Part of my weekend was spent reading David Galula's Counter-Revolutionary Warfare: Theory and Practice. Galula fought in the wartime resistance and then in Indochina and Algeria, with periods as a military liaison officer based in Hong Kong.
Although he completed a Harvard doctorate in 1962, which was published a year later — and took part in a Rand Corporation symposium on COIN too — the US army did not see fit to consult him before or during its escalation of forces in Vietnam under the hopeless Westmoreland.
Happily, David Petraeus is a fan of Galula, as is evident from the current army and marine corps COIN manual. Petraeus also runs his command like a permanent seminar, bringing in plenty of outside experts,from Eliot Cohen to David Kilkullen, human rights lawyers and NGOs.
Happily too this is how President Obama governs, so neither Petraeus nor McChrystal, ISAF commander in Afghanistan, should be unduly suprised when their Commander in Chief consults his own range of experts as he considers McChrystal's COIN based report on Afghanistan and population-centric warfare.
What goes around, comes around, as they say. Even for generals.
Michael Burleigh is a member of the government's senior advisory group on commemorating the centennial of the First World War. His most recent book is Moral Combat (Harper Press, 2010).
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