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The Malayan Emergency Counter Insurgency Success Essay

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Updated: Jan 9th, 2019


The Malayan was a guerrilla war fought between Commonwealth armed forces and the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA).The war lasted from June 1948 to 31st July 1960 and during this period the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) decided to prepare for armed conflict which it had expected to break out later that year, thus there was an increase in murder and violence in support of labor disputes however, the British pre-empted the communists plan (war) by declaring a state of emergency in June 1948.

This State of emergency and hostilities brought social problems to the community which consisted of; unemployment, low wages, starvation, scarce and expensive food supply to the people and as a result there were numerous social unrests that resulted in civil disobediences for example, the strikes in 1948 that forced the British administration to revamp the Malaya’s economy especially from investments such as the Malaya’s tin and rubber industries were important in providing revenue to Britain’s own post war recovery.

Therefore during this period (state of emergency) the people who proved hostile or uncooperative towards the administrations interests were dealt with unsympathetically. Hence the administration adopted measures such as deportations, detainments and arrests. Out of the above measures and others outlined below, Britain was able to successful handle the Malayan counter insurgency during 1948 to 1960. In addition, the communists were not prepared for British’s response where Britain used aggressive attacks and the destroy tactics.

On the other hand, the communists were very determined in their cause and also gave the British Administration a hard time in countering the insurgency for example despite the fact that the communist units were destroyed during the fights in large numbers, the always managed to regroup once again, rearm and retain their previous position that allowed them to continue with their campaign by persuading and influencing the public to kick out the British nonetheless in the end their campaign was unsuccessful.

The British troops were strong, better armed as there also had air power which the Malayans did not. In addition, the British were able to win the affection of the local people as they provided humanitarian assistance to them thus creating a mutual respect between the locals and the British. The guerrillas on the other hand failed to achieve any relationship between them and the locals as they were held in fear and they were known for their brutality.

Thus in 1960 the Communist force fell apart, Thus after twelve years of jungle warfare, the British were able to achieve success by using a numbers of methods or principles, the first principle was the primacy of political purpose; this principle dictated that during counterinsurgency, political purpose had dominance.

This made counterinsurgency not different from any other type of military operation because for UK and its allies, the military operated in support to its political objectives. This was the case whether the task at hand was general war or counterinsurgency hence political purpose and effective governance must have had primacy and be seen to have been working to better the lives of the people.

Policies established a guide on how a campaign developed, which meant that active political involvement was required throughout the planning, preparation, execution, and assessment of counterinsurgency operations which must have involved the administration.

If military operations were conducted without ensuring that there outcome was clearly in pursuit of political objectives, then the results they may have achieved could have been counterproductive. It was important that the commander of the military ensured that his actions advanced rather than hindered development towards the preferred political agreement.

The second principle was to secure the population, “the main aim for the security line of operation in counterinsurgency was the security of the population, instead of security for the forces themselves or slow destruction of insurgents.” (Jackson 2006)

Force protection was important in maintaining operational usefulness, and neutralizing the insurgents was a crucial part in maintaining the security.

Experience continued to show that until the local population started to believe that it was safe it would not start to sustain its government (through their economical output) nor will it begin to provide the intelligence with crucial information for effective counterinsurgency. In the early stages of the Campaign, a difficult balance was struck between the operation to find and strike insurgents and establish the structure to secure the population.

This balance would change as information and intelligence was developed and the environment changed. As the intelligence picture developed, so was the advantageous balance of effort between frameworks and the operations were clear and well managed. In addition, the administration did not miss an opportunity to interrupt the activities of the insurgent whereby the aim was always to provide security for the population and to advance the host government authority.

The third principle was to neutralize the insurgents. The insurgent could be counteracted by bringing together a number of physical and psychological issues. Safety operations focused on removing the insurgent’s liberty of action and skill to influence the population. The essence of the problem was to spot and divide those who could be reconciled, from those who could not, thus dealing with those who were willing to reconcile required political accommodation.

Those who could not accept and insisted on fighting on were required to be neutralized. Framework operations usually provided an efficient, logical and reliable approach to conducting the tactical aspects of a counterinsurgency. They enabled focused surge and strike operations to take place which discouraged, disturbed, displaced and degraded insurgent groups using enough force but not more than was required.

A fundamental step in neutralizing insurgents was to create a steady presence among the population which insurgents wanted to control. Not only did these allow security measures to be implemented to protect the population, but action could be focused to deter, disrupt and dislocate insurgent activity within each area where presence of security forces was established.

At the national level, careful considerations were needed to control or close borders and create physical barriers in order to avoid the movement of insurgents using neighboring states as supply sources. This was not easy and it required the devotion of a number of resources.

he overall security intention was to neutralize the insurgents on their own ground using developmental activities, information operations, political processes and any other force that was necessary. Military success could not be complete before the situation was won over to government control.

Once insurgents lost power, it was important to make use of every opportunity by introducing eternal measures to avoid resurgences and to show government capability in making effective decisions. Usually, neutralization of the last remnants of an insurgent movement was time consuming and required strategic patience (Rigden 2008 15)

The fourth principle was to gain and maintain popular support. Gaining and maintaining popular support was an important objective for successful counterinsurgency. It offered authority to the campaign and helped establish legitimacy authority. Unless the government gained its people’s trust and confidence, the chances of achievement were greatly reduced. The degree to which it was achieved was in effect the measure of campaign success.

The level and basis for support from the population evolved over time. When security was fragile it was unlikely that the majority of the nation’s population would openly support the coalition forces. An example was that as long as the military was seen to be legitimate, its measures were seen to assist the population, and it acted with cultural kindliness and in accordance with the law, the local population always supported their occurrence and their activities.

The actions of the coalition and its partner’s sought to convince the greater part of the Population and wider audiences including opponents that the government would succeed and defeat the insurgents.

The fifth principle was to prepare for the long term. Preparing for the long term through the campaign plan was a way by which Essential combination of cross-administrative efforts could be maintained. It also helped avoid making overly hopeful assumptions based on short-term security successes. Lasting success depended on appropriate long term plans to enhance the economic and social aspects of civil life and elimination or at least suppression of the political causes of the insurgency.

It required the right number of forces and resources to be allocated from the outset. Long term plans were mandatory at every level of government and were likely to cover for security sector reforms, development of the rule of law, the development of further government capacity, economic development and social development programmes such as education and housing (Army 2009 8)


Army., 2009. British Army Field Manual. Countering Insurgency. Vol 1 Issue 10

Jackson, A. 2006. Countering Insurgency. The British Army Review. Vol 1. Issue 10

Rigden, I. A., 2008. The British Approach To Counter-insurgency: Myths, Realities, And Strategic Challenges. Strategic Research. Vol 1. Issue 8 – 89.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "The Malayan Emergency Counter Insurgency Success." January 9, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-malayan-emergency-counter-insurgency-success/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'The Malayan Emergency Counter Insurgency Success'. 9 January.

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