Small Wars Journal

David Galula, Frantz Fanon, and the Imperfect Lessons of the Algerian War

Sun, 06/08/2014 - 8:09pm

David Galula, Frantz Fanon, and the Imperfect Lessons of the Algerian War

T.S. Allen

Memory and Theory

Few historical comparisons have proven to be as useful for military officers today as that of the war that the French government fought against the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) from 1954 to 1962 to determine the fate of Algeria. The memory of that war has shaped the way warriors and scholars have viewed insurgency and counterinsurgency ever since. The war was the first measure of the long coda to the French empire, coming after the Viet Minh had delivered the coup de grâce to the myth of French power at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and France had hastily divested herself of most of her Asian and African colonies, but before France completely abandoned the imperial mindset. (Indeed, it would take until 1995 for France to abolish the neocolonialist Communauté française.) Memories of the war have been cloudy for all those involved. Algerian memory of the conflict was politicized during the trials and tribulations of the immediate post-colonial period. Gallic pride prevented France from even admitting the Algerian conflict was a “war” until 1999—before then, it was officially called a military response to civil disturbances.[i]

Hazy memories did not prevent, and may even have helped, the “lessons” of the war in Algeria having a major impact on the thinking of those who had never been there. The war’s events provided the inspiration for two of the most popular military theorists of the twentieth century. From 1956 to 1958, then-Captain David Galula of the French Colonial Infantry learned lessons in Kabylia that he would later record in two influential works, Pacification in Algeria (1963) and Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice (1964), both how-to guides for the soldier seeking to pacify a restive populace. While Galula worked to put down the revolt, a young Martiniquan psychiatrist, Frantz Fanon, was fomenting it, in part through his popular book A Dying Colonialism (1959). In his final days, Fanon also recorded his beliefs on colonialism and decolonization in The Wretched of the Earth (1963).

Both Fanon and Galula are widely read in the English-speaking world today. Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth and A Dying Colonialism remain in print; a new English translation of the former was released in 2004.[ii] Galula’s Pacification came out in a new edition, published by the RAND Corporation, in 2006 and has remained in print since.[iii] Both authors have also been the focus of continuing scholarship: Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth has a citation count of over 10,600; Galula’s Counterinsurgency has a citation count of over 1,100.[iv] Galula’s work has proven immensely popular among American defense thinkers, and his ideas permeate the much-vaunted counterinsurgency field manual that helped guide American policy in Iraq and Afghanistan.[v] Fanon’s work has found a radically different readership. Many Africanists treat Fanon as a near-prescient predictor of what has happened in Africa since decolonization. Few academic works on modern African history do not quote his forceful prose, and many popular authors on Africa quote him in their work.[vi]

These two authors and their works, then, have come to be important parts of history their own right. Tragically, they are all-too-often analyzed in isolation. Fanon is primarily read by Francophone and Anglophone Africanists while Galula’s work has, until recently, been of interest only to Anglophone academics and soldiers. While A Dying Colonialism and Pacification in Algeria address the same events and issues, they are almost never cited together. In what follows, I will identify the major points of agreement and disagreement between Fanon and Galula’s accounts of the Algerian war. Military history, whenever possible, should involve seeing both sides of the front, and it is only good military history that can provide the empirical foundation for good military theory.[vii] If we wish to draw any “lessons” from the Algerian conflict, we should start by reading and understanding both David Galula and Frantz Fanon.

Motivation of the Algerian People

The most important difference between Galula and Fanon is how they perceive the motivation of the Algerian population. Galula holds that “in any circumstances, whatever the cause,” a population that harbors insurgents contains three groups: an “active minority for the cause,” a “neutral majority” and another “active minority against the cause.”[viii] The neutral majority still acts in support of one side or the other (or both) because insurgency is a “vicious form of warfare” that must involve the whole population: in Algeria, “no one is allowed to remain neutral and watch the events in a detached way.”[ix] To Galula, however, actions are an imperfect indicator of loyalty, as very few Algerians are actually dedicated to any cause and most will switch their allegiance whenever it is convenient, thus leaving the door open for the military to win over even an apparently restive population. The Algerians are shifty, and happy to abandon political obligations for personal gain. This is precisely why were ensnared in anti-colonial communist conspiracies in the first place.

