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David Galula
Nickname Jean Caran (pseudonym)
Born 1919
Died 11 May 1967(1967-05-11)
Place of birth Sfax, Tunisia
Place of death Arpajon, France
Allegiance Flag of France.svg France
Service/branch French Army
Years of service 1939-1962
Rank Lieutenant colonel[1]
Commands held 3rd Company,
45th Colonial Infantry Battalion
Battles/wars World War II
Liberation of France
Algerian War
Other work Research associate at
Harvard University

David Galula (1919–1967) was a French military officer and scholar who was influential in developing the theory and practice of counterinsurgency warfare.

Early lifeEdit

Born in Sfax, then part of the French protectorate of Tunisia in a family of Jewish merchants, Galula obtained his baccalauréat in Casablanca[2] at the Lycée Lyautey.

Military careerEdit

Galula graduated from the École spéciale militaire de Saint-Cyr in the number 126 promotion of 1939-1940. In 1941, he was expelled from the French officer corps, in accordance with the Statute on Jews of the Vichy State. After living as a civilian in North Africa, he joined the I Corps of the Army of the Liberation, and served during the liberation of France, receiving a wound during the invasion of Elba in June 1944. Galula departed for China in 1945 to work as an assistant military attaché at the French embassy in Beijing, where he witnessed the rise to power of the Chinese Communist Party. In April 1947, he was captured by Chinese Communists during a solo trip into the interior. Though fiercely anti-Communist, his captors treated him well and he eventually was released through the help of the Marshall mission. In 1948, he took part in the United Nations Special Committee on the Balkans (UNSCOB) during the Greek Civil War. From 1952 to February 1956, he served as a military attaché at the French consulate in Hong Kong. He visited the Philippines, and studied the Indochina War without taking part in it.

From August 1956 to April 1958, during the Algerian War, Galula, then a captain, led the 3rd Company of the 45th Bataillon d'Infanterie Coloniale. He distinguished himself by applying personal tactics in counterinsurgency to his sector of Kabylie, at Djebel Mimoun,[3] near Tigzirt, effectively eliminating the nationalist insurgency in his sector and earning accelerated promotion from this point. In 1958, Galula was transferred to the Headquarters of National Defence in Paris. He gave a series of conferences abroad and attended the Armed Forces Staff College.

Later life and deathEdit

Galula resigned his commission in 1962 to study in the United States, where he obtained a position of research associate at the Center for International Affairs of Harvard University.

He died in 1967 of lung cancer.[4]

Theory and influenceEdit

Galula described his experiences in two books, Pacification in Algeria, published by the RAND Corporation in 1963,[5] and Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice in 1964.[6] His books analyse his experiences in Indochina, Greece and Algeria, giving a taxonomy of favourable and unfavourable settings for a revolutionary war from the point of view of both the revolutionary (insurgent) and loyalist (counterinsurgent) forces. Galula cites Mao Zedong's observation that "[R]evolutionary war is 80 percent political action and only 20 percent military", and proposes four "laws" for counterinsurgency:[7]

  1. The aim of the war is to gain the support of the population rather than control of territory.
  2. Most of the population will be neutral in the conflict; support of the masses can be obtained with the help of an active friendly minority.
  3. Support of the population may be lost. The population must be efficiently protected to allow it to cooperate without fear of retribution by the opposite party.
  4. Order enforcement should be done progressively by removing or driving away armed opponents, then gaining support of the population, and eventually strengthening positions by building infrastructure and setting long-term relationships with the population. This must be done area by area, using a pacified territory as a basis of operation to conquer a neighbouring area.

