The Unknown Theorist of Counter-Insurgency

Book : Mériadec Raffray, Général Jacques Hogard, Stratège de la contre-insurrection (General Jaques Hogard, the Strategy of Counter-Insurgency). Economica, coll. Stratégies & Doctrines, 2014

While the name of David Galuala, commanding officer in the French army and theorist of counter-insurgency operations, remains an international reference in the matter, that of general Jacques Hogard (1918-1999) is much less known. Though a veteran of the Second World War and of the French campaigns in Algeria and Indochina, he has developed theories that have not lost their relevance to an age with wars in Afghanistan and Mali. His work has contributed to Western understanding of the Communist concepts of revolutionary war.

In this book, Mériadec Raffray, journalist and renowned military expert, does him justice. A graduate from the prestigious Saint-Cyr French military college, a man of both theory and action, Jacques Hogard soon found himself faced with a new form of conflict resulting from the confrontation between the East and West: subversive warfare. Drawing on his military experience, he developed during his career a subtle and comprehensive analysis of counter-insurgency. He thus emphasizes the idea of using psychology as a weapon to obtain the civilian population’s moral support, the only real issue in a revolutionary war. This weapon consists of “opposing all forms of anti-national propaganda and to neutralise its authors”; the aim is to “counteract and thwart this propaganda using an efficient and objective counter-propaganda”.

Drawing on the lessons learnt from the French defeat in Indochina, Jacques Hogard lists the reasons for the failure: the inability to adapt to the country; defective intelligence; inadequate knowledge of both the enemy and revolutionary warfare; poor training owing to a lack of time; the obsolescence of the infantry coupled with physical weakness of officers, too old to successfully complete their missions. For each of these problems, he proposes several solutions based on a political and psychological training programme for all officers in order to teach them how to win the trust of the local population.

His method of pacification, when compared to that of general Lyautey, is a textbook case. It is based on a detailed knowledge of the enemy and his environment, and can adopt two strategies. The first, termed ‘superficial’, is based on the destruction of the adversary’s political infrastructure; this proves costly as it demands a large personnel. The second strategy consists of winning over the local population and arming them against the rebels – this is Hogard’s preferred option. He defines this strategy by an aphorism which summarises his theory: “Every operation, no matter how small, must have a political aim”

Article Translated from French

The original author was Tigrane Yégavian, journalist at Conflits magazine.

Source : Conflits


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