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09 July 2015


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Don Bacon

These aren't really counter-insurgencies in the first place, are they, which is why they never work. The US overthrows the government, installs its own puppet government, runs a brutal military occupation, then has to fight the locals who want the US out and them in. In France we called them "freedom fighters." So the theories of insurgency and counterinsurgency are baloney. Mike Hastie was wise enough to know how anyone would consider an invading army.

"One day while I was in a bunker in Vietnam, a sniper round went over my head. The person who fired that weapon was not a terrorist, a rebel, an extremist, or a so-called insurgent. The Vietnamese individual who tried to kill me was a citizen of Vietnam, who did not want me in his country. This truth escapes millions." --Mike Hastie, U.S. Army Medic, Vietnam 1970-71

William R. Cumming

Thanks Adam for this post and timely FALL reminders.

Persons with an interest say that REFUGEES from ?Syria now number over 4M in last decade. And theree are some estimates of 5M refugees from Iraq since 1990.

What impact has this refugee CRISIS had on US FP and has this loss of talent prevented any current US FP from succeeding in Syria and Iraq?


Don Bacon

"In France." Are you French or American? Your comments about the US/SVN war against the communists are reflective of leftist propaganda then and now and are just incorrect. 1- The US did not "overthrow" the SVN government, far from that we let them get in our way on a daily basis. 2 - The US did not run a brutal military occupation. In fact it ran no occupation at all. The country was administered by the South Vietnamese Government, not by the US. Every action we took in the field had to have the agreement of the SVN government. The SVN government did a poor job of that, very poor. 3 - If you actually knew anything about the war you would acknowledge that a great many Vietnamese did not want a communist victory. Why do you think so many millions fled the country when the communists prevailed in 1975? As for the musings of Hastie, whoever he is/was, do you really imagine that a junior enlisted man sitting in a bunker in the field had a worthwhile grasp of the geopolitics of the war? pl

Patrick Bahzad

Don't want to take anything away from Fall's record as an academic, but his writings about COIN were only given new credence by the Petreaus bunch in order to bolster their own credibility.

As an observer and theorist, there is a definitive value to his work, particularly the shortcomings of the French and US war in SE Asia. BTW, "street without joy" (rue sans joie) is the name given by French grunts to "RC1" (colonial road 1) linking Saigon to Hanoi, a place of many VietMinh attacks.

However, contrary to other French analysts of counter-revolutionary war (and not "counter-insurgency", as it is being called nowadays), Fall never served with the French forces in SE Asia or Algeria. This gives his work both a more objective but also a less 'technical' insight, even though he was embedded with French troops in Indochina in 1952.

The same could be said about Galula, who's also a frequently named reference of the COINISTAS. Maybe because both men - Galula and Fall - taught and published in the US ...
Personally, I think other military theorists should be read with just as much attention - and maybe more - than Fall and Galula. Two or three names come to mind: Roger Trinquier, Lacheroy and Hogard.

The reason I'm mentioning these officers in particular is that they had first hand experience of insurrection in both SE Asia and North Africa (Fall had none, and Galula only a very limited experience in rural areas in Algeria).

The other reason is that their writings make it very clear that in "counter revolutionary war", the challenge is control of the population first and foremost, just what Galula and Fall also note. However, the means required to achieve this control and, as a result, military victory include a high proportion of "cinetic action" (much more than actually conceded by the COINISTAS), a tremendous amount of field intelligence work (and psy-ops based on such intel work) and a level of ruthlesness and cruelty that should be weighed in very carefully before engaging in any kind of COIN campaign.

Therein lies the big gamble of the modern day COINISTAS: they are trying to black-out the "dark side" of a militarily successfull COIN campaign, and forget to add that even a military victory doesn't necessarily translate into a political success.

Food for thought from the men on the ground:
"The party that will get the better of its adversary is the the one that will use physical force without any mercy"
"The answer to the 'total war' waged by rebel forces through a strategy of terror aimed at winning over civilian populations is the use of systematic bloodshed, abuse and brutality in an effort to stem the tide of this 'total war'".

If you don't have the stomach for that level of engagement, if the game isn't worth risking your soul, if your national security and survival doesn't depend on such tactics, better stay away for these theatres of operation, or be ready for a hard landing and tough reality check.


