In looking for some clues, I stumbled on this Atlantic review/article by Robert Kaplan. Anyone who wants to meditate on COIN and the nature of those who wage this type of war should read the article in full. It's got it all: Bud Day, MACV-SOG, Jean Larteguy, Orde Wingate, and Misty & A-10 pilots. The article will also extend the never-ending reading list. There's a couple of books in here I haven't had the chance to read yet (alas, Don Pendleton's The Executioner series isn't cited). I didn't know that Wingate was one of Larteguy's heroes. Wish I had read the article before I shacked up this post, as it would have lent me more specificity in my chronology. Also, my take on the A-10, and by extension its pilots, is here (God, I hate lauding aviators).
Anyway, reading the article, I've scrapped my original concept for a post-that-does-not-suck and replaced it with bringing you the Kaplan article.
One important point in the article (ie, a point that validates one of my recurring themes) is it ably demonstrates the unavoidable friction between the warrior and the bureaucracy.
The article also cites one of the most famous quotes from The Centurions
I'd like...two armies: one for display, with lovely guns, tanks, little soldiers, fanfares, staffs, distinguished and doddering generals, and dear little regimental officers...an army that would be shown for a modest fee on every fairground in the country.
The other would be the real one, composed entirely of young enthusiasts in camouflage battledress, who would not be put on display but from whom all sorts of tricks would be taught. That's the army in which I should like to fight.
[bullshit flag: Kaplan truncated the quote, probably to avoid scatological imagery that would upset the delicate sensiblities of the Atlantic's readership. The actual quote is:
I'd like France to have two armies: one for display, with lovely guns, tanks, little soldiers, fanfares, staffs, distinguished and doddering generals, and dear little regimental officers who would be deeply concerned over their general's bowel movements or their colonel's piles: an army that would be shown for a modest fee on every fairground in the country.
The other would be the real one, composed entirely of young enthusiasts in camouflage battledress, who would not be put on display but from whom impossible efforts would be demanded and to whom all sorts of tricks would be taught. That's the army in which I should like to fight."
The problem with the edit, is that regimental officers figuratively wiping thier commander's ass instead of thinking of ways to accomplish the mission reflects an enduring characteristic of conventional military forces.]
One area where I think Kaplan got a little bit off azimuth was Larteguy's disparagement of conscripts. In the book, when the paras are building their COIN force for the Algerian fight, the new unit consists of paratrooper veterans (most graduates of the fall of Dien Bien Phu and the Viet Minh prison camps), volunteers, and conscripts. The veterans realize that winning over the unwilling conscripts is the key to thier success, and actually indoctrinate using all the techniques they were exposed to in Vietnam (the dialectic, cross-criticisms, self-criticisms).
For anyone who has studied the POW experience in Vietnam, The Centurions describes a remarkably different set of resistance techniques than anything the Americans used. They basically became more Communist than the communists, and used this artificial revolutionary zeal to create gaps and seams in which to exploit camp life and glean from their captors enough resources to survive. Letarguy demonstrates pretty convincingly that the French paratroopers' POW experience in Vietnam that was the crucible for their COIN paradigm (and their commitment to it) in Algeria.
One other facet of the book that Kaplan touches, but for which the reader cannot gain a true understanding without actually reading The Centurions is that the book delves into the moral cost of violating one's principles in a dirty war. Larteguy was the first military thinker to throw out the "ticking time bomb" scenario about which so many politicians and pundits prattle. The paras decide that they will find the locations of the bombs, whatever the cost. Thing is, the soldiers understand--and dread--the price they know they will have to pay. However, they pay it willingly, in some cases destroying themselves, in order to accomplish the mission and protect the innocent.
Great article that should provoke some thought.