Undergrounds in Insurgent, Revolutionary, and Resistance Warfare

Undergrounds in Insurgent, Revolutionary, and Resistance Warfare

Undergrounds in Insurgent, Revolutionary, and Resistance Warfare

Undergrounds in Insurgent, Revolutionary, and Resistance Warfare

Excerpt

Since the original publication of Undergrounds in Insurgent, Revolutionary, and Resistance Warfare in 1963, much has changed, and much remains relevant. The Internet, the globalization of media, the demise of Soviet Communism and the Cold War, and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism have all impacted the nature and functionality of undergrounds. The original study’s observation, however, that for every guerilla fighter, there are from two to twenty-seven underground members is still true. Likewise, the report’s main thesis—that the underground part of an insurgency is the sine qua non of all such movements—is demonstrably accurate today.

As defined in the 1963 work, undergrounds are “the clandestine elements of indigenous politico-military revolutionary organizations which attempt to illegally weaken, modify, or replace the government authority, typically through the use or threat of force.” Because the art and practice of insurgency has evolved since then, almost every part of this definition deserves examination.

During the Cold War, bipolarity characterized both the world and the nature of insurgencies. Undergrounds functioned in the “illegal” realm, while the government’s actions were “legal.” Today, the lines of demarcation are blurred. Many insurgencies operate simultaneously in the legal, illegal, and quasi-legal domains, and governments sometimes engage in illegal activity to oppose them.

Likewise, it is hard to find the boundary between clandestine and overt operations because modern insurgencies simultaneously conduct both. Part of the reason for this blurring is a change in the paradigm of how insurgencies succeed or fail. The classic and simplistic way of thinking about it is to imagine an insurgency gaining strength and momentum over a long campaign and finally seizing control of the government in the mold of the Maoist takeover of China. Today it is more likely that the successful insurgency will gain some level of legitimate, open political acknowledgment while simultaneously continuing in quasi-legal and illegal activity. Power-sharing arrangements are more common today than revolutionaries overthrowing the government.

A modern insurgency thus can be thought of as including four components, instead of just the three described in the original work: the underground, the guerilla component, the auxiliary, and the public component. At the start of an insurgency, the underground might be the only active sphere. As time goes on, auxiliary and guerilla contingents begin to grow and operate. Eventually, pursuant to a political agreement, the insurgency can begin to operate in the public political process. If successful there, the entire movement might at some point . . .

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