The Anglo-Irish War, 1916-1921: A People's War

The Anglo-Irish War, 1916-1921: A People's War

The Anglo-Irish War, 1916-1921: A People's War

The Anglo-Irish War, 1916-1921: A People's War

Synopsis

An analysis of the Anglo-Irish War of 1916-1921 using the framework of a people's war, this study explains how one of the smallest nations on earth emerged victorious against one of the world's most powerful empires. Of the many accounts of the Irish War of Independence, none adequately explains the Irish victory over a force that was superior in technology, industry, military force, and population. While the theorists associated today with the strategies characteristic of a people's war were either not yet born or were unknown to those in the Irish Republican Army and Sinn Fein, the war they waged closely fits later revolutionary models.

Excerpt

"People's War" is a concept generally associated geographically with the nonWestern world and temporally with the years after 1945. Its central characteristics, the importance of ideology, the synergy of military and political aspects, the protraction and diffusion of operations, are most often discussed in the context of the Chinese Civil War of 1930-1949, to the First and Second Indochina Wars, the Palestinian Intifada and Algeria's FLN. European antecedents, the French Vendée in the 1790s, Spain and Portugal from 1808 to 1813, tend to be dismissed as incomplete forerunners. Efforts to establish paradigms of people's war in the American Revolution and Civil War tend as well to invite criticism as post-facto constructions.

The Anglo-Irish War of 1916-1921 is similarly interpreted in a political context. The Irish insurgents are depicted as seeking a turnout rather than a turnover -- removal of the British governing apparatus and power structure rather than a domestic social revolution, the installation of a parliamentary government as opposed to a junta. The war's ethnic and cultural aspects, from the Gaelic revival to the emergence of hurling as a distinctively "Irish" sport, are means of making a visible conflict that might otherwise have been ignored in wide stretches of John Bull's other island. The struggle between bitter-enders and "truciliers" over the treaty of 1921 becomes the stuff of personalities: Michael Collins versus Eamon de Valera. Even the war's military aspects are difficult to take seriously either in the context of the Great War that set the tone or the infinitely bloodier and more sophisticated struggles that made so many headlines after 1945.

William Kautt provocatively and convincingly challenges this paradigm in these pages. He presents the Anglo-Irish War as a case study -- the first case study -- in the implementations of people's war. The Irish revolutionaries applied almost every technique of modern unconventional war. As much to the point, they discovered these techniques themselves, through pragmatic process of trial and error, setback and recovery. The Easter Rising of 1916 was rebellion in the old style with indifference and hostility by a wide majority of the Irish people. In the Rising's aftermath, however, Ireland developed a new self-

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