In the last paragraph of his massive volume on the Viet Nam wars, Philip Davidson made this stark statement: "Our involvement in Viet Nam has taught us nothing." 1 Many would agree with that ominous view, at least to some extent. In light of such sentiments, any effort to illuminate the subject of guerrilla war, however inadequate, can only be worthwhile. This book provides a three-part consideration of the subject: Part I, History and Analysis; Part II, Biographical Profiles; and Part III, Bibliographical Essays.
Part I surveys and analyzes guerrilla warfare from the American Revolution to twentieth-century post-colonial conflicts. Rather than exhaustively cataloging guerrilla conflicts, it gives a broad survey of all the major occurrences plus many less well-known wars, sufficient in number, variety, and scope to suggest important points and raise important questions. The emphasis falls not so much on presentation of historical facts as on analysis of causes and effects. In part for that reason, I have tried to keep distracting footnotes to a minimum (an endeavor that some readers may decide was not as successful as it might have been).
The general approach is to look for answers to fundamental questions: What is the genesis and context of this particular guerrilla insurgency? What identifiable factors contributed to the victory or defeat of these guerrillas (or the side they supported)? Which of these factors are common to guerrilla conflict, and which are unique to a particular case?
Following the example of Walter Laqueur, 2 among others, I draw a funda-
mental distinction between guerrilla warfare and terrorism, addressing the former and excluding the latter. Political violence in itself, however spectacular or destructive, and especially that type of violence that many would find hard to distinguish from mere criminality, does not establish any persons or groups as "guerrillas." I believe the tendency currently fashionable in some circles to lump together guerrillas and terrorists is extremely regrettable, retarding rather than advancing the process of analysis.
Part II includes alphabetically arranged profiles of individuals who are important to the subject. They include guerrilla chieftains, military commanders, government officials, party leaders, theorists, and instructors or people representing any combination of these, who exerted notable influence. Some subjects are included because they illustrate important points in the conflicts discussed in Part I.
Part III surveys the major English-language literature on guerrilla warfare, including works from several foreign languages when available. It provides a wide-ranging, representative, and intensive collection of works on the origins, context, and consequence of guerrilla conflicts.
1. Philip B. Davidson, Viet Nam at War. The History, 1946- 1975 (Novato, CA: Presidio, 1988).
2. Walter Laqueur, Guerrilla: A Political and Military History ( Boston: Little, Brown, 1976).
History and Analysis
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Introduction. The Nature of Guerrilla War
In the latter half of the twentieth century many Americans came to associate the term "guerrilla" with communist revolutionary movements. Certainly, Communists directed many of the most notable instances of guerrilla warfare, such as those in China, Greece, Viet Nam, and Nicaragua. But in the Ukraine, Tibet, Eritrea, and most spectacularly in Afghanistan, guerrillas fought against Communist regimes; in these cases, as well as other major instances, such as the Vendean resistance to the French Revolution and the Spanish insurgency against Napoleon (where the word "guerrilla" comes from), guerrilla war has been the instrument of conservative, religious, or nationalist popular movements.
HOW GUERRILLAS FIGHT
Guerrilla war is also far from being a modern phenomenon. Five hundred years before the Christian Era, the hit-and-run tactics of the nomadic Scythians frustrated the efforts of Darius I to conquer them. Three and a half centuries later, Judas Maccabeus led successful guerrilla campaigns against the Syrians. In Wales, final establishment of English control in 1282 came only after two hundred years of bitter fighting, in which encastellation -- covering the country with small strongholds -- foreshadowed the blockhouse systems of later counterinsurgencies.
In Spain, the Romans needed centuries to overcome the guerrilla tactics of the Lusitanians and Celtiberians. During the second century B.C. Viriathus, the
most famous of the Iberian resistance leaders (flourished 147-139 B.C.), employed tactics against the Romans remarkably similar to those used in Spain against Napoleon nearly two millennia later. In turn, Roman counterinsurgency efforts bore most of the stigmata of similar efforts in our own era. For example, Roman atrocities against civilian populations enflamed popular resistance. Overconfidence, poor intelligence, and inappropriately conventional tactics characterized many Roman efforts; Appian writes that "the weight of their armor, the ignorance of the roads, and the inferiority of their horses" greatly hampered the Romans, operating in a hostile country in which large armies could not find sufficient sustenance and small armies were subject to attack. (Later on, Scipio Aemilianus would drastically simplify the Roman supply system.) Spanish guerrillas tied up large numbers of troops and thus weakened Rome on other fronts. Under these circumstances Roman forces suffered several serious defeats. In the end victory came to the Romans not because of superiority in skill and leadership but by a policy of exhaustion: they killed or enslaved captives by the thousands and assassinated rebel leaders through perfidy. And the Romans won also because they learned to take advantage of tribal rivalries in Spain and recruit thousands of soldiers from the local population.