Fanon rejects the idea of the neutral majority. In 1959 he wrote, “the form and content of national consciousness already exist in Algeria and there can be no turning back.” As a result, “Algeria is virtually independent. The Algerians already consider themselves sovereign. It remains for France to recognize her.”[x] He thinks that, fundamentally, the entire population desires independence. He argues that individualism is impossible in Algeria during the revolt because during wars against foreign occupation,  nationalism unifies and animates all people. Personal interests become inseparable from collective interests in the world the Algerians perceive because “in reality everyone will be discovered by the French legionnaires and consequently massacred or everyone will be saved.”[xi] This is hyperbole, but it is hyperbole as the Algerians saw it, and the reality it was based on was enough to galvanize action, especially the specters of mass killings by French settler militias and torture by the French military. Whereas Galula is sure there is a neutral majority and many of those who actively oppose the French can still be won over to the French side, Fanon replies that the actions of the many Algerians are clear demonstrations of their beliefs, and they are truly dedicated to the fight against occupation and for independence.[xii]

Islam and Resistance

Fanon makes his case against the idea of mass indifference exceptionally clear in his discussion of Islam in Algeria. Galula is dismissive of the faith, writing that it is “not exactly a progressive religion” and arguing that “the first thing we would do if we wanted to shift Algeria out of its morass was to shatter the backward Islamic way of life.”[xiii] Fanon replies that Islam in the colonial context is above all a tool of resistance:

[French officers proclaim that] ‘Islam holds its prey.’ … The method of presenting the Algerian as prey fought over with equal ferocity by Islam and France with its Western culture reveals the whole approach of the occupier, his philosophy and his policy. This expression indicates that the occupier, smarting from his failures, presents in a simplified and pejorative way the system of values by means of which the colonized person resists his innumerable offensives. What is in fact the assertion of a distinct identity, concern with keeping intact a few shreds of national existence, is attributed to religious, magical, fanatical behavior.[xiv]

That the mass of the population is steadfastly Muslim, then, should not be taken as a sign of their ignorance or blindness to political issues. Their dedication to their faith is a political tactic. Given Galula’s frustration with Islam’s political role, it is clearly a very powerful one.

Women and Resistance

Galula is particularly interested in using Algerian women to further the French cause, and here another point of contention between him and Fanon emerges. While serving as a military attaché in Hong Kong in the 1940s, Galula had seen the Chinese communists effectively mobilize women as political agents during their civil war.[xv] In a 1957 memo to the French military leadership in Algeria he discussed “lines of cleavage” that the French might be able to use to tear the Algerian population away from the anti-French insurgency. Galula argued that one of the most effective ways could be to “lean… on women against men (and this seems promising given the state of slavery in which Moslem women are kept in Algeria).”[xvi] He was sure that the “rebels had done nothing for [the women]” and that they “would naturally be on our side if we emancipated them.”[xvii] Fanon, however, thinks that women are more dedicated to the cause than Galula does, and were unlikely to be swayed by whatever the French offered. He argues that throughout the period of decolonization, “women had a tendency to flee from the occupier.” French efforts to “unveil” the women of Algeria are counterproductive, as the Algerian women had no desire to see their culture and family lives destroyed and thus the efforts “had the effect of strengthening the traditional patterns of behavior.” Although the actions were “essentially positive in the strategy of resistance,” there were still “negative effects” for women, the sad and inevitable result of the “corrosive action of the colonizer.”[xviii] This is a particularly interesting distinction. Whereas Galula sees a population of women whose status is unchanging but could be transformed, both politically and socially, by the French, to both of their benefit, Fanon sees a population of women whose status is declining because the French are trying to change it, to the detriment of French efforts at “pacification” and the status of the women themselves. In short, Fanon is sure that Galula’s plans for Algeria’s women will backfire. He writes, “To speak of counter-acculturation in a colonial situation is an absurdity.”[xix]