Galula's laws thus take at face value and recognize the importance of the aphorism, based on the ideas of Mao, that "The people are the sea in which the revolutionary swims."[8] He contends that:

A victory [in a counterinsurgency] is not the destruction in a given area of the insurgent's forces and his political organization. ... A victory is that plus the permanent isolation of the insurgent from the population, isolation not enforced upon the population, but maintained by and with the population. ... In conventional warfare, strength is assessed according to military or other tangible criteria, such as the number of divisions, the position they hold, the industrial resources, etc. In revolutionary warfare, strength must be assessed by the extent of support from the population as measured in terms of political organization at the grass roots. The counterinsurgent reaches a position of strength when his power is embedded in a political organization issuing from, and firmly supported by, the population.[9]

With his four principles in mind, Galula goes on to describe a general military and political strategy to put them into operation in an area that is under full insurgent control:

In a Selected Area
1. Concentrate enough armed forces to destroy or to expel the main body of armed insurgents.
2. Detach for the area sufficient troops to oppose an insurgent's comeback in strength, install these troops in the hamlets, villages, and towns where the population lives.
3. Establish contact with the population, control its movements in order to cut off its links with the guerillas.
4. Destroy the local insurgent political organization.
5. Set up, by means of elections, new provisional local authorities.
6. Test those authorities by assigning them various concrete tasks. Replace the softs and the incompetents, give full support to the active leaders. Organize self-defense units.
7. Group and educate the leaders in a national political movement.
8. Win over or suppress the last insurgent remnants.[9]

Some of these steps can be skipped in areas that are only partially under insurgent control, and most of them are unnecessary in areas already controlled by the government.[9] Thus the essence of counterinsurgency warfare is summed up by Galula as "Build (or rebuild) a political machine from the population upward."[10]

Galula has been considered an important theorist by contemporary defence experts.[11][12] Notably, the United States military used his experiences as examples in the context of the Iraq War[13][14][15][16] and he is often quoted in the US Army's Counterinsurgency Manual.[17] Galula's Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice is highly suggested reading for students of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.[18]

Galula's work on counter-insurgency is in large part based on the experiences and lesson of 130 years of French colonial warfare, most notably the work of Joseph-Simon Gallieni and Hubert Lyautey.[19]


  • Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice. Wesport, Connecticut: Praeger Security International, 1964, ISBN 0-275-99269-1
  • Les Moustaches du tigre. Flammarion, 1965 (under the pseudonym of Jean Caran), ISBN 2-08-050086-4
  • Pacification in Algeria, 1956-1958. RAND Corporation, 2006, ISBN 0-8330-3920-2



  1. (French) "Contre-Insurrection: Théorie et pratique" Centre de Doctrine de l'Emploi des Forces
  2. Greenwood Publishing
  3. Théâtre des opérations
  4. The French colonel who wrote the books on counterinsurgency
  6. Marlowe, Ann (September 22, 2008). "French Lessons". New York Post. Archived from the original on 2012-09-05. Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  7. Reeder, Brett. "Book Summary of Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice by David Galula". (The Conflict Resolution Information Source). Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  8. Mao Zedong. On Guerilla Warfare (1937), Chapter 6 - "The Political Problems of Guerilla Warfare":
    Many people think it impossible for guerrillas to exist for long in the enemy's rear. Such a belief reveals lack of comprehension of the relationship that should exist between the people and the troops. The former may be likened to water the latter to the fish who inhabit it. How may it be said that these two cannot exist together? It is only undisciplined troops who make the people their enemies and who, like the fish out of its native element cannot live.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Galula, David Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Security International, 1964. p.54-56
  10. Galula (1964) p.95
  13. "A Counterinsurgency Campaign Plan Concept: The Galula Compass". Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  14. "Fighting a Global Insurgency Utilizing Galula's Counterinsurgency Warfare Theory". Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  15. "Special Operations Command, Pacific (SOCPAC)". Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  16. "PARAMETERS, US Army War College Quarterly - Winter 2007-08". Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  17. Counterinsurgency Manual (FM 3-24)
  18. "U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Deputy Commandant's Deploying Officer Reading List". Retrieved 2008-09-22. 
  19. Thomas Rid. "The Nineteenth Century Origins of Counterinsurgency Doctrine". Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol 33, Iss 5, p. 727-758. Digital object identifier:10.1080/01402390.2010.498259. 

Further reading

  • Cohen, A. A. Galula: The Life and Writings of the French Officer who Defined the Art of Counterinsurgency. Foreword by John A. Nagl. Praeger, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4408-0049-8.

External linksEdit

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