Thus, guerrilla war is not the hallmark of any particular ideology, century, or culture. What defines guerrillas is not why they fight, nor when, nor where, but how: guerrilla war is a set of tactics. Guerrilla tactics are an effort to answer the question: How can the weak make war against the strong?
Since guerrillas are by definition the weaker side, their first duty is to survive. Their second duty is to alter the odds. Out of these exigencies evolve the classic method of the guerrilla: surprise the adversary by concentrating strength against weakness. Strategically -- looking at the war as a whole -- the guerrillas are inferior to their enemy in numbers, equipment, and training; that is why they fight as guerrillas rather than march out to meet the enemy head to head. But tactically -- at the specific place where they make their attack -- the guerrillas can be overwhelmingly more numerous and thus win a particular engagement. As Mao wrote, "The strategy of guerrilla war is to pit one man against ten, but the tactic is to pit ten men against one." To have constant tactical superiority the guerrillas must be able to assemble quickly (to achieve surprise) and disperse quickly (to get away from regular troops coming to the rescue). Secrecy and deception must be their sharpest tools. Thus guerrillas attack small enemy posts or detachments at night, or in the rain, or when the troops are eating or have just completed a march. "Guerrilla warfare means constant fighting rather than big battles. It is not spectacular victories and territories that count, but the annihilation of small units and the preservation of one's own vital force." 1 To this end the great Prussian military theorist Karl von Clausewitz advised guerrillas to fight far from the population centers, in rough terrain, forests, or marshes; here their light armament and scanty supplies will be a positive advantage, whereas the heavy equipment of conventional armies slows them down. (The revealing Roman word for the baggage that regular armies drag around with them is impedimenta.) 2
That is why the favorite operation of guerrilla units is to ambush convoys and, in modern times, mine highways and railroads, especially those leading into guerrilla-dominated territory. Guerrillas attack the rear of the enemy army and in effect its psyche, inflicting casualties, making nighttime movements too dangerous. By enticing their enemies into constant, fruitless pursuit (sometimes ending in a well-prepared ambush), guerrillas undermine their opponents' strength, both physical and moral. They are especially keen to interrupt their enemies' food and water supplies: however unromantic this may sound, it is of the essence of war -- even the bravest and most disciplined of soldiers cannot go three days without water. Further, well-led guerrillas operating in support of their own side's conventional army will cause the enemy to divert many soldiers from the struggle with that army; that is a major reason why the Duke of Wellington, for example, was able to win battles in Spain against a numerically superior French occupation force. Indeed, to be most effective guerrillas need to operate in tandem with regular units. The presence of such units prevents the counterinsurgency army from breaking down into small groups, whereas large formations cannot harass the guerrillas or occupy the land and control the population. This situation -- guerrillas and conventional forces operating togetherpresents the gravest challenge to any counterinsurgency campaign.
Clearly, however, guerrillas can win, or at least survive, even if they are not supported by regular troops, as Castro demonstrated in Cuba, as well as the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and the mujahideen in Afghanistan. If unsupported by conventional units, the guerrillas must be able to do more damage to the enemy than the enemy does to them. If they cannot, the guerrillas will not win.
WHAT GUERRILLAS NEED
To survive, guerrillas need intelligence (i.e., good information about their environment), high morale, and ideally a secure base. To win, they need help from outside the country. Good intelligence is of primary and decisive importance. Well-led guerrillas assemble rapidly in numbers superior to their opponents and then disperse quickly. To do this they must have accurate information on the location, numbers, equipment, morale, and intentions of the enemy. This intelligence must come from the civilian population (normally peasants and small merchants) of the area in which the guerrillas operate. Mao's famous dictum that "the guerrilla moves among the people as the fish through the water" has several meanings; one of them is that since accurate intelligence from civilians enables the guerrillas to win and even to exist, the guerrillas absolutely must have good relations with the peasantry. One reliable way to ensure exemplary behavior by the guerrillas toward the peasants is to recruit locally. During the Greek Civil War the Communist-led guerrillas systematically violated this principle of good civilian relations, to their great cost.