Ideologies and Methods of Resistance

Whether the Algerian people were mostly neutral in the struggle or not, what mattered in the Algerian war was the relative ability of the French military and the FLN to influence them. Galula holds that there are three ways a counterinsurgency might influence the people: passion, reason, and self-interest.[xx] Passion, he readily admits, will militate against the French cause, as the rebels have “an ideology, simple and effective because it appeals to passion: independence.” The French answer to this must be one of “humanism, co-operation, social progress, economic development, etc.,” in Galula’s words.[xxi] When Galula gets down to brass tacks, however, it becomes clear that his “war of ideas” is still, first and foremost, a war of weapons. The appeal to Algerians’ “reason,” Galula argues, should be based on three points: “that we are stronger, that the rebels’ cause is lost, and that the example of having given independence to Tunisia and Morocco, far from inciting us to grant it to Algeria too, has opened our eyes and persuaded us to stay in Algeria.”[xxii] In short, Galula hopes to use colonialist and imperialist means to pursue humanist ends.

Fanon provides a clear explanation of why these appeals will fall on deaf ears. He holds that the anti-colonial struggle is essentially a passionate one and only a passionate one, because challenging colonialism for an Algerian “is not a rational confrontation of viewpoints. It is not a discourse on the universal, but the impassioned claim by the colonized that their world is fundamentally different.” The problem is not simply in France’s patently colonialist means, but also in her high-minded, foreign ends.[xxiii] The “passion factor,” which Galula admits France cannot manipulate, will be the decisive factor in this conflict. Galula, however, is sure that despite their passions, Algerians will make rational calculations of self-interest that will win them over to the French side. As he notes, the French have advantages in “might, administration, and money” and thus can reward Algerians with much more wealth than the FLN.[xxiv] Independence is not rational, and is thus impossible.

Because of his misguided belief that the Algerian population is basically unsure about independence and will respond to the incentives only France can offer, Galula is sure that the question of whether or not France can hold Algeria is a question of policy. So long as France is firm and continuous in the military, economic and psychological fields of warfare, he is sure that Algeria can be forced to remain French.[xxv] Fanon finds this confidence laughable. Noting that the French were just as confident of the potential for victory in Vietnam, Morocco, and Tunisia, which by 1959 had all gained their independence, Fanon asks: “How can they fail to understand that no rebellion is ever vanquished? What can it possibly mean, to vanquish a rebellion?” To this question, Galula has no answer. Nowhere in his body of work does he define the term “pacification.” Galula carefully avoids being associated with the “colonialists” that Fanon attacks, and tries to imply throughout the work that a post-war French regime in Algeria would be very different from the one that had failed to prevent the war from beginning in the first place. However, he has no vision for what a de-colonized Algeria that is still part of France would look like. His humanist vision fails in the colonial context.

Galula and Fanon draw different conclusions about the military situation in Algeria in part because they have fundamentally different theories about human relations in wartime. Galula the anti-communist ironically believes that material factors determine the course of wars. To him, the Algerian war is a question of arms: a “pacified” population is simply a disarmed one. When he explains the objective of isolating the rebels from the population, he writes that “weapons were what counted,” and France’s armies were not seizing enough of them from the population to disarm them quickly.[xxvi] He is very clear that “shortage of weapons was obviously the only obstacle to the expansion of [FLN] forces.”[xxvii]

