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French Counterinsurgency Failures in the Algerian War of 1954-62

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In recent years, it has become fashionable in the minds of some to belittle France. A rather boorish joke follows along the lines of arguing that the French have big heads only in order to accommodate their big mouths. This colloquial anecdote can be used to demonstrate that outsiders often view the behavior and policy of French government with contempt at their perceived arrogance. An example can be found in the case of Algeria’s decolonization. The failures and arrogance of the French allowed insurgents to emerge the victors of the Algerian War of 1954-1962. To understand why this occurred, it is imperative to examine how French military arrogance, political arrogance, and a failure to use military and political capabilities in…show more content…
In attempting to justify the use of torture, military leaders posited that the unconventional style of war being waged did not merit following rules of conventional war, that it was a controlled and limited way to quickly gain intelligence of tactical value, and it came to pass that “[t]he ideological and spiritual nature of the conflict was internalized by many in the French Army and became one justification for torture,” (DiMarco 2006, 70-71.) Regardless of justification, “failure to comply with moral and legal constrictions… severely undermined French efforts and contributed to their loss despite several significant military victories.” (Counterinsurgency Field Manual 2006, 252) It is obvious that with such improper conduct – such as the counterinsurgency tactics used and torture of captured enemy personnel – the demonstrated arrogance of the French military contributed to its eventual defeat by emboldening its opposition. Less tangible a form of failure than military arrogance, the political arrogance of leaders among both the pied noir and metropolitan France contributed to the Algerian victory. Policymakers were, like military leaders, interested in preventing another incident as embarrassing as Dien Bien Phu. However, the long, pronounced history of division between natives and Europeans, as described by Alistair Horne, made difficult any hope of reconciliation: “The Muslim Algerian and pied noir were separated by
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