2
SOME THIRD WORLD WARS

In 1985 I was invited to write an essay on the geography of a selection of Third World wars for a book entitled The Lessons of Recent Wars in the Third World ( Neuman and Harkavy 1987). The editors had collected analyses of the conflicts in Afghanistan ( 1979-89), Central America ( 1980s), the Falklands ( 1982), Iran and Iraq ( 1980-88), Lebanon ( 1982), North Vietnam ( 1979), Ogaden ( 1977-78) and the Western Sahara ( 1975-87). To these they were adding general commentaries on the cultural, sociological, economic and political aspects of these wars, and they felt the need to treat their geographical circumstances. This proved to be an interesting exercise because the wars in question were fought over a range of very different physical and human landscapes, and they stemmed from diverse geopolitical conflicts. The array of global, political and environmental settings involved had generated a variety of strategic, operational and tactical responses; it included everything from guerrillas in the rain forest of Central America to a national confrontation on the dry plains of Mesopotamia. In weaponry it ran the gamut from electronic air and naval warfare in the South Atlantic to Pathan ambushes with handmade copies of Lee Enfield 303s or stolen Kalashnikovs in the Hindu Kush.

Afghanistan was invaded by the Soviet Army in December 1979, following considerable turmoil arising from competition for political power in Kabul between different clients of the USSR. The Soviets took the Salang Pass, Kandahar and Kabul and killed one client president and replaced him with another. The war that ensued pitted the central government and its army, along with Soviet forces, against the rural, fundamentalist Mujahedin who rebelled against an irreligious government.

The wars of Central America have precedents reaching back to the 1920s. There was a small surge of revolutionary activity in the 1960s and a bigger resurgence in the late 1970s and 1980s, with the success of the Frente

-5-

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Terrain and Tactics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Tides in Contributions in Military Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures and Tables vii
  • 1 - Military Geography 1
  • References 3
  • 2 - Some Third World Wars 5
  • References 30
  • 3 - The Lie of the Land 31
  • Reference 39
  • 4 - The World at War 41
  • References 68
  • 5 - Geography of Revolution 71
  • References 85
  • 6 - The Geography of Battles 87
  • References 103
  • 7 - Classic Spatial Ploys 105
  • References 111
  • 8 - Terrain and Tactics 113
  • References 123
  • 9 - Guerrillas and Counterinsurgency 125
  • Conclusion 134
  • References 135
  • 10 - War in Cities 137
  • References 148
  • 11 - Northern Ireland 149
  • References 161
  • 12 - Fighting in the Landscape and Fighting for a Place 163
  • References 167
  • Bibliography 169
  • Index 175
  • About the Author 183
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