Wednesday, September 13, 2006

"Counterinsurgency ... grass-roots politics by other means"

A former French officer on his experiences in Algeria, RAND:
The first law. The objective is the population. The population is at the same time the real terrain of the war. Destruction of the rebel forces and occupation of the geographic terrain led us nowhere as long as we did not control and get the support of the population.

The second law. The support from the population is not spontaneous and in any case must be organized. It can be obtained only through the efforts of the minority among the population that favors the counterinsurgent.

The third law. This minority will emerge, and will be followed by the majority, only if the counterinsurgent is seen as the ultimate victor. If his leadership is irresolute and incompetent, he will never find a significant number of supporters.

The fourth law. Seldom is the material superiority of the counterinsurgent so great that he can literally saturate the entire territory. The means required to destroy or expel the main guerrilla forces, to control the population, and to win its support are such that, in most cases, the counterinsurgent will be obliged to concentrate his efforts area by area.

As the war lasts, the war itself becomes the central issue, and the ideological advantage of the insurgent decreases considerably. The population’s attitude is dictated not by the intrinsic merits of the contending causes, but by the answer to these two simple questions: Which side is going to win? Which side threatens the most, and which offers the most protection?
The headline is a clever quote from Marine Brian Humphreys in a recent Washington Post Op Ed: "Learning From Hezbollah"


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