Col. please consider writing a Fall like article for the current era. It would be very helpful if it weighted more heavily toward a prescriptive section specific to dealing with ISIL.

FB Ali

I haven't read the references you quote, Patrick, but the quotes paint a strange picture: that success depends on greater brutality; that both sides are using a "strategy of terror" to get the (presumably neutral) civilian population on to their side.

Quite delusional, in my view (as your compatriots found out in Algeria).

In the great majority of these conflicts, the people are not neutral. Most of them have a 'side', based usually on some emotional conviction (the desire for independence, patriotism, religion, ideology, etc). Some of them take up arms in pursuit of the cause. The bulk of the population supports them in varying ways, from active to passive. Most importantly, it does not equate their "terror" with that perpetrated by the enemy. The latter further inflames them, the former is excused and condoned as necessary.

The preponderance of force (and the terror and brutality inflicted) may enable a counter-revolutionary power to win militarily, but it cannot win politically. Without the latter, it is only a temporary success; when the conditions are ripe, there will be another insurgency, and another, until the people succeed.

The question has to be faced by the country waging the counter-revolutionary war: is it worth it? For how long? (De Gaulle's greatness showed in his answers to these questions).

William R. Cumming

Agree with P.L.!

The Twisted Genius


Yes, Trinquier should not be overlooked. His "Modern Warfare" and the film "The Battle for Algiers" were prominent in our training at the SFOQC in 82. I also agree with your final assessment of modern warfare. It is ugly beyond belief and should not be engaged in lightly. I saw the ugliness firsthand in the Shouf Mountains in 83.

Kim Sky

As Patrick Bahzad states: "The answer to the 'total war' waged by rebel forces through a strategy of terror aimed at WINNING OVER CIVILIAN POPULATIONS is the use of systematic bloodshed, abuse and brutality in an effort to stem the tide of this 'total war'".

In Algeria, the rebels removed all obstacles to their total control: the french version of the peace corps from the country -- and anyone else that was not on their side for that matter.

Civil Action AFTER a low-level war has begun is TOO LATE. As the Algerian war shows, the continued refusal of the governing French to allow even the slightest concessions. Civic action was an impossibility by the time it was considered. As in, there is a level of inequality/injustice that is simply unsustainable!

- 4 million refugees have fled Syria
- 7.6 million more have been internally displaced
- Almost half of all Syrians have been forced to abandon their homes and flee for their lives

Proxy War, Proxy War, Proxy War

The country can hardly be more destroyed than it already is, but I'm guessing that it will get much, much worse, as the suppliers of bodies and arms are unwilling to STOP.

IDEOLOGY: Any ideology will do, looking for the opposition. Communism served it's purpose, helped politically and financially at the time of the Cold War. That was over until just now (another story). Wahhabiism is the going force now, who's got the money? The Saudies. Then there has been the barrage of propaganda - people paraded in Orange Jumpsuits, etc. Great stuff. Now ISIS is making maximum use of that.

The United States is making this same mistake here, our land. With the ever continuing implementation of austerity. Guerrilla war HERE is on the horizon!

For this country, my country - YES, I advocate civil-action. SOON.

FB Ali

"....as your compatriots discovered in Algeria"

To that I should have added (in my previous reply): and mine did in Bangladesh!



I was taught by Fall, Galula, Trinquier, Aussaresse and the Malaya Brits at Bragg in the early 60s. LTG Yarborough was good at getting such people to come lecture and Fall was actually on the regular payroll when not teaching at Howard. All of them made it clear that counter-revolutionary warfare would be brutal in its combat aspects. I don't recall that Petraeus and his flunkies at Leavenworth cited Fall much. pl

Patrick Bahzad


I think we're basicalky in agreement. I wasn't advicating for the correct way to implement COIN, I was merely stating what the theorists of COIN all argued, as has been pointed out by PL. It's not just about winning hearts and minds by handing candy to kids, it's also about controlling the population with massive military power, cutting out the insurgents like a cancer out of a living organism,ma difficult procedure which may cause the patient to die of blood loss. This side of COIN has been carefully hidden from the American public, even though it has been imp,emended by US proxies in Iraq too.
Was it worth it ? All I can say, is that we see the results of this policy today (combined with the inept iraqi governments sectarian agenda).