Fanon the Marxist, also ironically, does not believe that a materialist dialectic determines the course of military affairs. He holds that French colonialism “shuts its eyes to the real facts of the problem” when it tries to measure the power of the FLN by “the number of our heavy machine guns.”[xxviii] In The Wretched of the Earth he quotes Friedrich Engels’ argument in Anti-Dühring (1878) that “the producer of more perfect instruments of force, vulgo arms, vanquishes the producer of the less perfect instrument” in all cases, and rejects it, calling it “puerile.” What matters, Fanon contends, is not the means to produce weapons but the allocation of weapons—and the Algerians have stolen more than enough to defeat the French by the late 1950s.[xxix] The Algerian struggle was only a part of a global anti-colonial struggle, and so France’s relatively greater arms production capacity is only a minor advantage. The French, indeed, relied heavily on purchased American arms throughout the conflict, while the Algerians had an ample supply of weapons supplied by the communist Second World. Additionally, desperate passion motivated the efforts of the Algerians and amplified the impact of those weapons they stole and smuggled in. Fanon writes that having a gun and fighting and dying as a member of the FLN became “the only chance the Algerian still has of giving meaning to his death. Life under domination has long been devoid of meaning…”[xxx] Violence becomes, as Fanon famously and controversially argued, a “cleansing force” which “rids the colonized of their inferiority complex” and “emboldens them, and restores their self-confidence… Enlightened by violence, the people’s consciousness rebels against any pacification” (emphasis added).[xxxi]

Visions of Victory

Both Fanon and Galula make arguments about the “tipping point” of the conflict. Galula argues that his “method has a certain irreversibility” once it destroys the organization of the FLN’s political leadership cells in a given district, and Fanon holds that the “point of no return” comes when the level of indiscriminate violence used by the colonial regime to repress the population becomes high enough to threaten its very existence, sparking a universal counter-reaction.[xxxii] These two conditions are non-exclusive, and one need not precede the other. Fanon and Galula both agree, then, that Algeria will remain a colony of France if and only if France possesses the ability and resolve to defeat the rebellion and keep her. The Algerian rebellion is basically a symbolic show of will, whose actual organization and effectiveness is of secondary importance. The initiative can only lie with the French, and France lacked the will to hold Algeria. Fanon was confident that “no colonialist country today is capable of mounting the only form of repression which would have a chance of succeeding, i.e., a prolonged and large scale military occupation.”[xxxiii] Galula knew why: “The theory that the colonies were more a liability than an asset was gaining ground [in France].”[xxxiv] Colonialism was dying.

The End as the Beginning

With the signing of the Evian Accords in 1962, Algeria achieved independence from France. Many Frenchmen were heartbroken to lose the territory that they had dominated for more than a century; others were happy to see an end to the violence that had led to a civil war, a small genocide, and a failed coup in France during the previous five years. They moved on. Algerians, in many ways, have not. A military coup led by former FLN guerillas overthrew the government of Ahmed Ben Bella in 1965, and the country has seen little democratization or development since, trapped (as Fanon predicted it would be) by seemingly endless conflict surrounding the formation of a national consciousness.[xxxv]

The French washed their hands of guerilla warfare after leaving Algeria and had little interest in David Galula’s retrospectives. His great works on counterinsurgency were written in English while he was a fellow at Harvard University, for an American audience increasingly focused on the war in Vietnam. Nevertheless, Galula’s popularity was modest during the Vietnam era. Although Counterinsurgency Warfare was one of the more notable contributions to the voluminous counterinsurgency literature of the period, it was not considered seminal. Pacification in Algeria remained classified “confidential” by the RAND Corporation and read only by a few specialists until 2005.[xxxvi]

