Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

America and Guerrilla Warfare

Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

America and Guerrilla Warfare

Article excerpt

America and Guerrilla Warfare. By Anthony James Joes. (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2000. Pp. 417. Introduction, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $30.00.)

If, as has been claimed, the United States is a nation made by war, then Anthony James Joes' new book is a timely reminder that not all of those wars have been waged entirely by conventional armies. Moreover, in our current age of limited and regional wars, guerrilla insurgencies are likely to be the most frequently encountered-and most dangerous-armed conflicts the United States will face in the near future. Joes, a professor of international politics who has written two previous books about guerrillas, prepares us for that uncertain future with an insightful review of the nation's historical experience in irregular warfare.

Joes presents nine "case studies" of past American involvement with guerrilla operations spanning over two centuries. While discussed in chronological order, these case studies also represent four types of participation, and so underscore the complexity of the nation's experience. First, there have been wars in which Americans fought as guerrillas. Joes offers the War of Independence and the Civil War as examples of this type. Second, there have been wars in which U.S. forces combated guerrillas on foreign soil, such as in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, Nicaragua in the 1920s and 1930s, and Vietnam. Third, the United States has assisted foreign governments short of sending troops to thwart guerrilla uprisings, as in the Philippines and Greece after World War II and El Salvador in the 1970s and 1980s. Finally, the nation has aided guerrilla insurgents abroad, the most recent such example being in Afghanistan. Joes carefully explains the origins of each of these conflicts, traces the extent of American involvement, and suggests the lessons-both negative and positive-to be learned.

His approach has both strengths and weaknesses. To his credit, Joes offers precise analyses and summaries for a wide range of quite different guerrilla operations. Writing in a measured, clipped fashion (very nearly outline form), he marshals an enormous amount of sometimes complex material and explains it in laymen's language. Joes' success in compressing so much material, however, accounts for the book's principal weakness. …

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