Closely related to the treatment of civilians, from an intelligence viewpoint, is the treatment of prisoners. Mao advised guerrillas to feed their prisoners, give
them a political lecture, and then release them. The return of prisoners unharmed to their comrades teaches the latter that they need not fear capture and hence need not go down fighting when the guerrillas are upon them. In these circumstances, not only are guerrilla casualties lowered but it becomes much easier for the guerrillas to take prisoners, and from prisoners can come precious nuggets of intelligence.
Guerrillas need, secondly, high morale; to fight their kind of war, to live their kind of life, is very hard. The existence of the guerrillas is not romantic -- quite the contrary. Cut off from normal pleasures and concerns, guerrillas must be prepared to take human life and destroy human dwellings; hunted men and women, they live always with the prospect of capture and in the presence of death. Food is often scarce, cleanliness is often impossible. Consider this passage from the memoirs of a Filipino guerrilla: "Sickness was our worst enemy and accounted for many times the casualties inflicted by the Japanese and puppets. It was the one problem we were never quite able to overcome. Malaria was the worst cause of death. Our squadrons were often forced to live in the swamps, which were thickly infested by malarial mosquitos. . . . Dysentery and stomach ulcers from inadequate food were other serious afflictions." 3
Clearly, with the first flush of glamour and excitement worn off, few guerrillas would be willing to continue that life unless their morale sustained them. Besides constant victories, nothing builds and maintains morale like belief that the cause for which one is fighting is both just and destined to triumph. Thus Maoists and other well-led guerrillas place great stress on political education. Effective indoctrination sustains high morale, which in turn contributes to proper treatment of civilians and thus the maintainance of reliable intelligence sources.
A third fundamental need of guerrillas is a base area, a place the government forces cannot reach in strength or at least not without the guerrillas knowing about it in plenty of time. Thus a guerrilla base will usually be located in the mountains or the jungle, preferably near an international frontier. In such a place the guerrillas can train and indoctrinate their members, nurse their wounded, and store their supplies. Ideally the guerrillas will establish several such bases, which will grow in size and eventually connect with one another until they effectively cover a large area of the country.
Lastly, whether or not the guerrillas have a safe base, they will find it very difficult to carry on successfully without a sanctuary -- a neighboring country across whose border they can seek temporary shelter and from which they can bring in vital supplies, especially weapons. The ultimate aim of guerrillas is to develop into conventional forces powerful enough to face and defeat the conventional forces of the government. It will be close to impossible for guerrillas to obtain the quality and quantity of weapons needed unless they can get them from outside.
In summary, guerrillas are insurgents who seek to fight against superior forces by waging a hit-and-run war of lightning attacks against vulnerable targets, a war sustained by good intelligence, high morale, secure bases, and outside as-
sistance. If it is done well, guerrilla warfare is a very cheap form of war. On one side of the ledger is a relatively small number of lightly armed guerrillas. On the other side are the possible results: the disruption of important areas of economic life, the destruction of the regular army's prestige and self-confidence, and the discrediting of the government.
1. Milovan Djilas, Wartime: With Tito and the Partisans, trans. Michael B. Petrovich ( London: Martin Secker and Warburg, 1977), 32.
2. Karl von Clausewitz, On War, ed. and trans. Michael Howard Michael Howard and Peter Paret Peter Paret ( Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 1976), 480.
