Book review: Modern Warfare: A French View of Counterinsurgency by Roger Trinquier
Col. Roger Trinquier is a French military leader who served in numerous conflicts, notably Indochina and Algeria. He wrote several other books on war but they are only available in French. The publisher translated this one for a particular reason: it is right on the money in describing today’s reality of war and terrorism. There’s another reason and I’ll get to that in a bit.
This book isn’t a big one (88 pages) so I won’t do a lengthy review of it, wouldn’t make sense. That said, it does have some remarkable content. Col. Trinquier writes a treatise describing a new, modern way of warfare based on terrorism. War is no longer a matter of huge conflicts where one army faces another on a clear battlefield. Modern war is about overthrowing an existing government and replacing it.
Trinquier explains in great detail how terrorists achieve this: avoiding open conflict, terrorizing the local population, integrating within them, forging secret alliances with neighboring countries, claiming innocence and victimization when caught or using the media and international politics to their benefit. I’m sure he never imagined how much the Internet would play a role in propaganda but it proves his words to be true.
He clearly describes the organizational structure of a classic terrorist organization, how it functions but most of all, how to fight it. Trinquier’s position is that classical warfare (as seen in and before WWII) is useless in this regard. He all but cries out to the military establishment that they need to change both their minds and hearts about this or face defeat in modern conflict. What’s more, he explains in detail how winning such a conflict is just as much as political battle as a military one. He places particular emphasis on the importance of winning the hearts and minds of the local population.
So far, you might think he’s not writing anything we haven’t seen or heard on the news in the last 10-15 years. Hang on, there’s a punchline coming…
If there is one thing you might disagree with, it’s his advocacy of torture to interrogate terrorists. Trinquier states the terrorist uses a soldier’s methods to kill but hides in civilian clothing. So he can’t be treated as an enemy soldier, nor as an ordinary criminal. He then explains how torture should be used and that the terrorist should be treated correctly when it’s finished.
Trinquier has been blasted for years for his position on torture and I do understand why people do so. That said, they usually pull that one small paragraph totally out of context and then put words into his mouth. I won’t argue about this point here but will only say I can understand how he reached those conclusions. Now if you think I just promoted indiscriminate mass torture, you are seriously lacking in reading skills. What I am saying is that Trinquier fought in Algeria and you should familiarize yourself with both the conflict and the schism it created in the French military before even thinking about posting an infantile comment here.
Once again, to most of you, this will not sound very new: you’ve probably heard most of this reasoning before by analysts on CNN or in other books. The incredible value of this book is twofold:
- It explains how terrorism works and how it can be fought in crystal-clear detail.
- It was written in 1961
Long before all the pundits spouted their “knowledge” on the TV networks, Col. Trinquier predicted today’s world of conflict with chilling accuracy. He also nails it when he explains the problems governments will encounter facing terrorism and why political decisions are usually the cause of defeat. Considering this book is almost 50 years old, Trinquier is perhaps the military Nostradamus of our time.
This book is a collector’s item. The information in it isn’t new, not anymore. But it is presented in a clear, concise way. “Modern Warfare” will probably do one of two things for you:
- Confirm your position on why you hate war and the governments who wage it.
- Serve as a reminder on why you think these wars must be fought.
I highly recommend it, regardless of which of these two “camps” you fall in. Either way, this book makes for a powerful message that won’t leave you untouched.
Superior paper quality and the few illustrations in it are perfectly clear.
Buy it here: