical climate throughout the French Army. France eventually recognized Algerian independence in July 1963.
Or this example, under “Campaign Assessment and Reassessment”:
During Napoleon’s occupation of Spain in 1808, it seems little thought was given to the potential challenges of subduing the Spanish populace. Conditioned by the decisive victories at Austerlitz and Jena, Napoleon believed the conquest of Spain would be little more than a “military promenade.” Napoleon’s campaign included a rapid conventional military victory but ignored the immediate requirement to provide a stable environment for the populace. The French failed to analyze the Spanish people, their history, culture, motivations, and potential to support or hinder the achievement of French political objectives. The Spanish people were accustomed to hardship, suspicious of foreigners and constantly involved in skirmishes with security forces. Napoleon’s cultural miscalculation resulted in a protracted occupation struggle that lasted nearly six years and ultimately required approximately three-fifths of the Empire’s total armed strength, almost four times the force of 80,000 Napoleon originally designated.The Spanish resistance drained the resources of the French Empire. It was the beginning of the end for Napoleon. At the theater level, a complete understanding of the problem and a campaign design that allowed the counterinsurgency force to learn and adapt was lacking.
That is, if you can get through it without collapsing from the overwhelming amount of detail.