November 03, 2007

COIN Book Club, No. 1

The insurgent is fluid because he has neither responsibility nor concrete assets; the counterinsurgent is rigid because he has both, and no amount of wailing can alter this fact for either side. Each much accept the situation as it is and make the best of it.

Since last week's publication of the Counterinsurgency Reading List, Abu Muqawama and Charlie have decided to post, every week or so, a "book club" entry introducing one or several of the books and articles on the list that have influenced our thinking on counterinsurgency.

Today's book club selection is one of the three "bare bones essentials" we picked out: David Galula's Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice.

This slim volume has probably had more effect on the way in which Abu Muqawama views counterinsurgency warfare than any other book or article. FM 3-24 is great doctrine, but Galula gives his reader a feel for counterinsurgency warfare in a way the field manual does not. It is also very short, and to-the-point. Which is why, over the past few years, Abu Muqawama has taken to mailing photocopies of this book to friends in the field. One friend, an infantry company commander outside of Baghdad, read the book a little over a year ago while deployed to Iraq and had this to say:

Just finished reading Galula's book. What a great read! It's so common sense, so right, so easy to understand, it begs the questions: Why haven't I heard of it before, and Why aren't they teaching this stuff at the Advanced Course?

Great questions, both of them. This book, honestly, should be required reading of every infantry officer in the U.S. Army. Here are just a few of the nuggets of wisdom you'll find in this book:

"counterinsurgency cannot be defined except by reference to its cause"

"the less sophisticated the counterinsurgent forces, the better they are"

"The essential problem for the counterinsurgent stems from the fact that the actual danger will always appear to the nation as out of proportion to the demands made by an adequate response."

"All wars are cruel, the revolutionary war perhaps most of all because every citizen, whatever his wish, is or will be directly and actively involved in it by the insurgent who needs him and cannot afford to let him remain neutral."

"Clearly, more than any other kind of warfare, counterinsurgency must respect the principle of a single direction. A single boss must direct the operations from beginning to end."

"The soldier must then be prepared to become a propagandist, a social worker, a civil engineer, a schoolteacher, a nurse, a boy scout."

"The counterinsurgent's armed forces have to fulfill two different missions: to break the military power of the insurgent and to ensure the safety of the territory in each area ... For his ground forces, he needs infantry and more infantry."

"...a mimeograph machine may turn out to be more useful than a machine gun, a soldier trained as a pediatrician more important than a mortar expert, cement more wanted than barbed wire, clerks more in demand than riflemen."

Folks, Abu Muqawama could go on for pages with quotes like this. Best just to read the damn book yourself. Oh, imagine if just half the officer corps had read this book prior to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan! Imagine if Don Rumsfeld had read it! What might have been...

And if you're too cheap to buy your own copy of this book to dog-ear, underline, and highlight in the same way as Abu Muqawama? Read David Galula's other classic, which you can, incredibly, download from RAND, here, for free. But Charlie prefers the Praeger edition of the original classic. There's something about the introduction she finds funny...

Update from Charlie: Charlie would like point out that Galula is, in fact, required reading at the Marine Infantry Officers Course (IOC). She doesn't know what the Army's problem is, but suggests they snap to in good order. It ain't rocket science; it's all in there. And pay particular attention to the intro. Nagl's preface is sheer brilliance.