- On “Other War”: Lessons from Five Decades of RAND Counterinsurgency Research, and: Pacification in Algeria, 1956–1958
As Operation Iraqi Freedom degenerated into an almost incomprehensible series of ambushes, roadside bombings, and suicide attacks, military leaders scrambled to adjust their doctrine, organizations, and training to respond to a war the government had not anticipated. After the fall of 2004, they found themselves waging a counterinsurgency—the effort to sustain a state's sitting government. Doctrinal writers, led by senior U.S. Army and [End Page 1307] Marine officers, reviewed previous counterinsurgency operations in Malaya, Indochina, Algeria, and other conflicts as they developed a new field manual that arrived in the hands of trainers and units by January 2007. Many of the works they relied on came from the Research and Development (RAND) Corporation of Santa Monica, California. Established on the initiative of Army Air Forces General Henry "Hap" Arnold in 1945, its goal was to retain some of the intellectual firepower so essential to the nation's success in the recently ended conflict. With the arrival of the Kennedy administration and America's increasing involvement in Southeast Asia, RAND began turning its attention to the problem of counterinsurgency.
Austin Long's On "Other War" describes the individual analysts, their research output, and the theories they developed between 1955 and 1995. He then relates these ideas to the current operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Especially in the first decade, researchers such as Stephen Hosmer, Daniel Ellsberg (of Pentagon Papers fame), Bruce Hoffman, and Robert Komer, among others, directly contributed to the debate over U.S. strategy in Southeast Asia. The body of literature they developed, which Long identifies in an annotated bibliography, is impressive and, unfortunately, was generally ignored in the early stages of the Bush administration's "Global War on Terror."
One of the important theorists of counterinsurgency was David Galula, who died in 1967. Galula was a French officer who studied insurgency while serving in a variety of posts in China, Communist-threatened Greece, and in Hong Kong during the French Indochina War. Galula's ideas have emerged as key elements of American counterinsurgency doctrine. His Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice (Praeger, 1964) was one of the first texts used by Army officers in 2005 to come to grips with problems confronting them in Iraq. Far more impressive and readable, but less well-known is Galula's Pacification in Algeria, written, at RAND's invitation, following his participation in a conference on counterinsurgency in 1962 on similar problems confronting the United States in Vietnam.
Not a scholarly study, unlike of most of RAND's products, Pacification is Galula's personal account of his two year's service as a company commander fighting the insurgency in a province east of Algiers. His fundamental lament was the French Army's failure to understand they were involved in an insurgency, the lack of a counterinsurgency doctrine, and the reliance on kinetic methods to defeat the rebellion. With this situation as a backdrop, Galula describes his efforts to implement his theoretical concept that focuses on gaining the population's support, rather than simply destroying guerrilla bands. The similarities between France's mistakes in Algeria and American performance in Iraq are striking. However, as intriguing as his arguments are, we must also remember that Galula was a relatively junior officer in one of France's major colonial wars, and one it actually won militarily. Certainly, this book is not a prescription for success, but a collection of ideas to consider when evaluating counterinsurgency operations.
Taken together, these two short volumes are essential works for any scholar of small wars and counterinsurgency. Long's On "Other War" contains a wealth of information on doctrinal development and two excellent [End Page 1308] bibliographies of counterinsurgency publications...