Galula: The Life and Writings of the French Officer Who Defined the Art of Counterinsurgency
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Thanks to a sequence of fortunate accidents around , the world discovered the intellectual legacy of David Galula Since then, two books and one monograph restituted the story of his life or vast segments of it. Although some went into a fascinating level of detail, none of these, in my view, are an easy read for a non-military audience. A minimal awareness in terms of war studies is needed to really capture what they had to say.
Besides, the French-speaking readership is still far from hearing about Galula. Writing a book about David Galula amounts to recounting the story of a paradox many of them actually. On the one hand, there is a consensus on him being the founding father of counterinsurgency, a groundbreaking theory in modern military affairs. Galula was a self-made man in various aspects; born into a relatively modest environment, he rose to positions where no one expected him to, in virtue of his faith and social background. He traveled the world and exerted the full scope of his talents in a diversified career ranging from diplomat, author and secret agent to infantry officer.
Many influential people liked him and very few voiced any opposition or hostility at his respect. Neither book royalties nor a military pension were enough to keep his widow from having to look for a job to make a living and raise their only child. Galula is still mostly unheard of in his home country, France. Anyone who reads Pacification , his most personal book full of anecdotes concerning his 2-year tour in Algeria , falls in love with the character.
At least this is what happened to me. As a Moroccan Muslim, I was happy to dedicate six months of my life researching the journey of a Jew who spent most of his boyhood in my country. Tired of hearing only about mistrust between Arabs and Jews, I decided to tell the story of an honest man who managed to make his personal life as fascinating as his intellectual journey. May his example open the eyes of those who wonder how to build oneself a meaningful existence, one in which they can make a difference without relinquishing their ideal nor escaping duty.
- Strange Geometries.
- Hearts and Minds!
- Public Relations, Press Releases and Media Contact: Becoming Newsworthy and Getting Coverage;
Galula is the son of an era in which North Africa from Cairo to Marrakesh was a cosmopolitan land, open to a relative pluralism where people from different creeds and cultures such as Greeks, Italians, Spanish, Maltese, Corsicans, Berbers lived under the same authorities. Galula grew up in the booming Casablanca of the s where colonialism was synonym of access to elite education and social progress at least for some groups of people. No doubt that the indigenous Jewish community of Morocco was the biggest winner of the French presence, as it flooded the educational system with its brightest young men and women.
Galula grew up in a context where France and its colonial project meant something to a native Jew of North Africa without financial or political assets besides his own determination and natural talents. Therefore, it is no surprise that Galula remained loyal to France even after his Vichy government stripped him of his citizenship and expelled him from the military for being a Jew Years later, he risked his life defending the sovereignty of France in Algeria during the nationalist insurrection He is the splendid fruit of the pre-war French Republic that rejuvenated its elites through academic excellence.
Serving the French cause was not a shame for Muslims neither, at least before Thousands of Moroccans, Algerians and Tunisians volunteered to help France expel Nazis from its homeland. My grandfather participated in the liberation of France and fought the Germans in Provence in September Galula fought in the same theatre concomitantly. On the outset of my research, I thought Galula was a nice guy, but unlucky. I saw in him a man who failed to achieve what his natural talents had qualified him for.
Galula must have been a victim of red tape, he was too straightforward and ethical to avoid being crushed by petty intrigues. He had to immigrate to the USA to get someone to hear what he had to say. I was dead wrong. The French Army always kept Galula in high esteem. He underperformed rank-wise partly because he did not fight in the First Indochina War Therein lies perhaps one of the most fascinating facts about Galula: from age 25 to 35, he chose exotic assignments that kept him far from the hot spots Indochina, Suez Canal, NATO Europe.
Galula had a tendency to explore the fringes of the system. This may have to do with him being born in a French colony and in a marginalized community North-African Jewish. He may have felt compelled to serve his country from the outside both geographically Asia, Algeria and from the conceptual point of view studying counter-insurgency instead of nuclear dissuasion.
Yet, he endured the consequences of flying in the face of orthodoxy.
He was not able to follow a linear career path because he had so many sweet spots: he wrote great books including 2 novels , he was able to convey elaborate ideas in a limpid fashion, he perfectly understood how to drive over men in a vicious colonial war and performed nation building efforts without much doctrinal nor material help from his government.
In my view, had he been more focused on a core competency, he may have achieved a more rewarding life at least with regard to money and recognition. Galula was in competition with too many talented people. France in the s and s had a superb military and administrative apparatus fueled by extraordinary individuals, many of them ambitious and well-prepared.
But the point is moot; history indicates that engaging in counterinsurgency warfare is seldom a predetermined choice. Watch the debate. Cohen served in Afghanistan. Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola. Sign up for free access to 1 article per month and weekly email updates from expert policy analysts.
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Galula The Life And Writings Of The French Officer Who Defined The Art Of Counterinsurgency
To get access to this special FP Premium benefit, subscribe by clicking the button below. Best Defense Cage match in a cornfield: G. Gentile wrestles J. Nagl on counterinsurgency By A. Cohen Best Defense intellectual pugilistics correspondent Warrior-profs Gian Gentile and John Nagl, the two best-known heavyweight contenders in the national security debate surrounding irregular warfare, squared off a few weeks ago at Grinnell College in the wilds of Iowa on the merits of counterinsurgency and the future of Afghanistan. The moderated minute By Thomas E. Ricks May 30, , PM.
Galula, David 1919-1967
Cohen Best Defense intellectual pugilistics correspondent Warrior-profs Gian Gentile and John Nagl , the two best-known heavyweight contenders in the national security debate surrounding irregular warfare, squared off a few weeks ago at Grinnell College in the wilds of Iowa on the merits of counterinsurgency and the future of Afghanistan. Thomas E.
Ricks covered the U. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment gmail. View Comments.
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