Battle of Algiers’ Stages of 4GW

From a anti-French FLN recruiter to a new member, in The Battle of Algiers:

First, we need to get organized
and secure our hideouts
then we can take action.

The organization’s getting stronger,
but there are still too many drunks, whores, and junkies.
People who talk too much.
People ready to sell us out.

We must win them over or eliminate them.
We must clean house first — organize the country.
Only then we can take on our real enemy.
You understand, Ali?

The first paragraph

  • Get Organized
  • Secure Hideouts
  • Take Action

Is close to Mao’s 3 Stages of 4GW

Organize, Contest, Conquer, then Win

However, FLN has is an innovator. FLN is different from the 4GW opponents America encountered. Specifically, the anti-French National Liberation front was much more Lenninist. Traditional guerilla warriors try to postpone killing countrymen — Mao, Ho, Ortega and others “cleansed” their movements last. While none of these victors shied away from killing their countrymen, they did not have the focus on purity that FLN had.

Given this difference, it is a surprise FLN won at all. The civil war FLN fought against MNA reminds one more of the Chinese Nationalist than their insurgent opponents. It appears that FLN was an even weaker opponent than the Vietnamese Communists. FLN probably would not have won if it were not for Charles DeGaulle, a man with a history of panicky foreign policy.

The lessons?

  • Though Fourth Generation Wars are similar, every opponent is different
  • Internal Weakness can lead to a lost 4GW, even against a weak opponent

Update: John Robb compares the Battle of Algiers to 7 / 7.

Anti-Iraqis Backsliding Into 4GWS1

Guerrilla War Leaves 24 Dead in Iraq,” by Juan Cole, Informed Comment, 15 April 2005,

The three stages of modern fourth generation warfare are

  1. Destabilize the enemy while building up a fighting force. Assassinations, bombings, and the like.
  2. Attempt to control areas where the enemy is weak while building up a fighting force. However, do not fight regular battles.
  3. Use your fighting force to conquer the enemy in regular battles.

Given that, what to make of Juan Cole’s latest entry

The Financial Times reports that guerrilla actions, including bombings and ambushes, left at least 24 persons dead on Thursday in Iraq. There were bombs in Baghdad, as well as shootings and assassinations elsewhere. Police were killed near Kirkuk and a bomb exploded in Basra, hurting two civilian passersby (the target was a police vehicle)

One official took comfort from the evidence that the suicide bombings in Baghdad mainly killed motorists and street sweepers, rather than more strategic personnel, leading to the conclusion that today’s suicide bombers are not as well-trained.

The aim of the bombers is to destabilize society by making everyone feel insecure. My Iraqi contacts say you still hear bombings and machine gun fire all night in Baghdad. Those bombs on Thursday added to the atmosphere of insecurity, making it less likely that the new Iraq can pull itself together. You don’t need a lot of training for that.

Well, the real aim of the bombers is to take over the country. Cole misses the point.

When insurgents attack American soldiers or fixed instillations, they are contesting territory. That is 4GWS2, the second state of a fourth generation war. Killing civilians (while growing a base) is the first stage, 4GWS1. Going from contesting territory to terrorizing civilians is backwards — it means the insurgents are losing.

Every death is a tragedy, and it is possible for an insurgent force to regroup and eventually win. But desperate and catastrophic attacks against well fortified positions combined with abandoning most 4GW22 attacks is good news for the good guys. Too bad Cole doesn’t see that.

Update: Over at Liberals Against Terrorism, Swopa takes the analysis deeper

The reason that “the ranks of the insurgency are increasingly dominated by poorly trained ideologues” is because the Baathist element of the resistance is decreasing.

That may be due to the elimination of its leadership (which I presume is at least partially true), but it may also be because they’ve chosen to lie low for awhile.