Much ado surrounds the myths of T.E. Lawrence and David Galula. So much so that academics fawn, foreign policy is derived, and military manuals preach their stories as holy works. From the practice, beautiful theory was born that enlightened western interventionists can deploy into the hinterlands, win hearts, minds, and souls, and unilaterally transform societies through the spread of democracy and capitalism.
After the traumatic events of 9/11, our stubborn refusal to study and learn from the Vietnam War, and our slow start in Iraq and Afghanistan, these are the stories that we wanted to hear; we needed to hear. As with every myth from George Washington's apple tree to Greg Mortenson's schools, the truth is often much messier and complicated. Essentially, it's a human story filled with emotion, exaggeration, pride, and greed.
In February, Bing West challenged that "the new religion of benevolent counterinsurgency has been defined by the best writers. Especially in Big Army, attracting attention and prominence is helped enormously by an advanced degree and by the publication of theoretical papers on macro topics at the high level of warfare."
Today, as the study ebbs and flows, a new wave of counter-counterinsurgent academics are beginning to deconstruct the myths. The research question is simply "what really happened?" Of significant note, Grégor Mathias's Galula in Algeria: Counterinsurgency Practice versus Theory begins to carefully scrutinize Galula's claims. From the website,
by Grégor Mathias
Translated by Neal Durando
Foreword by David H. Ucko
This groundbreaking investigation uncovers serious mismatches between David Galula's counterinsurgency practice in Algeria and his counterinsurgency theory—the foundation of current U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine in Iraq and Afghanistan.
General David Petraeus and Lt. Col. John Nagl, coauthors of the U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Field Manual, credit David Galula's Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice (Praeger 1964, 2006) as the single most influential source of the doctrine they set forth. What does an informed, objective study of the basis of Galula's work reveal?
Given the centrality of David Galula's theory to U.S. Counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is striking that there has been no independent evaluation of Galula's recollection of his COIN operations in Algeria. Galula in Algeria: Counterinsurgency Practice versus Theory delivers just such an analysis, exploring the colonial French counter-insurrectionary theoretical milieu of which Galula's COIN theory was a part, the influence of Galula's theory on U.S. COIN doctrine, and the current views of Galula's theory in France and other NATO countries.
French defense researcher Gregor Mathias compares each of the eight steps of Galula's theory set out in Counterinsurgency Warfare with his practice of them as described in his writings and, now for the first time, in the SAS archives and those of Galula's infantry company and battalion. The study shows that Galula systematically inflated his operational successes to match his theoretical scheme, and that he left field problems unresolved, causing his work to unravel almost immediately when he left his command. Mathias concludes that, however heuristically fruitful Galula's theory might prove for U.S. COIN doctrine, it must be interpreted and implemented under the caveat that it was not successfully field-tested by its author.