This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
The most common form of warfare since 1945 has involved irregular resistance fighters attacking conventional forces and then disappearing back into the population. Bombs planted by civilians, often women and children, have served as deadly weapons in this war. The United States, France, Russia, Israel, Northern Ireland, South Africa and several South American states have all had their experiences with urban guerrillas.
George W. Bush complained in his first televised debate with Sen. John Kerry that he thought Saddam's army would stand and fight, but it melted away into the city streets. He blamed some of the problems in Iraq on the fact that the U.S. victory came too easily and quickly; if the lessons of other conflicts are a guide, it may be too soon to declare that victory. The army disappeared, but it didn't leave.
Gillo Pontecorvo's "The Battle of Algiers," filmed in 1965, released in late 1967, is the crucial film about this new kind of warfare. It involves the proving-ground of the emerging tactics in Algeria from 1954 to 1962, as France tried and failed to contain a nationalist uprising. Methods that were successful in Algeria would be adapted by Castro and Guevara in Cuba, by the Viet Cong, the Palestinians, the IRA and South African militants, and are currently being employed in Iraq. One conventional response has been the capture, interrogation and sometimes torture of the fighters, who are pressured to betray the names and plans of their co-conspirators.
This theory is described by a French military commander in "The Battle of Algiers": Terrorist groups are like tapeworms -- they keep reviving unless you destroy the head. That's not easy, because the groups are broken up into cells so that no member knows the names of more than a few others. As a consequence, neither side can really know how many (or how few) insurgents are involved.