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Thread: Managing COIN: Lessons from Malaya

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    Council Member sullygoarmy's Avatar
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    Ladwig's article was interesting. I have an article coming out in a few months in Military Review on General Templars' leadership in the Malayan Emergency. A few key points that I missed in Ladwing's article, however. Although the Malayan Emergency does provide some valuable COIN lessons, there were two big factors which makes this insurgency different than most other. First, the population the insurgency was trying to influence (ethnic Chinese) were the minority in Malaya. Right from the start, even if you win over every single ethnic Chinese in Malaya, you're still outnumbered. Second, the insurgent's stated objective of an independent (albeit communist) Malaya was actually in the British hands. They alone held the key to grant Malaya its indepedence, and on their terms. When they finally did grant Malaya its independance in 1957, the insurgents no longer had their main theme to fight for...an independant Malaya.

    Some lessons learned from the British experience in Malaya that I find relevant to today's fight include the use of small patrols versus large battalion "jungle sweeps", turning former insurgents against their peers, the extensive use of psyops operations in the conflict, the continuing goal to train and update TTPs for ALL security forces operating in Malaya by way of the ATOM book (there's good reprint available from Hailer Publishing) and training schools. Additionally, leadership lessons are abundant especially with GEN Templar took command. His personal leadership, IMHO, turned the tide against the insurgents.
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 05-14-2007 at 08:27 PM. Reason: Created new Malaya thread.
    "But the bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet withstanding, go out to meet it."

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    I dont think there are any real transferable lessons from Malaya. In no particular order.

    1) As has been stated youre dealing with an ethnic minority, the Chinese. Within that ethnic minority you have the division between Kuomintang, people who just want to make a living, as well as the Communists. So youre dealing with a minority of a minority. The Malays are already onside, the Indians arent going to be making any trouble, so you already have the bulk of the population onside - and committed to your plans once independence has been promised.

    2) You have the colonial adminstration. These are people who know whos, who and have a rough gist what to say, who to bribe, what to do etc from experience. Thanks to the way its set up you can effectively have one man in charge of it all and making things happen. The imperial system cannot be replicated and with with warfare today effectively being a coalition effort, beside NGOs and other third parties traipsing around the place and doing their own thing, your plan be damned.

    3) The Korean war boom effectively saved the Brits bacon by generating huge demand for rubber and tin the mainstay of the Malay economy, providing people with boom time wages and generally improving everyones lot besides providing the cash strapped government with much needed revunues to provide the squatter chinese most likely to become communist with new villages and land titles under the settlement program.

    4) The key population was small and in the virtual middle of nowhere and since the media was strictly controlled you could do resettlement programs and massive population control such as controlling food supplies and the like.

    5) The only thing I think you can take away from it is the now legendary statement about 'hearts and minds'.

    What do you think?

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Another good statement that came out of Malaya was one by a British general to the effect that in that type of conflict the only useful thing a general could do was make sure the troops got cold beer once in a while.

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    I think there are some lessons to be learned from Malaya, but most of them center on necessary police/military interaction and the potential value of local forces.

    One mistake that is often made is the thought that either ALL lessons from an area can be shifted to another or that NONE of them can be used. I think the real value lies in sifting through the cases for specific techniques that worked (or didn't work) and examining them in light of your current situation. For example, elements of Malaya would have worked in Vietnam (since you did have ethnic minorities to work with...and in some cases the South Vietnamese thought of the Northerners as something of a foreign element), but they may gain less traction in Iraq or Afghanistan where tribal factors can play a bigger role. That said, you could possibly modify some Malay techniques to work with tribal cultures.

    It's an interesting problem, and one of the things that keeps drawing me to history.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Personally, I found the way the British handled their psychological operations to be an interesting case study with some transferrable lessons to today's fight. The brits focused more on turning the insurgents, versus killing them. Just like in Iraq today, the lower level insurgents are not the die-hard fanatics, those you just have to kill. By turning the lower-level insurgents, the British not only were able to gain valuable intelligence, but also did specific, by name, targeting against the insurgents still in the fight. Utilizing voice aircrafts, the Brits would have the former insurgents record specific messages to their comrades still fighting out in the jungle. Can you imagine the psychological shock if one of the former-Baath party insurgents in Iraq heard a message coming from one of his best friends telling him that his family was doing well, the Americans were taking good care of him and to come over to our side? The voice aircrafts seemed to be very effective with over 95% of captured CTs (communist-terrorists) admitting to hearing them by 1957.

