French Counterinsurgency Failures in the Algerian War of 1954-62

1525 words 7 pages
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…

As the early military acts of the FLN’s military arm were far from resounding successes, the French still held out for the possibility of recovering control and achieving victory. However, some insurgents adhered so strongly to the cause that they took to “characteriz[ing] their struggle as a jihad, and termed their fallen as “martyrs,’” (Gray and Stockham 2008, 2.) With such a substantial divide between the two sides, there was no chance for political reconciliation. Further, the power of the pied noir contributed greatly to the difficulties French government faced in deciding on courses of action in Algeria. “[P]ied noir political pressure on the French government…and its political power in all matters concerning Algeria cannot be overstated. Its political clout… determined the rise and demise of several metropolitan French governments during the war. Hence, there was tremendous political pressure within the government to appease pied noir interests to the detriment of the Algerians – even if this meant an escalation of the insurgency.” (Millet 2008, 28)

Aforementioned military failures that contributed to the Algerian victory were due, in part, to political arrogance at both the local and national levels. “The over-reaction was symptomatic of the schizophrenia infecting the various French governments. Domestically, they wanted to appear strong against the insurgents, [and] forbad any military action