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Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare in which a small group of combatants, such as paramilitary personnel, armed civilians, or irregulars use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, hit-and-run tactics, and mobility, to fight a larger and less-mobile traditional military. Guerrilla groups are a type of violent non-state actor.
Irregular warfare is defined in United States joint doctrine as "a violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant populations."
Combatant is the legal status of an individual who has the right to engage in hostilities during an international armed conflict. The legal definition of "combatant" is found at article 43 of Additional Protocol One to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 [AP1]. It states that "Members of the armed forces of a Party to a conflict are combatants, that is to say, they have the right to participate directly in hostilities."
A paramilitary is a semi-militarized force whose organizational structure, tactics, training, subculture, and (often) function are similar to those of a professional military, but which is formally not part of a country's armed forces.
The Spanish word "guerrilla" is the diminutive form of "guerra" ("war"). The term became popular during the early-19th century Peninsular War, when the Spanish and Portuguese people rose against the Napoleonic troops and fought against a highly superior army using the guerrilla strategy. In correct Spanish usage, a person who is a member of a "guerrilla" unit is a "guerrillero" ( [ɣeriˈʎeɾo] ) if male, or a "guerrillera" ([ɣeriˈʎeɾa]) if female.
The Peninsular War (1807–1814) was a military conflict between Napoleon's empire and Bourbon Spain, for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. The war began when the French and Spanish armies invaded and occupied Portugal in 1807, and escalated in 1808 when France turned on Spain, previously its ally. The war on the peninsula lasted until the Sixth Coalition defeated Napoleon in 1814, and is regarded as one of the first wars of national liberation, significant for the emergence of large-scale guerrilla warfare.
The Grande Armée was the army commanded by Napoleon I during the Napoleonic Wars. From 1805 to 1809, the Grande Armée scored a series of historic victories that gave the French Empire an unprecedented grip on power over the European continent. Widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest fighting forces ever assembled, it suffered terrible losses during the French invasion of Russia in 1812 and never recovered its tactical superiority after that campaign.
Spanish or Castilian is a Romance language that originated in the Castile region of Spain and today has hundreds of millions of native speakers in the Americas and Spain. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.
The term "guerrilla" was used in English as early as 1809 to refer to the fighters (e.g., "The town was taken by the guerrillas"), and also (as in Spanish) to denote a group or band of such fighters. However, in most languages guerrilla still denotes the specific style of warfare. The use of the diminutive evokes the differences in number, scale, and scope between the guerrilla army and the formal, professional army of the state.[ original research? ]
A diminutive is a word that has been modified to convey a slighter degree of its root meaning, to convey the smallness of the object or quality named, or to convey a sense of intimacy or endearment. A diminutive form is a word-formation device used to express such meanings; in many languages, such forms can be translated as "little" and diminutives can also be formed as multi-word constructions such as "Tiny Tim". Diminutives are often employed as nicknames and pet names, when speaking to small children, and when expressing extreme tenderness and intimacy to an adult. The opposite of the diminutive form is the augmentative. Beyond the diminutive form of a single word, a diminutive can be a multi-word name, such as "Tiny Tim" or "Little Dorrit".
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Guerrilla warfare is a type of asymmetric warfare: competition between opponents of unequal strength.It is also a type of irregular warfare: that is, it aims not simply to defeat an enemy, but to win popular support and political influence, to the enemy's cost. Accordingly, guerrilla strategy aims to magnify the impact of a small, mobile force on a larger, more-cumbersome one. If successful, guerrillas weaken their enemy by attrition, eventually forcing them to withdraw.
Asymmetric warfare is war between belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly, or whose strategy or tactics differ significantly. This is typically a war between a standing, professional army and an insurgency or resistance movement militias who often have status of unlawful combatants.
Strategy is a high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty. In the sense of the "art of the general," which included several subsets of skills including tactics, siegecraft, logistics etc., the term came into use in the 6th century C.E. in East Roman terminology, and was translated into Western vernacular languages only in the 18th century. From then until the 20th century, the word "strategy" came to denote "a comprehensive way to try to pursue political ends, including the threat or actual use of force, in a dialectic of wills" in a military conflict, in which both adversaries interact.
Attrition warfare is a military strategy consisting of belligerent attempts to win a war by wearing down the enemy to the point of collapse through continuous losses in personnel and material. The war will usually be won by the side with greater such resources. The word attrition comes from the Latin root atterere to rub against, similar to the "grinding down" of the opponent's forces in attrition warfare.