    Additionally, I personally like how the Brits conducted their COIN training of not only the military, but of the police as well. The Conduct of Anti-terrorist Operations in Malaya (ATOM) went through several iterations being updated as tactics, techniques and procedures changed. The Brits also made a huge effort to ensure the growing police organizations went through their COIN training and was issued the latest ATOM manuals. As we see today and is highlighted in the CALL Special Study 07-16, From Zero to Blue, often the police graduating from Iraqi Police Academies do NOT have the COIN survival skills to stay alive in their areas. Not only do Iraqi police need to understand the law enforcement aspect of their jobs, but also have a deep understanding of COIN tactics and individual survival skills to defeat the insurgents. The Brits understood this and focused on getting well trained police out front.

    Finally, the different leadership examples found by the British command is very interesting. It wasn't until you had ONE head of all efforts appointed did you finally see unity of effort in the COIN fight. When GEN Templar took command, he immediately left for a two week, on the ground, assessment of the situation to guage where to go as the new leadership in Malaya.

    Of course there are alot of lessons which are simply not applicable to today's fight...but that doesn't mean we won't need them again in a future fight!
    "But the bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet withstanding, go out to meet it."

    -Thucydides

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Malayan Lessons

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    I think there are some lessons to be learned from Malaya, but most of them center on necessary police/military interaction and the potential value of local forces.

    One mistake that is often made is the thought that either ALL lessons from an area can be shifted to another or that NONE of them can be used. I think the real value lies in sifting through the cases for specific techniques that worked (or didn't work) and examining them in light of your current situation. For example, elements of Malaya would have worked in Vietnam (since you did have ethnic minorities to work with...and in some cases the South Vietnamese thought of the Northerners as something of a foreign element), but they may gain less traction in Iraq or Afghanistan where tribal factors can play a bigger role. That said, you could possibly modify some Malay techniques to work with tribal cultures.

    It's an interesting problem, and one of the things that keeps drawing me to history.

    I am burning through John Nagl's book and I just entered the section on Vietnam after finishing the part on Malaya. John's writings on the Brits resonated with me as a guy very interested in Queen Victoria's military and a graduate of the Sudanese Junior CGSC (CAS3) team taught by Brits and Sudanese.

    Where John's book is strongest (so far) is its contrasting study of the British and American militaries' willingness to learn. Simply put the British approach to issues of doctrine is dramatically different than our own. We approach doctrine as a stone tablet found on a mountain called Fort Leavenworth. The British approach is much more individualistic and area focused than our own.

    Don't get me wrong here; I am not saying the Brits get it right everytime because clearly they don't. But they do adapt more quickly than we do where we tend to fall back on the core "values" of technology, firepower, and annihilation of the enemy when we stumble.

    Best

    Tom

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    We approach doctrine as a stone tablet found on a mountain called Fort Leavenworth. The British approach is much more individualistic and area focused than our own.

    Don't get me wrong here; I am not saying the Brits get it right everytime because clearly they don't. But they do adapt more quickly than we do where we tend to fall back on the core "values" of technology, firepower, and annihilation of the enemy when we stumble.

    Best

    Tom
    I agree, Tom. I think much of this dates back to our ramping up for World War II and before that the need to train up large numbers of volunteer units quickly (Civil War, World War I, and a few others). The breaking of the regimental system IMO did more harm than good in the U.S. Army, as did many of the personnel system "reforms" from this same period. But that's just my $.02 or so.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Default Book Review: Hearts and Minds in Guerrilla Warfare: The Malayan Emergency 1948-1960

    ISBN: 0195889428 by Richard Stubbs (from my Amazon.com review)


    Books that cover the military history of irregular warfare campaigns are plentiful. Most will provide great insight or not so great insight into tactics and military strategies for counterinsurgency. Very few seem to take a more holistic approach to discuss the grand strategy of a campaign at the political, social, and military level combined. This broader view is more helpful to citizens and political leadership than are the microcosm of only the military aspects.

    Counterinsurgency is more often a political and social problem fed by political or social injustices that serve to promote insurgent support in the form of material supply and fresh recruits. The absence of good texts providing case studies has doomed us to repeat the same learning process in each new conflict. Hearts and Minds in Guerrilla Warfare is a classic case study of the 1948-1960 Malayan Emergency which provides the broader view needed in all aspects of a counterinsurgency grand strategy. We would do well to return to it as a study in one success story and what was learned from that experience. It would also serve well as a model for more studies of its kind.