Fanon’s star has continued to rise despite attempts to censor him. He died on December 9, 1961, the very same day that The Wretched of the Earth was published and promptly seized from Paris bookshops by French police.[xxxvii] The abstract thought and prophetic language and ideas of The Wretched of the Earth gave him a timeless, placeless quality, and his work was eagerly and often surreptitiously read by insurgents around the world. He remains popular among both Africans and Africanists. He has long been noted in the United States as well. Martin Luther King considered The Wretched of the Earth “a well-written book… with many penetrating insights” about colonial struggle (he added that violence was counterproductive for the American civil rights movement, which was engaged in a very different type of “insurgency”).[xxxviii] Even the United States’ adversaries in the Middle East continue be influenced by Fanon’s ideas, both directly and indirectly. Ali Shariati, the eminent scholar of struggle in the modern Middle East, translated Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth into Persian in the 1960s and later used Fanon’s ideas as the basis of his theory of struggle between oppressors and oppressed. Fanon’s language as interpreted by Shariati has been used to justify Shiite jihad against the “Great Satan” ever since. Iranian politicians continue to echo his rhetoric.[xxxix]

While Fanon’s ideas shook Tehran during the Iranian Revolution, Galula’s work was out of print and largely forgotten. As the US military began to reconsider counterinsurgency after the invasion of Iraq, Galula became more popular than he had ever been before. Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency (2006) co-author John Nagl implied that Galula was a prophet, and wrote that the US manual’s

reliance on the thinking of David Galula is clear—in its focus on protecting the population as the key objective of any counterinsurgency campaign, its insistence on holding terrain that has been cleared of enemy forces, and its exhortations that counterinsurgents must continually learn and adapt to defeat their enemies by building secure areas in which secure governance can flourish.[xl]

The manual did not account for Fanon’s fundamental and important critique of Galula’s ideas: that a “population” is not neutral, cannot be rendered inert through “pacification,” and not necessarily an object that can be “secured” in the way that soldiers might secure terrain. It will always remain reactive and often be problematic. Although the manual makes nods to the dynamism of populations, it suggests that, contra Fanon, they are fundamentally neutral. It quotes Galula in claiming that that “in any situation, whatever the cause” there will be “a neutral or passive majority.”[xli] Curiously, the manual’s authors failed to cite Galula for this direct quotation from his work.[xlii] This hides the idea’s origins to anyone not already familiar with Galula. Those origins, however, are clear, and they belie the flaws in the theory itself. As Fanon clearly showed, there was little room for neutrality in Algeria.

The increasing popularity of Galula’s writing in the era of American counterinsurgency since 2001 has sparked increased analysis of his efforts in Algeria, which unfortunately lagged behind the employment of his ideas in support of military doctrine. A growing body of work casts doubt on Galula’s theories. He was sure that his pacification methods could win over the neutral population. In fact, historians have found he won over few Algerians, despite his clever methods. This, in turn, lends credence to Fanon’s claims that the population was not neutral and could not been won over in the first place. In 2011, Grégor Mathias published Galula in Algeria: Counterinsurgency Practice versus Theory, the first major work in French on Galula (Pacification in Algeria was first translated into French in 2008). Mathias, a military historian, does not mention Fanon in the work. He does provide a detailed explanation of why Galula’s campaign of pacification was not very successful despite its ingenious theoretical underpinnings, writing that “Galula was dead wrong in thinking that he had decisively defeated [the FLN in his district], which instead adapted and took advantage of [Galula’s unit’s] re-deployment to show its power to cause harm and regain its influence.”[xliii] No theory is perfect for every situation, but it is clear from Mathias’ analysis that Galula’s theory of counterinsurgency warfare did not even adequately explain Algeria. Even in fights for more limited aims, such as his earnest attempt to liberate women, Galula’s ideas fared poorly in practice. As a recent work on women in the Algerian conflict noted (one which cited Fanon, but not Galula), “The emancipation programme of the French army, like the overall strategy of counter-insurgency, had a dual reformist and repressive purpose that generated constant and ultimately irresolvable tensions.”[xliv]

Given Galula’s many failings, it is tragic that his work has so often been taken at face value and used to justify doctrine. On the other side of the bookstore, Frantz Fanon’s work has always been available to help clarify his work and make clear its limitations. For a variety of reasons, Galula and Fanon have usually been read in isolation. This is disappointing carelessness on the part of both academics and soldiers. Alone, neither provides a complete explanation of the Algerian conflict. Together, they provide a rich and useful account. The May 2014 edition of FM 3-24 eliminates all references to and quotations from Galula, but most of the ideas within the new manual are hold-overs from the 2006 edition. As we continue to revise our counterinsurgency doctrine, we must consider the ramifications of Galula’s legacy and his flaws, even as his work again fades from view.


