Dr. Peter Mansoor
The Galula model applies in those cases where the population of a country is more concerned about the effectiveness and legitimacy of its government than in its sectarian or ethnic make-up. "Classic" counterinsurgency efforts to improve the legitimacy of a government are then operative. In those cases where sectarian or ethnic identity trumps other factors (e.g., Sri Lanka or Chechnya), then protecting the people will avail the counterinsurgent little in the way of gaining their trust and confidence. In these cases, other strategic or operational approaches need to be considered.
Iraq was not a clear cut case in either direction. Although the Sunnis were initially opposed to the coalition's efforts to stabilize Iraq, they eventually supported American efforts to protect them from violence and intimidation during the surge in 2007 and 2008. In Afghanistan it is too early to tell whether or not the Pashtuns can be reconciled to the government in Kabul. As in Iraq in 2006, I think it would be premature to claim definitively that a counterinsurgency campaign focused on protecting the people will or will not work. Dr. Peter Mansoor (COL US Army ret.) is the Raymond E. Mason Jr. Chair in Military History, Ohio State University.
Dr. Steven Metz
To me, the Cold War/Maoist model of insurgency applied in situations where new segments of a society were becoming politically aware or mobilized and thus made demands on the state which it could not fulfill. These demands were both tangible--infrastructure, security, education--and intangible (a sense of identity). That's why I think it has very little applicability to current insurgencies. Granted current insurgencies attempt to emulate the Maoist strategy because it worked in the past, but I think this will lead to failure. Dr. Steven Metz is Research Professor of National Security Affairs at the Strategic Studies Institute.
Dr. David Betz
The work of the French officer David Galula was clearly very influential on the thinking of the authors of FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency. There is certainly a lot to like. For one thing, his book Counterinsurgency Warfare is less than 150 pages long which makes it an easy read—four cups of tea and a Sunday afternoon will get you through it. For another, it's written in a very aphoristic style which is highly memorable. So if you're trying to get across to a large number of people a number of 'best practices' or paradoxes of COIN then Galula is a very good assigned reading. The truth is though that most COIN best practice would fit on a bumper sticker. In fact the new UK Field Manual on COIN comes with a laminated credit card sized aide memoire on one side of which are printed the principles of COIN and on the other ISAF's game plan for stabilizing Afghanistan. I'm not criticizing—I think it's a handy thing; my point is rather that Galula and his interpreters sometimes sound a bit like Kipling's 'Just So' stories. In practice, it's complicated, as one sees in Galula too if you read his longer, messier, more ambiguous and more rewarding book Pacification in Algeria. Anyway, to get to the point I have three main reservations about Galula.
First, as Thomas Rid observes in his recent essay 'The 19th Century Origins of Counterinsurgency Doctrine' in the Journal of Strategic Studies, Galula was essentially interpreting 100 years of French practice, Bugeaud, Lyautey and Gallieni, for an American audience. However revolutionary it seemed at Harvard and RAND in the early 1960s it would not have seemed so at the time in France. Nor for that matter, in the UK which had a subtly different tradition of pacification of 'uncivilized peoples' as C.E. Callwell put it in his classic Small Wars, Their Principles and Practice. Somewhat counter-intuitively, personally, I find such authors writing from the era of the 'Belle Epoque' to be even more relevant to our day than those dealing with the post-war era of decolonization.
Second, I've always felt that, whatever else his contributions, Galula was responsible for perhaps the most fundamental and widespread theoretical mistake in the literature when he talked about propaganda: 'The asymmetrical situation has important effects on propaganda. The insurgent, having no responsibility, is free to use every trick... Consequently, propaganda is a powerful weapon for him... The counterinsurgent is tied to his responsibilities and to his past, and for him, facts speak louder than words... For him, propaganda can be no more than a secondary weapon, valuable only if intended to inform and not to fool.' Such a reactive mindset is a heavy burden to bear in an era of intensely mediatised conflicts such as those which we are fighting now.