    Hearts and Minds begins with a study of how the communist insurgency sprang from the insecurities and uncertainties of a near anarchy at the sudden end of Japanese dominance in the area after the second world war. It demonstrates how lawlessness creates a vacuum that charismatic guerrilla leaders can fill with their own brand of security. The book covers various phases in the conflict from the inception and growth of the insurgent forces through outside influences out of the control of the local authorities such as the economic boom of the Korean war period. It also covers the policies that led to failures and even fed the rebellion in the early stages then picks up on key points of the philosophy that led to the eventual defeat of the guerrilla forces. It is a study of the conflict that gave rise to the "hearts and minds" philosophy talked about so often with regard to counterinsurgency and provides us with a success we can study for key elements that provided that success.

    This is a very well-written work that provides the political and social backgrounds to the conflict without overpowering the reader with the multitude of acronyms and abbreviations of the political movements and parties involved. Other books have focused on the military aspects or political aspects of this and other conflicts. This book covers a wider, more meaningful view of the political, social, and military aspects that can be considered in how we approach similar conflicts. It is an important work that can provide great insight to political and military leadership in current and future conflicts. Very highly recommended.
    Mark
    Discuss at: The Irregulars Visit at: UW Review
    "The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him." - G. K. Chesterton

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    RSIS, 29 Aug 07: War As They Knew It: Revolutionary War and Counterinsurgency in Southeast Asia
    Since the end of the Second World War, Maoist-inspired revolutions based on the People's War model have swept through Southeast Asian like a raging prarie fire. The two most carefully studied of all the Southeast Asian revolutionary struggles are those of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) against the British in Malaya, and that of the Vietminh, Vietcong and Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DVRN) in Vietnam. With good reason, these two case studies have become "meta-models" in the art of revolutionary war and counter-insurgency (COIN). The successful containment of the Malayan Emergency spelt the only victory won by a Western democracy against practitioners of revolutionary warfare, while Vietnam stood out as the first case of the success of the People's War model when it defeated two major Western powers in succession. This paper thus relies on the above two paradigms to explain the COIN approaches of the Americans (dominated by military annihilation) and the British (shaped by decades of imperial policing) in Southeast Asia. By examining the British experience in the Malayan Emergency and that of the Americans in the Vietnam War, this paper explores the two distinctly different trajectories that British and American military cultures took, which ultimately determined their respective response to revolutionary war in Southeast Asia. The focus is on the British and American approaches in the following four key components of COIN strategy - utility of military force, civil-military relations, population security and propaganda - for it is in these four crucial areas that the battle for hearts and minds takes place. The state's performance within this interconnected quadrant ultimately dictates the success or failure in countering revolutionary war, simply because it is through them that the power of the word and deed is most keenly felt by the population and the revolutionary. Many students of COIN have acknowledged the importance of the credibility factor, but none have addressed its pertinence within an integrated approach to COIN and counter-revolution. This paper thus demonstrates that insurgencies and revolutionary wars are, by their ontological nature, "credibility wars" and, as such, credibility is the cornerstone - the sine qua non - in any COIN campaign.
    Complete 48 page paper at the link.

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    Default Couple of thoughts

    Malaya was, as several posts point out, a relatively "easy" case in which nearly everything favored COIN. So, why did it take 12 long years to end the thing favorably? (3 years after inedpendence).
    Lesson: COIN ain't easy

    Malaya had not only unity of effort but unity of command. Most COIN will not permit unity of command but all would permit it among USG elements.
    Lesson: USG needs to have unity of command among all USG components even if this means putting the Ambassador in command of the military commander (or vice versa).

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    ROE is defined by the Constitution/UCMJ/Geneva Conventions when it should be defined by culture and environment and in that respect, COIN can never be very well managed, except at the theoretical level. ROE is static and results in what I call the uniform code of adaptability, which assumes there are a set of common cultural dynamics that are uniform across the 3rd world spectrum and can be similarly manipulated culture-to-culture. Add to this inductive generalization the problems military traditionalists pose for COIN and it remains a concept that cannot be well managed in real time in real field conditions. Small unit autonomy is the answer but the more you have small unit autonomy, the more you perforate the parameters set by current ROE - a vicious circle.