Tactically, guerrillas usually avoid confrontation with large units and formations of enemy troops, but seek and attack small groups of enemy personnel and resources to gradually deplete the opposing force while minimizing their own losses. The guerrilla prizes mobility, secrecy, and surprise, organizing in small units and taking advantage of terrain that is difficult for larger units to use. For example, Mao Zedong summarized basic guerrilla tactics at the beginning of the Chinese "Second Revolutionary Civil War" as:
An advantage of terrain occurs when military personnel gain an advantage over an enemy utilizing, or simply in spite of, the terrain around them. The term does not exclusively apply to battles, and can be used more generally regarding entire campaigns or theaters of war.
Mao Zedong, also known as Chairman Mao, was a Chinese communist revolutionary who became the founding father of the People's Republic of China (PRC), which he ruled as the Chairman of the Communist Party of China from its establishment in 1949 until his death in 1976. His theories, military strategies, and political policies are collectively known as Maoism. During Mao's lifetime the Western media universally rendered his name as Mao Tse-tung, using the then common Wade-Giles system of phonetic spelling.
"The enemy advances, we retreat; the enemy camps, we harass; the enemy tires, we attack; the enemy retreats, we pursue." p. 124:
At least one author credits the ancient Chinese work The Art of War with inspiring Mao's tactics. pp. 6–7 In the 20th century, other communist leaders, including North Vietnamese Ho Chi Minh, often used and developed guerrilla warfare tactics, which provided a model for their use elsewhere, leading to the Cuban "foco" theory and the anti-Soviet Mujahadeen in Afghanistan.:
In addition to traditional military methods, guerrilla groups may rely also on destroying infrastructure, using improvised explosive devices, for example. They typically also rely on logistical and political support from the local population and foreign backers, are often embedded within it (thereby using the population as a human shield), and many guerrilla groups are adept at public persuasion through propaganda.Many guerrilla movements today also rely heavily on children as combatants, scouts, porters, spies, informants, and in other roles, which has drawn international condemnation (although many states also recruit children into their armed forces).
There is no commonly accepted definition of "terrorism",and the term is frequently used as a political tactic by belligerents (most often by governments in power) to denounce opponents whose status as terrorists is disputed.
Contrary to some terrorist groups, guerrillas usually work in open positions as armed units, try to hold and seize land, do not refrain from fighting enemy military force in battle and usually apply pressure to control or dominate territory and population. While the primary concern of guerrillas is the enemy's active military units, terrorists largely are concerned with non-military agents and target mostly civilians. Guerrilla forces principally fight in accordance with the law of war (jus in bello). In this sense, they respect the rights of innocent civilians by refraining from targeting them. According to the Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Studies, terrorists do not limit their actions and terrorise civilians by putting fear in people's hearts and even kill innocent foreigners in the country.
Irregular warfare, based on elements later characteristic of modern guerrilla warfare, has existed throughout the battles of many ancient civilizations. The growth of guerrilla warfare in the 20th century was inspired in part by theoretical works on guerrilla warfare, starting with the Manual de Guerra de Guerrillas by Matías Ramón Mella written in the 19th century and, more recently, Mao Zedong's On Guerrilla Warfare , Che Guevara's Guerrilla Warfare, and Lenin's text of the same name, all written after the successful revolutions carried by them in China, Cuba and Russia, respectively. Those texts characterized the tactic of guerrilla warfare as, according to Che Guevara's text, being
"used by the side which is supported by a majority but which possesses a much smaller number of arms for use in defense against oppression".
The Chinese general and strategist Sun Tzu, in his The Art of War (6th century BC) or 600 BC to 501 BC, was the earliest to propose the use of guerrilla warfare.This directly inspired the development of modern guerrilla warfare. Guerrilla tactics were presumably employed by prehistoric tribal warriors against enemy tribes. Evidence of conventional warfare, on the other hand, did not emerge until 3100 BC in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Since the Enlightenment, ideologies such as nationalism, liberalism, socialism, and religious fundamentalism have played an important role in shaping insurgencies and guerrilla warfare. The Moroccan national hero Mohamed ben Abdelkrim el-Khattabi, along with his father, unified the Moroccan tribes under their control and took arms and resistance against the Spanish and French invaders of the early 20th century. For the first time in history, tunnel warfare was utilized alongside modern guerilla tactics which caused considerable damage and annoyance to both of the invading armies in Morocco.
Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, widely regarded as the "father of guerrilla warfare",devised the Fabian strategy which was used to great effect against Hannibal Barca's army. The strategy would further influence guerrilla tactics into the modern era.
A counter-insurgency or counterinsurgency(COIN) operation involves actions taken by the recognised government of a nation to contain or quell an insurgency taken up against it. In the main, the insurgents seek to destroy or erase the political authority of the defending authorities in a population they seek to control, and the counter-insurgent forces seek to protect that authority and reduce or eliminate the supplanting authority of the insurgents. Counter-insurgency operations are common during war, occupation and armed rebellions. Counter-insurgency may be armed suppression of a rebellion, coupled with tactics such as "hearts and minds" designed to fracture the links between the insurgency and the population in which the insurgents move. Because it may be difficult or impossible to distinguish between an insurgent, a supporter of an insurgency who is a non-combatant, and entirely uninvolved members of the population, counter-insurgency operations have often rested on a confused, relativistic, or otherwise situational distinction between insurgents and non-combatants.