Third, following from the above, and most importantly, Galula is really talking about the Maoist model at the core of which is the biggest bumper sticker of them all: 'The population is the prize!' Is it really? What is 'it', for that matter? As my colleague John Mackinlay has argued in his recent book The Insurgent Archipelago we are now faced with a form of insurgency which is 'Post-Maoist'. Maoist insurgent objectives were national, whereas post Maoist objectives are global; the population involved in a Maoist insurgency is manageable (albeit with difficulty) whereas the populations (note the plural) involved in Post Maoist insurgency are dispersed and unmanageable; the centre of gravity in Maoist insurgency is local or national whereas in Maoist insurgency it is multiple and possibly irrelevant; the subversion process in Maoist insurgency is top down whereas in Post Maoist insurgency it is bottom up; Maoist insurgent organization is vertical and structured whereas Post Maoist is an unstructured network; and whereas Maoist insurgency takes place in a territorial context, the Post Maoist vital terrain is virtual. I don't find Galula especially relevant to all this; indeed in point of fact I find him unhelpful on the matter of propaganda.
There are other more relevant people to be reading and challenging. The social theorist Manuel Castells most importantly. He argues that de-territorialized insurgency is the paradigmatic conflict type of the Information Age. 'The conflicts of our time,' he says, 'are fought by networked social actors aiming to reach their constituencies and target audiences through the decisive switch to multimedia communications networks.' If that sounds like academic fancy consider that Britain's Chief of Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards, appears to think the same thing, as he argued in a speech last year at the IISS 'Conflict today, especially because so much of it is effectively fought through the medium of the Communications Revolution, is principally about and for People—hearts and minds on a mass scale.'
To be honest, I'm not exactly sure what Richards understands by 'hearts and minds on a mass scale' but even so I have the impression that he thinks we have moved quite a long way from Pacification in Algeria, and so do I. Dr. David Betz is Senior Lecturer in the Department of War Studies, King's College, London.
Dr. Alex Marshall
My issue with the Maoist Paradigm is really two-fold.
My first reservation, as a historian, is that we lack a definitive English-language study of Maoist insurgency itself beyond some fairly stereotyped notions of a three-stage or five-stage revolutionary process (from political agitation to guerrilla conflict to regular warfare). Galula and Thompson were great generalizers, but one can scarcely call their work proper historical studies-their general view was that Maoist-style insurgencies involved a degree of mass brainwashing for example. We possess some interesting case studies of how Maoist mobilization worked in practice on the ground, in individual villages or Shanghai for example, but there is so much more that could be done. Thus Western writing during the Cold War in general generated a shorthand stereotype, when in reality insurgency practice was often more diverse. The reason was simple I suggest-most successful insurgents aren't particularly pithy writers (Guevara and Mao were exceptions), most unsuccessful ones are very quickly dead.
My second concern is more overarching however. The majority of discourse on COIN doesn't take into account the strategic context, remaining locked into the operational level instead. So for example most COIN theory today invokes the importance of institution building (essentially state building, though no longer a state 'we' own), but ignores the broader neoliberal economic context which robs states of many of the tools that they had in the past. It's pretty hard for any government to earn credibility in the eyes of it's own population if private security firms are running rampant along the highways. It's also pretty hard to generate traditional carrots if IMF and World Bank advice is to privatise everything that isn't nailed down (and most of what is), even in a state that is already as capacity poor as Afghanistan. Ha-Joon Chang is eloquent on some of these crazy economic models. On top of that, one must add the proliferation of actors and agendas in any modern western intervention makes the implementation of the older COIN models problematic, as PRTs in Afghanistan for example demonstrate in microcosm. So I would suggest that the majority of writing on COIN remains enemy centric, that is to say that it remains focused on the insurgent him/herself. Here is here a reasonable debate as to whether many insurgencies really remain traditionally 'Maoist', with a fair degree of talk of transnational actors and global jihadists and the fact that mobilizing vast numbers may no longer be important, but actually still a relatively shallow base of historical knowledge. But there is much less discussion of how the strategic situation of the major counter-insurgent force-now typically an intervening major western power-has changed radically in ways which make applying COIN, whether 'counter-Maoist COIN' or some vaguely updated concept, much more problematic. To paraphrase Paul Rogers, we've sleepwalked into a Cold War-era model of 'liddism' (intervening to 'keep a lid' on radicalisation), when dealing with problems that are both more diverse that that, and also not necessarily resolvable using the now not-very-joined-up Western strategic context. Dr. Alex Marshall is Lecturer in History at the University of Glasgow. He has published recently "Imperial nostalgia, the liberal lie, and the perils of postmodern counterinsurgency", Small Wars & Insurgencies, June 2010, Vol 21, No. 2, 233 — 258.