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    Default The Real Cause of the Malayan Emergency

    Sitting in coffee house in Chinatown in singapore I had a wonderful discussion with a former Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army insurgent who later became a police official via being a 'Communist Insurgent'. It turns out that the British told many of the members of the MPAJA that if they joined that after the war, when the British returned they would get five acres of land, a hut and a few pigs. He decided he didn't really like being an insurgent and handed himself in as many did during one of the many amnestys was declared. Perhaps even the first one.

    Many were Chinese born, or first generation Straits Chinese, so had family in China and hated the Japanese. After the war they went and asked for ther 'pay' for fighting the Japanese. The Colonial Administration said that was not possible so after fruitless negotiations that dragged on for two years many took up arms again 'to fight for their rights' and not as Communist sympathisers. Funnily enough the British later offered a deal where if they handed in their weapon, and swore allegiance to the government, they were rewarded with five acres of land, a hut and a few pugs.

    If the British had given the Chinese ex-MPAJA what had been promised to them in the frist place, the Emergency may never had happened. Many years later (1984) in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia my wife and I picked up a farmer who was returning home from the fields loaded down with vegetables. The Cameron Hilighland still had 'black areas' where ex-Communist Terrorists farmed the land as per the agreement. he was one of them although I did not know this at the time. My wife, who speaks fluent Hokkien, had a great chat with him.

    Off the subject the farmers grew fantastic pontiac potatoes and I still remember the fried chips (steak fries to you Yanks) my wife made from them. We are still together - never lose a good cook as a wife and Asian wives, like good wine, get better with age.

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    Default Setting the Record Straight on Malayan Counterinsurgency Strategy

    Setting the Record Straight on Malayan Counterinsurgency Strategy

    Entry Excerpt:

    Setting the Record Straight on Malayan Counterinsurgency Strategy:
    Interview with Karl Hack
    by Octavian Manea

    Download the Full Article: Setting the Record Straight on Malayan Counterinsurgency Strategy

    You are a long time researcher and observer of the Malayan Emergency. What were the core key ingredients that broke the back of the communist insurgents in the Malayan Emergency? The primary cause for putting the campaign on a firmly winning path? The game changer that helped at the end of the day to regain the initiative?

    That is a bit like asking, ‘In making a cup of tea, which action is the game-changer: the heating of the water, the addition of the tea bag, or the correct amount of steeping? If you don’t heat the water, or don’t add the teabag, or under or over-steep, you don’t get a drinkable cup of tea. In addition, if you do things in the wrong order, it may turn out disgusting. You can’t just skip a stage and go to the one and single ‘really important’ bit of tea-making.

    The same goes for counterinsurgency. You cannot, for instance, go straight to a comprehensive approach for ‘winning hearts and minds’ and expect it to work, if you have not first broken up the larger insurgent groups, disrupted their main bases, and achieved a modicum of spatial dominance and of security for the population in the area concerned. Local fence-sitters are, quite rightly in terms of family survival needs, likely to regard personal safety and avoiding ‘collaboration’ with you as overriding concerns, especially after contractors and officials who help you are assassinated or tortured.

    Yet for counterinsurgency, people do sometimes ask ‘what is the one key ingredient’? The answer is, menus do not work like that, and neither did the Malayan Emergency. There were distinct phases or stages. I would argue that many other insurgencies are also likely to have distinct stages, and indeed that within a single insurgency different provinces or regions may be at different stages at any one time. It is quite possible that Helmand and Herat, Kandahar and Nangarhar, could simultaneously be at very different stages, requiring very different policies.

    The question above, therefore, encompasses what I would like to dub the ‘temporal fallacy’ (that policies abstracted from one defining moment might be equally valid in qualitatively different phases), and the spatial fallacy (that different geographic regions will be in the same phase, so allowing a single strategy for a country no matter how fractured and diverse).

    Download the Full Article: Setting the Record Straight on Malayan Counterinsurgency Strategy

    Interview with Karl Hack conducted by Octavian Manea (Editor of FP Romania, the Romanian edition of Foreign Policy).



