Malaya and Algeria: Lessons in Counterinsurgency

Malaya and Algeria: Lessons in Counterinsurgency

As the U.S.-led coalition force enters its fifth year in Iraq, a look back at two pivotal insurgencies from the mid-20th Century provides crucial lessons for our future actions in Iraq. Both the British experience in Malaya and the French experience in Algeria contain exceptional insights that are worthy of reconsideration as we refine our counterinsurgency actions. Though they differed in some important ways, those two counterinsurgencies show how the basic aims of most insurgencies, and therefore the strategies needed to defeat them, are fundamentally the same. These similarities remain despite the technological modernization and profound advances in warfighting that have occurred since.

Both the British and the French recognized the indigenous populace as the center of gravity in their respective counterinsurgencies. The British commander, Gen. Gerald Templer, and the French commander, Col. David Galula, were both enlightened military leaders who eschewed the popular thought of the time that mandated the application of martial power to subjugate insurgents. Instead, both embraced a far more holistic attitude that acknowledged the necessity of having the indigenous populace achieve victory rather than relying exclusively on the interventional forces to accomplish that objective. What's more, both encouraged innovation from subordinates in pursuit of that goal.

"I am convinced that an essential prerequisite to the grant of independence of Malaya is the formation of an adequate Malayan Army to support the civil authority," Templer said.

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