3. Luis Taruc, Born of the People ( Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1973), 139.
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Lawrence of Arabia
The story of Lawrence of Arabia constitutes an extraordinary and romantic chapter in the lengthy annals of guerrilla warfare. A scholarly young Englishman so assimilated himself to the Arabs of the desert that he was able to assume direction of an Arab trans-tribal uprising against the Ottoman Empire during a world war. Yet Lawrence's war was a small affair, and one critic has tartly commented that "seldom in history has so much been written about so little." 1
The Arab Revolt, in which Lawrence of Arabia played such a dramatic role, developed in support of Britain's efforts in the Middle East during World War I. From the British point of view, the strategic situation in that part of the world at the outbreak of the war was as straightforward as it was troubling. The oncepowerful Ottoman Empire had been for decades the "Sick Man of Europe," and in 1908 the original "Young Turks" seized power with an ambitious program of reform, stressing military modernization. But the reformers did not have sufficient time to implement their ideas, being instead swept up in the rising tide of European militarism. Italy successfully invaded Turkish Libya in 1911; the following year, the First Balkan War stripped Turkey of almost all of her remaining territories in Europe.
At the same time the Turks had fallen completely within the orbit of Wilhelmine Germany. The basis of this relationship was that since Russia was
Turkey's main enemy, and Britain and Russia were friends, Turkey was obliged to look for protection to the enemies of Russia, and thus to the enemies of Britain. German General Liman von Sanders arrived to supervise the Turkish army. Shortly after the outbreak of fighting in 1914, Russia declared war on Turkey. The Turks closed the Dardanelles to the British Royal Navy, thereby breaking the vital Mediterranean supply route from the Western allies to Russia and placing the latter in mortal danger. Consequently the British decided to mount a major attack on Turkey in order to take pressure from their hard-pressed czarist ally and reopen the water route to Russia; out of this plan came the British disaster in the notorious Gallipoli Campaign ( April 1915-January 1916).
The costly failure of this amphibious attack upon the Turks set the stage for a thrust against them from some other quarter, and onto this stage strode the diminutive figure of Thomas Edward Lawrence. An Oxford-educated archaeologist and a frequent traveler in the Middle East, Lawrence received assignment as a British army intelligence officer because of his fluency in colloquial Arabic. By 1916 he had attached himself to anti-Turkish Arab rebels under Faisal, soon becoming Faisal's close adviser and confidant. 2
WAR IN THE DESERT
Lawrence discovered that many Arab leaders wanted to be rid of the Turks but were unable to accept significant casualties among their own followers. Nor could they observe the hallowed European military principle of concentration of force, because the various tribes could not enter each other's territory. On the other hand, Lawrence estimated that to retain their grip on the Arab lands the Turks would need a force of 600,000, an impossibly large number to mobilize and maintain. 3 Besides, with their undeveloped economic base, "things" meant more to the Turks than men. Therefore, the best course for the insurgents would be to attack not troops but installations, bridges, and especially the railway that linked Damascus to Medina. 4 The clear course for Lawrence and his Arab allies was to wage a guerrilla war, which they proceeded to do, mounted on camels and carrying light automatic weapons and explosives. British gold bought recruits for the rebellion against the Turkish Sultan. After Lawrence and his guerrillas captured the little port of Aqaba ( July 1917), not only gold but also food and ammunition flowed in to the rebels. (There were, however, no heavy weapons: the British were looking ahead toward the postwar situation.)
In his struggle Lawrence had three main advantages: he was operating in the midst of a mainly friendly civilian population; he was in terrain where his enemies' superior weapons availed them little; and he possessed a secure base always conveniently at hand, namely the coast of the Red Sea and the Royal Navy that dominated it. The Turks, for their part, were not prepared to cope with an ethnically based guerrilla conflict. Their superiority in conventional weapons and tactics was of no use to them in the sandy wastes into which the guerrillas retreated. Had their forces been equipped with ground-attack aircraft
and armored cars, the Turks could have their enemies on the open desert in short order, but they had neither of those things. Thus Lawrence tied down great numbers of Turkish troops and even inflicted thirty-five thousand casualties on them. All this helped to relieve the pressure on the Russians, though they collapsed anyway in October 1917.
In November 1917, having entered in disguise the Turkish-held town of Dara, Lawrence was recognized, imprisoned, and brutalized. Escaping from his tormentors, he accompanied British and Arab forces in their triumphal entry into Jerusalem in December. This event "for me was the supreme moment of the war." 5 Not until October 1919, however, did Allied forces capture Damascus; within a month Turkey quit the war, and Germany itself imploded.
1. Walter Laqueur, Guerrilla: A Historical and Critical Study ( Boston: Little, Brown, 1976).
2. After the war the British established Faeisal ( 1895-1933) as first king of Iraq.
3. T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph ( Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1936), 192.