    --------
    Read the full post and make any comments at the SWJ Blog.
    This forum is a feed only and is closed to user comments.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Cross-reference

    Cross reference to the superb SWJ article 'Malaya: The Myth of Hearts and Minds' by by Sergio Miller:http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art...arts-and-minds

    There is a parallel thread 'British COIN':http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=9771
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 04-16-2012 at 10:45 AM.
    davidbfpo

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    Default No more soup: Chin Peng obituary

    Thanks to a "lurker" for this. The obituary's sub-title says it all:
    Chin Peng, who has died aged about 88, was decorated for his bravery fighting alongside British forces in the Second World War then afterwards took up arms against them in the Malayan Emergency.
    Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obit...Chin-Peng.html

    There is no single thread on Malaya, although many references - many I expect a result of John Nagl's book.
    davidbfpo

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    Default Before Nagl there was Thompson

    Sir Robert Thompson, who was a senior civil servant during the Emergency, wrote a number of serious works on COIN which greatly influenced American COIN doctrine, including FM 3-24. His 1966 Defeating Communist Insurgency is a classic. Easily derived from his book is a model for the conduct of COIN which Manwaring tested against the SWORD model (see our "The SWORD Model of Counterinsurgency" in the Journal Dec 2008. Although Thompson was influential among COIN thinkers and with President Diem (in the early days of the Vietnam War), his approach was largely rejected by MACV, in the end, both at the strategic and tactical levels.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Default Chin Peng autobiography

    Chapter 17 is titled: "The Briggs Plan Bites".

    http://books.google.com/books?id=Ual...#search_anchor

    PS: Not really an auto, but recollections.
    Last edited by Madhu; 09-20-2013 at 03:45 PM. Reason: PS added
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    Default From Reason (on Briggs Plan)

    That narrative is largely incorrect. "The primary historical record," Gentile writes, "shows that there was no discontinuity" between Briggs and Templer. Both were committed to implementing the Briggs Plan: a massive and often brutal resettlement program that relocated hundreds of thousands of people suspected of sympathizing with the insurgents (chiefly members of the ethnic Chinese minority in Malaya).

    In retrospect, the British victory was never much in doubt. The Malayan Communist fighters never numbered more than 7,500. The ethnic Malays were generally supportive of the British counterinsurgency campaign because they opposed a communist takeover of their country. "It was a war," Gentile observes, "that would have been very difficult for the British to lose."
    http://reason.com/archives/2013/07/3...the-better-war

    I sometimes note that American policy makers have trouble with scale (I first noted this in medicine, lots of people have made that point actually) and translating policy that works for small European states to the US setting. This 'trouble with scale' might make for an interesting area of study in various policy discussions.
    Last edited by Madhu; 09-20-2013 at 03:50 PM. Reason: improper quote originally
    “I am practicing being kind instead of right” - Matthew Quick, The Silver Linings Playbook

    "Throughout the world sounds one long cry from the heart of the artist: Give me the chance to do my very best." - Babette's Feast

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    Default We missed The Second Emergency 1969-1989

    Oddly there is little written on the 'Second Emergency' in Malaya / Malaysia, that ran from 1969 to 1989 and that includes this Form on a quick skim. So I was delighted to read a May 2015 RUSI Journal with a review of 'Malaysia's Defeat of Armed Communism: The Second Emergency 1969-1989' by Ong Weichang.

    The review is not available online, but if you are interested PM me.

    Big snag Amazon UK shows no reviews and it costs £150:https://www.amazon.co.uk/Malaysias-Defeat-Armed-Communism-Emergency/dp/B00XWXAEYY/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1477325422&sr =1-1-fkmr0&keywords=Malaysia%27s+Defeat+of+Armed+Commun ism
    %3A+The+Second+Emergency+1969-1989

    In the USA it is much cheaper! There is this review too:
    Ong Weichong illuminates a neglected chapter in the history of counterinsurgency (COIN) in Southeast Asia. Most studies end their assessment of the Malayan Emergency in 1960, and from this a number of COIN lessons and principles have been derived. As Ong argues, COIN campaigns may be longer and costlier then we have been led to believe. His peerless examination of the "Second Emergency" (1968-1981) is convincing in breadth of sources and depth of analysis. Malaysia's Defeat of Armed Communism is a must-read for serious scholars of COIN and irregular warfare.' James D. Kiras, School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, USA
    Link:https://www.amazon.com/Malaysias-Def...s=Ong+Weichong
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 3 Days Ago at 07:22 AM. Reason: 18,803v. 36,102v when thread reopened
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    Default Moderator at work

    Thread reopened after a catalyst landed.

    There is a SWJ article which may be of value: 'Algeria and Malaya: A Tale of Two Distinct and Dramatically Different Counterinsurgency Campaigns':http://http://smallwarsjournal.com/j...nsurgency-camp

    Searching SWJ with Malayan found numerous articles, only a few are here. The best may be those with numerous comments.

    davidbfpo

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