Terrorism and Guerrilla Warfare: Forecasts and Remedies

By Richard Clutterbuck | Go to book overview

Chapter one

Introduction

6 February 1989 was the 15,982nd day since the end of the Second World War, overtaking the longest previous period without an unlimited war between major powers (15,981 days or 43½ years), that is between the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 and the start of the First World War. While there have been some prolonged local conflicts with horrific casualties (e.g. the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-8) all the fighting has been strictly limited and localized.

There have been many other conflicts since the nuclear umbrella was erected in August 1945, including those in Korea, Suez, and Vietnam; also the short sharp Indo-Pakistan and Arab-Israeli wars, and fairly substantial border clashes on the Chinese borders with the USSR, India, and Vietnam. All of these involved conventional operations between uniformed armies using artillery and aircraft. Although one side or the other (very occasionally both-e.g. the USSR and China when they clashed in 1969 on the Ussuri River) had access to nuclear weapons, there was never the slightest risk of their being used.

Virtually every other conflict since 1945 can be classed as guerrilla warfare or terrorism. Though some have been extremely bloody (for example, 70,000 killed in El Salvador out of a population of 6 million in eight years), the weapons have mainly been hand-held firearms or hand-placed bombs. The killing has been more personal and more calculatedly cruel than in fighting between conventional armies.

Though some of the guerrilla conflicts have been international (e.g. by the Palestinians), their primary causes have usually been internal between rival communities or by dissidents hoping to overturn their government. They have, however, been exploited by foreign powers: sometimes by neighbours bent on annexation (e.g. by North Vietnam in South Vietnam from 1959 to 1972, culminating in conventional military invasions in 1972 and 1975);

-3-

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