I would like to sincerely thank the other members of the West Point Critical Theory Reading Group who joined me in reading The Wretched of the Earth in the Fall of 2013: Major Robert Chamberlain of the Department of Social Sciences and Cadets Rob “Turtle” Hurd, Theo Lipsky, Jay Saker, Aaron Spikol, and Caleb Stevens. I would also like to thank several professors who have shaped my thinking about irregular warfare: Colonel Gregory Daddis and Major David Musick of the Department of History, and also Major John Kendall of the Department of Social Sciences. I owe a particularly great intellectual debt to Colonel (retired) Gian Gentile, now at the RAND Corporation, who inspired me to think critically about our doctrinal assumptions concerning the attitudes of populations in counterinsurgency campaigns. Finally, I thank Professor Charles Thomas and Professor Eugenia Kiesling of the History Department, and Professor Hugh Liebert of the Department of Social Sciences, who reviewed drafts of this paper and provided helpful commentary. Despite the assistance of the individuals above, any mistakes in this paper, factual or otherwise, are my own.

End Notes

[i] Stephen W. Smith, “Nodding and Winking: Françafrique,” London Review of Books 32:3 (February 2010), 10-12.

[ii] Frantz Fanon, A Dying Colonialism, trans. Haakon Chevalier (New York: Grove Press, 1959/ 1965); Ibid., The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Richard Philcox (New York: Grove Press, 1963/ 2004).

[iii] David Galula, Pacification in Algeria 1956-1958 (Santa Monica: RAND, 1963/ 2006).

[iv] These figures are as of April, 2014, via Google Scholar. Galula’s Pacification in Algeria has a citation count of around 100.

[v] FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency cites Galula more than any other single theorist. See the appended “Source Notes.” The only work which had a comparable amount of influence on the manual is Sir Robert Thompson’s Defeating Communist Insurgency: The Lessons of Malaya and Vietnam (New York: Hailer, 1966).

[vi] David Macey, Frantz Fanon: A Biography (New York: Verso, 2000), 494-6.

[vii] Seeing the “whole” of any war—what Carl von Clausewitz called gestalt—has been something of a rarity in discussion of counterinsurgency. The bifurcated study of the Algerian War is only one of the most stunning examples. See Brett Friedman, “No COIN for you? The most stagnant debate in strategic studies,” War on the Rocks, 30 January 2014, and Ibid., “Creeping Death: Clausewitz and Comprehensive Counterinsurgency,” Military Review, January-February 2014.

[viii] Galula, Pacification in Algeria, 70. Throughout this essay, I will use the present tense to describe the arguments made by Fanon and Galula, although they are both dead, in order to make it easier to integrate their own voices into the argument and emphasize the points of disagreement between the two.

[ix] Ibid., 119.

[x] Fanon, A Dying Colonialism, 28.

[xi] Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 12.

[xii] Galula has no way to account for a situation in which the majority is turned against him. His goal is to “rally” the neutral masses, and only to “eliminate” those who are genuinely opposed to French intervention. Galula, Pacification in Algeria, 69.

[xiii] Ibid., 123.

[xiv] Fanon, A Dying Colonialism, 41.

[xv] Galula, Pacification in Algeria, 167.

[xvi] Ibid., 281.

[xvii] Ibid., 105.

[xviii] Fanon, A Dying Colonialism, 49.

[xix] Ibid., 42.

[xx] Galula, Pacification in Algeria, 295.

