Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Insurgency theory

The Small Wars Journal has out a new article describing a new theory of how insurgencies/guerrillas/whatever you want to call them operate. It's based on trying to synthesize some of the ideas of Mao Zedong and Clausewitz. .

The general idea is that rather than view warfare according to the three "levels" of Mao (propaganda, guerrilla fighting, and conventional warfare), the authors instead view three "poles" of fighting that guerrillas can operate within, moving closer or further from them as tactics dictate. These three poles are terrorism, guerrilla fighting, and conventional warfare. They then use the fighting in Iraq to try to support their idea of these three poles.

From the perspective of Mao, the terror pole makes absolutely no sense, however. All classical guerrilla manuals make it clear that the support of at least a portion of the population is absolutely essential for any successful insurgency. "The relationship between a guerrilla and the people is that of a fish and the water." There is, however, no explanation of this in the article.

There is also no explanation of what causes people to switch from one location on this triangular explanation to another place. The authors just talk about how AQI moved from one to another as a tactical shift, but without much detail.

Moreover, the invocation of Clausewitz in the title is extremely misleading. He is not even mentioned until the very end of the article, in the most passing of ways.

Overall, while there are some interesting ideas in this analysis, it doesn't yet rise to the level of a new theory of utmost utility.

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