Modern Insurgencies and Counter-Insurgencies: Guerrillas and Their Opponents since 1750

By Ian F. W. Beckett | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Prior to the twentieth century, guerrilla warfare was generally understood as a purely military form of conflict. The classic tactics of 'hit and run' might be employed by indigenous groups in opposition to foreign or colonial occupation, where a conventional army either had been defeated or had never existed. It was thus a traditional tactical recourse of the weak faced by the strong. Alternatively guerrilla warfare was also a term applied to the role of irregular troops acting as partisans in support of conventional military operations. Rarely did the primarily unsophisticated practitioners of guerrilla warfare in past centuries display any wider comprehension of the potential of irregular modes of conflict in the way that has become commonplace in the modern world and, especially, since 1945. Indeed, it was really only in the 1930s and 1940s that guerrilla warfare became revolutionary in both intent and practice, with social, economic, psychological and, especially, political elements grafted on to traditional irregular military tactics in order to radically alter the structure of a state by force. Thus, dissident groups that were initially in the minority and weaker than the authorities, would seek power through a combination of subversion, propaganda and military action. More properly, therefore, modern revolutionary guerrilla warfare might be termed insurgency

In the immediate post-1945 world, insurgency was most often motivated primarily by ideology whether communism or nationalism, or a combination of both. Initially it was also more likely to occur in the kind of rural environment in which guerrillas had traditionally best thrived and which offered the best opportunity to convert a guerrilla or insurgent force into a more conventional military force capable of taking on the authorities on their own terms. Indeed, insurgency was but a means to a particular end, guerrilla tactics being employed strategically to achieve a political goal.

By the late 1960s, however, insurgency was also becoming an urban phenomenon and shading into urban terrorism. However, while insurgents might routinely employ terror or intimidation in tactical terms, they have rarely done so at the strategic level. By contrast, purely terrorist groups, even if

-vii-

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Modern Insurgencies and Counter-Insurgencies: Guerrillas and Their Opponents since 1750
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • 1 - The Roots of Insurgency 1
  • 2 - The Roots of Counter-Insurgency 24
  • 3 - Resistance and the Partisan 55
  • 4 - Mao Tse-Tung and Revolutionary Warfare 70
  • Further Reading 85
  • 5 - Formative Experiences 86
  • Further Reading 118
  • 6 - 'Wars of National Liberation'? 121
  • Further Reading 148
  • 7 - The Transition to Urban Insurgency 151
  • 8 - Insurgency and the Superpowers 183
  • 9 - Forward to the Past 217
  • Index 253
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