VICTORIOUS INSURGENCIES: Four Rebellions That Shaped Our World

Article excerpt

VICTORIOUS INSURGENCIES: Four Rebellions that Shaped Our World, Anthony James Joes, The University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, 2010, 328 pages, $40.00.

In Victorious Insurgencies, Anthony James Joes examines four confl icts in which guerrillas exploited population grievances, counterinsurgents made mistakes, and foreign actors presented opportunities to defeat counterinsurgents. The book's primary contribution is that it provides the historical context missing in many cursory examinations. Joes provides a deeper understanding of the factors that ultimately enabled insurgent success. His exposure of common counterinsurgent errors, such as failing to commit appropriate troop levels and failing to isolate insurgents from outside support, is a secondary but important contribution.

Like many texts on insurgencies, Joes begins his book with an examination of Mao Tse-Tung's guerrilla (and eventually conventional) campaign against the Kuomintang and Japanese. Rather than exalting the infallibility of Mao's strategic genius, Joes points to the effects of the Japanese invasion and subsequent occupation of China as the decisive factor for Mao's ultimate success. Although Joes mentions Chiang's opportunities had Japan not invaded China, his discussion does not devolve into a fruitless "what if" experiment. On the contrary, he presents evidence to debunk the invincibility of the Maoist approach.

In the second case study, Joes provides well supported facts for France's ultimate withdrawal from Vietnam. He explores the personalities and decisions of the Vietminh and French leaders, reviews the manpower required for the counterinsurgent task at hand, and fi nds the French commitment sorely lacking. …