Patrick Bahzad

PL, you're right, "king David" was much more vocal about Galula as a kind of model thinker for his own FM 3-24. Trinquier on the other hand and Lacheroy have never been mentioned, not even referenced. Probably because they had a more practical view of how to handle the brutality of a real COIN campaign, which would not have gone down well with the U.S. public and would have been hard to sell to Congress too.
As for Aussaresse, there probably isn't anyone in any western armed force today who coud describe out of personal experience what the "dark side" of COIN really meant.
Just to give the non expert reader an idea, during the war in Algeria there was a famous expression called "une crevette Bigeard", meaning "a Bigeard shrimp" after the name of the commander of the 3rd Colonial parachute regiment that was in charge of rooting out the rebellion of Algiers. The expression is a reference to the many dead bodies that were found at the bottom of Algiers Bay with their feet in a concrete block and their head smashed to a pulp, or broken up after impact when tossed out of a helicopter. Thousands of interrogated insurgents were "purged" that way after the last bits of information Were extracted out of them. That's just one story out of many ... Welcome to the real world of COIN everybody !

Charlie Wilson

Could you please not characterize the other side as a cancer and/or garbage. Granted they may not be as virtuous as you. It makes you appear venal at best and detracts from your otherwise reasonable assessment. They are semites and the colonel doesn't like anti-semitism.

Patrick Bahzad

Charlie Wilson, you better learn reading English properly before making big statements and accusations .. what do you know know about me anyway ? I'm half Semite myself you moron ! I'm trying to describe something, I'm not adhering to it !
So don't lecture me, I dont t have any morality lessons to receive, especially not from a wise-ass such as you. If PL has something to say, he knows where and how to reach me, I dont think he needs a mediocre spokes person to make his case.



Civil action in the US? You mean that very brutal -ruthless- campaign in the Shenandoah valley by the Union army didn't take hold and we need some more "reconstruction" of those damned independent Southerners to make them more yankee-like? That being the correct ideology according to the victors of course.


Doctor Silverman,

I agree once the shooting starts, it is already too late for COIN to work except on islands or oases. It is total war or nothing. In other words, where the USA should be fighting, since it is near our border, is in Monterrey Mexico, but it is already too late. To clean out the Drug Cartels would require killing all of their members and any Mexicans resisting the invasion from the North. A draft to place young Americans on every street corner to provide security. In an addition, a Commonwealth of Northern Mexican States would have to be created that had El Norte wages and political power for its citizens.

Since the USA is unwilling to do what is necessary to win the war on drugs in Mexico, it is clear it is that it has no intention of winning the wars in Syria, Iraq or Ukraine. These wars are simply black holes sucking money to the well-connected and will eventually blowback on the homeland. It would make more sense to back down from the confrontation with Russia, contain the Islamic State and to spend the remaining money in America to prevent the cartels from annexing the Spanish speaking areas of the South West.


Yes, another story about the "dark side" of COIN: the Phoenix program in Vienam.


I have read both Fall and Galula and am an admirer of their work. And I also agree with some of Trinquier's ideas on COIN except for his endorsement of torture. I understand the "mailed fist" approach to COIN. It may have worked for awhile in the Roman and British Empires, but I believe its time is long past. That does not mean that I object to kinetic action, of course it is a necessary policy, torture should never be a policy.

I have to admit I have not read Larcheroy and Hogard - but will look for their works if I can find any English translations.

Regarding Bernard Fall's qualifications. Although Fall did not serve in either Indochina or North Africa, he may have had better credentials. I understood he served in the French resistance, and reportedly his father did also and was tortured and killed by the Gestapo. So in my humble opinion that gave Fall a much better insight of how best to put down a rebellion or an insurgency than 16 combined years fighting in Vietnam and Algeria ever could.



