Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department


Committee Chair/Advisor

Grubb, Alan

Committee Member

Barczewski , Stephanie

Committee Member

Moise , Edwin


The 2003 American invasion of Iraq resulted in a violent insurgency that American forces were initially unable to counter. The United States military was shocked by its failure and was forced to consider what it had done wrong. Once the U.S. military looked into its past it was forced to admit it had wrongly ignored counterinsurgency. To correct this, it assigned many of its officers, along with other military experts, to create a new, updated doctrine that incorporated the lessons of Iraq and other recent, relevant historical precedent.
Perhaps surprisingly to some, the United States military interpreted that the Algerian War was of particularly important value. This example, according to the interpretation of the U.S. military, demonstrated certain aspects of counterinsurgency, called 'laws' by some in the military, that could benefit current world powers. The two aspects of counterinsurgency the U.S. determined were especially important from the Algerian War are the primacy of the population--who must be genuinely convinced to participate on the side of the counterinsurgent force--above all else, including the destruction of the insurgent force and the necessity of the counterinsurgent force to only use methods that are consisted with its stated national ideals.
Specifically, the French won the war militarily but still lost politically. This represents an extremely important conclusion for the U.S. military as it has had a history--as in Vietnam--of considering military victory to be the core of its strategy. The Algerian War, according to the American interpretation, was strong evidence that the old way of thinking was no longer possible. Therefore, the U.S. military studied the Algerian War and this 'lesson' has been directly applied to its current counterinsurgency doctrine. Also, the French use of torture represented another lesson that was particular to the Algerian War. The use of torture in France was of particular interest to the Americans because while it appeared to be working during the Algerian War, the U.S. military interpreted that its success was only a facade. The conspicuous use of torture had undermined French prestige both inside Algeria and around the world. Therefore, even though torture yielded positive, short-term results the long-term result was political failure as France discontinued its effort to retain Algeria. Both of these lessons appear in the current counterinsurgency field manual of the U.S. military, which indicate the direct causal link between the Algerian War and current U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine.



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