By Abu Muqawama
“A slave to its training and traditions, our army has not succeeded in adapting itself to a form of warfare the military schools do not yet teach. Its valient efforts, sufferings, and sacrifices serve to obstruct the enemy, to slow down the execution of his plan, but they have been incapable of stopping the enemy from attaining his objective. ” by Roger Trinquer
This might have easily been written about the U.S. Army in Iraq and Afghanistan but was instead written in 1961, by Roger Trinquier, on the French in Algeria and Indochina. Abu Muqawama has added Trinquier’s La Guerre Moderne to the counterinsurgency reading list. Three notes on Trinquier:
1. Trinquier is controversial because he advocates the use of torture in interrogations as part of an effective counterinsurgency strategy. His argument is clear, logical, and grounded in Clausewitz’s admonition against “moderation in war” but is, ultimately, unconvincing. Abu Muqawama remains unconvinced of either the effectiveness or the morality of torture. That having been said, Trinquier’s work is invaluable for the following two reasons.
2. Trinquier understands terror is a tactic. A “War on Terror,” thus, is absurd. Military professionals and civilian policy-makers need to understand that terror is simply a tactic that can be used and discarded by the opponent when he or she feels fit. The last suicide bombing Hizbollah carried out was in 1992. The last terror attack abroad? 1994. When a guerilla group sees terror as ineffective, it will cease to use it as a tactic. The fight against “terror” should not be the focus of the counterinsurgent.
3. Alongside his compatriot David Galula, Trinquier stresses the need for any effective counterinsurgent to focus on the population. Much of what Trinquier argues for can be found in the U.S. military’s new field manual on counterinsurgency and can be seen in the day-to-day tactcis now being employed (too late?) in Iraq and (just in time) in Afghanistan.
Abu Muqawama highly recommends this invaluable little book. Praeger just re-released it with a foreword by Eliot Cohen and an excellent introduction by the late Bernard Fall.