The COIN theory of how to suppress rebellion almost always leads to failure whether the methods involved are harsh or not. Fall made that very clear from the stage. He did not think our chances were good in VN. pl

Patrick Bahzad


You're entitled to admire fall and think what you like about him. As I said, he was a pretty sharp observer of the shortcomings of french and U.S. involvement in SE Asia. Nobody is taking that away from him. He was also clear index enough to see things were going downhill and remedies were in short supply.
However, I would be more careful when making the judgement calls you're making when comparing his merits to other COIN theorists, particularly the french. Do you think guys like Bigeard, Elie de St-Marc, Trinquier, Lacheroy or Hogard were standing idly by in WW2. You better get up to speed regarding your knowledge about these guys, as their service record and experience leaves nothing to be desired.
Anyway, that was not the main point of my argument. I was simply stating the fact that COIN, if played by the book, involves a high level of violence during the "clearing" period of insurgent areas and then a costly commitment over long periods of time to fight the ideology, once you got rid of the fighters. These elements combined mean that COIN is either doomed to fail or doomed to end in large scale war crimes.
What the Petreaus COINISTAS did was leave that tricky bit out of the equation, selling a pipe dream to the American public and pretending they were walking in the footsteps of great military academics, the likes of which Petreaus himself wanted to be.
That being said check and read about the other guys I mentioned, you'll probably be surprised. These were guys who been at war from early 1940s til 1962 at least ! I think not many servicemen of today could boast such a service record of uninterrupted combat missions for 20 odd years. Fall wasn't one of them though ...

Bryn P

I do not think that the reference to the British "failure" in Cyprus is a fair one. Certainly it was of course costly to keep so many troops there, though it never became a really hot war such as you experienced in Vietnam.

Above all, though, it was frustrating. Frustrating in as much that the British were actually wanting to find a solution from a very early stage, but the aspirations of the two native inhabitants of the island, the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, were fundamentally incompatible. In particular the proponents of EOKA were seeking Union with Greece, and this was totally unacceptable both to the minority Turks and to Ankhara. In the end what had effectively become a stalemate was only resolved by an agreement under which a disgruntled Grivas was shipped back to Greece (from where he continued to try to cause trouble), the island was semi partitioned and Britain was granted two "sovereign bases" .

The Greek Cypriots thus did not achieve their objectives in starting their struggle and a later second attempt by their politicians to achieve actual union with Greece resulted in an invasion by Turkey and the de facto partiition of the island which tragically exists to this day. It seems to me that far from being the losers Britain with its possession of its two highly important and strategic bases came out of EOKA's struggle as the only real winners!


Bryn P

I consider the British to have been successful in suppressing EOKA. pl

Kim Sky

demonization of hackers
Dear Fred,

Thanx for your response! I was bissfully in my own head about my long held belief that blowback in the US in inevitable. Blowback for our politician's stupidity and general greed of the super-wealthy that is creating fertile ground for rebellion.

My immediate thoughts about the hysteria of taking down the flag - there will be repercussions - demonizing a culture, any group of people (Muslims, Blacks, Latinos, Homeless, etc) is STUPID. It doesn't solve the basic problem: lack of jobs, future, and hope -- that is gripping the US.

Niemöller's original argument was premised on naming groups he and his audience would instinctively not care about.

... Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

This is really quite something, going after white southerners, as if they are somehow responsible for the mess this country is in!!!

Politicians in this day and age are theatrical idiots. From: Russia is the greatest threat to US interests -- to -- Deport all illegal aliens. On and on.

If you google the word: "demonize", it is interesting. One of the first articles to come up in my search was examining the demonization of hackers and those consequences.

Civil ACTION. As I stated before, stop austerity. Let's put some money into our rail system. Money into works and policies that will generate a healthy economy. If no one has money, then we fail. Or... we will eat each other for breakfast.

Anyway, thanx for your response!


PB - I am also an admirer of General Bigeard. Who could not be?? He has quite a record? And yes, I know he also was in the Resistance during WW2. Would love to read his various memoirs, but am cursed with the disease of not being able to read French, which is a sad state of affairs for many Americans. Most of the histories we Americans read, military or otherwise, tend to be chauvinistic and insular, or sometimes have a British slant. That is unfortunate. We miss 99% of history because of that. Ditto for St-Marc, he is a hero in my eyes for refusing to abandon the Harkis in Algeria.

I know little or nothing of Larcheroy and Hogard. But would like to know more.

Trinquier did not fight in WW-2 but was posted to the French Concession in Shanghai occupied by the Japanese. Is that true? But whether true or not, I suppose his experience in China and observations of the Chinese Communists gave him a great deal of insight into 'modern warfare'.

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