[xxi] Ibid., 66.

[xxii] Galula, Pacification in Algeria, 295.

[xxiii] Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 6.

[xxiv] Galula, Pacification in Algeria, 295-6.

[xxv] Ibid., 262

[xxvi] Galula, Pacification in Algeria, 64.

[xxvii] Ibid., 19.

[xxviii] Fanon, A Dying Colonialism, 32.

[xxix] Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 25.

[xxx] Fanon, A Dying Colonialism, 27. Engels made room for contingency in his other military writing. Cf. Sigmund Neumann and Mark von Hagen, “Engels and Marx on Revolution, War and the Army in Society” in Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age ed. Peter Paret (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986): 262-280.

[xxxi] This point is important to Fanon’s work, but it is not one of the foundations of his argument, hence my limited focus on it here. The role of violence in the formation of national identity has often been exaggerated by Fanon’s interpreters. As Homi K. Bhabha notes: “it was really [Jean-Paul] Sartre’s preface that glorified violence beyond Fanon’s words or wishes” (Bhabha, “Foreword,” in The Wretched of the Earth, xxi). Fanon saw service in the military as just as important as actual violent acts in ridding the colonized of their “inferiority complexes” and building national identity. | Citation: Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 51. Fanon’s logic of limited materialism has proven more popular than Galula’s ideas since the end of the Algerian war. Cf. Stephen Biddle, Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battles (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006).

[xxxii] Galula, Pacification in Algeria, 274; Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 47.

[xxxiii] Ibid., 34.

[xxxiv] Galula, Pacification in Algeria, 10.

[xxxv] Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 97-144.

[xxxvi] Ann Marlowe, “David Galula: His Life and Intellectual Context,” Strategic Studies Institute, August 2010, 1.

[xxxvii] Joseph Aslop, “Passing of a New Left’s Hero an Odd Facet of U.S. History,” in Washington Post, February 21, 1969, A21, cited in Bhabha, “Foreword,” in The Wretched of the Earth, viii.

[xxxviii] Martin Luther King, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” (orig. 1967), in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. ed. James Melvin Washington (New York: Harper, 1986), 589.

[xxxix] Homi K. Bhabha, “Foreword,” in The Wretched of the Earth, xxix-xxx.

[xl] John Nagl, “Foreword,” to A.A. Cohen, Galula: The Life and Writings of the French Officer Who Defined the Art of Counterinsurgency (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2012), x.

[xli] FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency, 1-108.

[xlii] For the original wording see Galula, Pacification in Algeria, 70.

[xliii] Grégor Matthias, Galula in Algeria: Counterinsurgency Practice versus Theory, trans. Neil Durando (Oxford: Praeger Security, 2011), 94.

[xliv] Neil MacMaster, Burning the Veil: The Algerian war and the ‘emancipation’ of Muslim women, 1954-62 (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009), 3. The author here cites Michael D. Schafer’s Deadly Paradigms: The Failure of US Counterinsurgency Policy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), a book which presages many of the arguments more recently made by Gian Gentile and Douglas Porch.


About the Author(s)

T.S. Allen is an officer in the United States Army. He graduated in 2014 from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York where he studied military history and political science. He is currently studying corruption in the Vietnam War. The views expressed in his work are his own and do not reflect the position of the United States Military Academy, the Department of the Army, or the Department of Defense.



Mon, 06/09/2014 - 12:53am


I enjoyed your article. It's a valuable addition to the conversation.

A couple of points for further consideration/discussion:

1) I think its important to recognize Galula as a chronicler of French approaches to counterinsurgency and not so much its thought leader as the prophet label might have suggested. There is a long lineage to French military thinking about COIN that should be recognized and understood.
2) By presuming that the population is neutral, Galula, et al, are ignoring the nature of war, making war something that it is not. Thus, they preclude one from objectively considering Clausewitz's foremost question of understanding the nature of a given conflict.

Hope to see more work from you in the future.