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Thread: 20th Century Counterinsurgency Project

  1. #1
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    Default 20th Century Counterinsurgency Project

    I am embarking on project looking at counterinsurgency in the 20th Century from Imperial Policing to conflict the end of the century. I will be employing my rather large library I have built up, including my 28 years military service and relevant research and material I have written on.

    I am friends or had colleagues who were involved in many counterinsurgency campaigns during the latter half of the Twentieth century. There is not a witch hunt on the conduct of the military personnel in the field but will be an extensive and unbiased review of the strategy and tactics, including the Cold War where applicable.

    In nearly all cases the soldiers in the field, and in some cases in higher echelon, were unaware of the politics involved.

    Frank Kitson wrote in his 1971 book, Low-Intensity Operations, what is now known as asymmetric warfare was the warfare of the future. Yet, the British strategy and tactics in the Kenyan Uprising have now been largely discredited.

    Britainís Colonial and Foreign Offices were not well equipped to understand the nationalist movements following Woodrow Wilsonís comments about self-determination during the discussions on the break up of the Ottoman Empire.

    British counterinsurgency (COIN) tactics and strategy date from the post-First World War operations in Ireland and then onto political policing in China and Palestine. Their roots lie in Britainís Imperial Policing policy and operations in its colonial empire particularly, India and Africa.

    Post-war British COIN operations in Malaya and during the Confrontation are hailed as a model of success. Yet that was only the middle of a campaign that had its roots in 1920 against Chinese nationalist influence and operationally ran from 1925 to 1991 when Sarawak People's Guerrillas negotiated settlement with the Malaysian Government. A period of sixty-six years.

    It can be argued that the Sarawak People's Guerrillas were successful in their aims than the Malaysian government.

  2. #2
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Those "Limeys" were not always bad or wrong?

    GI Zhou,

    That is quite a project! Be good to have a non-virtual SWC gathering too.

    Responding in part, so only a partial citation:
    Quote Originally Posted by GI Zhou View Post
    Yet, the British strategy and tactics in the Kenyan Uprising have now been largely discredited.
    Really 'largely discredited'. As I understand it the strategy was to deny the Mau Mau power, an expression of African nationalism and to give Kenya independence, which came in 1963, to acceptable Kenyans. I do not doubt the tactics used were savage and incidents like the Hola Camp damaged the legitimacy of the campaign in the UK. Enoch Powell, a Conservative MP, was a very loud critic.

    Britainís Colonial and Foreign Offices were not well equipped to understand the nationalist movements following Woodrow Wilsonís comments about self-determination during the discussions on the break up of the Ottoman Empire.
    I expect the UK-based Colonial and Foreign Offices did know that nationalism in the colonies, notably India, was reinforced by Wilson's 'Fourteen Points' and there are ample records that Great Britain in the Imperial era long before 1918 knew British rule or control was not fully accepted. Personally I think the policy was to rule by containment, in the hope all would be well - along came WW2 that ended that assumption.

    The big difference in that Imperial era was that whilst policy could be set in London, that did not mean those in the field always followed it. In the one very small incident I researched, Rhodesian UDI in 1965, it was very clear the very limited British presence in the 'self-governing colony' neither knew what the whites felt nor the African nationalists.

    Post-war British COIN operations in Malaya and during the Confrontation are hailed as a model of success. Yet that was only the middle of a campaign that had its roots in 1920 against Chinese nationalist influence and operationally ran from 1925 to 1991 when Sarawak People's Guerrillas negotiated settlement with the Malaysian Government. A period of sixty-six years.
    Insurgency in Malaysia as a British dominated and directed COIN operation ended with Malaysia becoming independent in 1957. Sarawak and North Borneo joined Malaysia in 1963. 'The Confrontation' with Indonesia ended in 1966, when its goverment abruptly changed. I have yet to see an account that what the UK did then was not successful.
    davidbfpo

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    Smile

    Success and failure are always relative to something. If the zeitgeist (whatever that means) is no longer in favor of direct colonization then a "successful" policy would be one that achieves a soft landing. Since the zeitgeist is (almost by definition) unknowable in full in real time, even the soft landing is not going to land where the first planners of soft landing imagined it was headed. Being able to land softly, wherever that may be (mildly in favor of the Sarawak People's Front if need be) is the best outcome in most cases.
    I will now take off my stoic-cynic-zenpundit hat... until next time

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