Defense Policy and Low-Intensity Conflict

The Development of Britain's "Small Wars" Doctrine During the 1950s

by Bruce Hoffman, Jennifer Taw


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This report examines the planning and conduct of three counterinsurgency campaigns waged by Great Britain in Malaya, Kenya, and Cyprus during the 1950s. Certain mistakes were repeated in each conflict, from which the following lessons can be drawn: (1) the administration, police, and military should be coordinated under a single individual; (2) intelligence gathering and collation should be coordinated under a single authority; (3) late recognition of an insurgency is costly; (4) large-scale formal operations should not be emphasized in lieu of special forces operations; (5) routine police work should continue; and (6) without sufficient low-intensity-conflict training for troops and appropriate materiel, the conflict will last longer and cost more. The authors point out that situational factors must be considered in an insurgency; also critical is the nature of the insurgency, especially the broadness of its appeal.

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