Theorists of counter-insurgency warfare have written extensively on the subject since the 1950s and 1960s but as early as the 1720s the third Marques of Santa Cruz de Marcenado (1684–1732) wrote that insurgencies were often the result of state failure and that the goal of those fighting the insurgents should be to seek the people's "heart and love".The two most influential of scholars of counter-insurgency have been Westerners whose job it had been to fight insurgents (often colonised people). Robert Thompson fought during the Malayan Emergency and David Galula fought during the Algerian War. Together these officers advocated multi-pronged strategies to win over the civilian population to the side of the counter-insurgent.
The widely distributed and influential work of Sir Robert Thompson, counter-insurgency expert of the Malayan Emergency, offers several such guidelines. Thompson's underlying assumption was that the counter-insurgent was committed to improving the rule of law and bettering local governance.Some governments, however, give such considerations short shrift. These governments are not interested in state-building and in extreme cases they have carried out counter-insurgency operations by using mass murder, genocide, terror, torture and execution. Historian Timothy Snyder has written, "In the guise of anti-partisan actions, the Germans killed perhaps three quarters of a million people, about 350,000 in Belarus alone, and lower but comparable numbers in Poland and Yugoslavia. The Germans killed more than a hundred thousand Poles when suppressing the Warsaw Uprising of 1944."
In the Vietnam War, the Americans "defoliated countless trees in areas where the communist North Vietnamese troops hid supply lines and conducted guerrilla warfare",(see Operation Ranch Hand). In the Soviet–Afghan War, the Soviets countered the U.S.–backed Mujahideen with a 'Scorched Earth' policy, driving over one third of the Afghan population into exile (over 5 million people), and carrying out widespread destruction of villages, granaries, crops, herds and irrigation systems, including the deadly and widespread mining of fields and pastures.
Some writers on counter-insurgency warfare emphasise the more turbulent nature of today's guerrilla warfare environment, where the clear political goals, parties and structures of such places as Vietnam, Malaya, and El Salvador are not as prevalent. These writers point to numerous guerrilla conflicts that centre around religious, ethnic or even criminal enterprise themes, and that do not lend themselves to the classic "national liberation" template.
The wide availability of the Internet has also caused changes in the tempo and mode of guerrilla operations in such areas as coordination of strikes, leveraging of financing, recruitment, and media manipulation. While the classic guidelines still apply, today's anti-guerrilla forces need to accept a more disruptive, disorderly and ambiguous mode of operation. According to David Kilcullen:
Insurgents may not be seeking to overthrow the state, may have no coherent strategy or may pursue a faith-based approach difficult to counter with traditional methods. There may be numerous competing insurgencies in one theater, meaning that the counterinsurgent must control the overall environment rather than defeat a specific enemy. The actions of individuals and the propaganda effect of a subjective "single narrative" may far outweigh practical progress, rendering counterinsurgency even more non-linear and unpredictable than before. The counterinsurgent, not the insurgent, may initiate the conflict and represent the forces of revolutionary change. The economic relationship between insurgent and population may be diametrically opposed to classical theory. And insurgent tactics, based on exploiting the propaganda effects of urban bombing, may invalidate some classical tactics and render others, like patrolling, counterproductive under some circumstances. Thus, field evidence suggests, classical theory is necessary but not sufficient for success against contemporary insurgencies.
Why does the guerrilla fighter fight? We must come to the inevitable conclusion that the guerrilla fighter is a social reformer, that he takes up arms responding to the angry protest of the people against their oppressors, and that he fights in order to change the social system that keeps all his unarmed brothers in ignominy and misery.
In the 1960s, the Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara developed the foco (Spanish: foquismo) theory of revolution in his book Guerrilla Warfare , based on his experiences during the 1959 Cuban Revolution. This theory was later formalised as "focal-ism" by Régis Debray. Its central principle is that vanguardism by cadres of small, fast-moving paramilitary groups can provide a focus for popular discontent against a sitting regime, and thereby lead a general insurrection. Although the original approach was to mobilise and launch attacks from rural areas, many foco ideas were adapted into urban guerrilla warfare movements.
Hit-and-run tactics is a tactical doctrine where the purpose of the combat involved is not to seize control of territory; instead, flexible noncommittal attacks are used to inflict damage on a target and immediately exit the area to avoid the enemy's defense and/or retaliation. Such raids can also expose enemy defensive weaknesses and achieve a psychological effect on the enemy's morale.
People's war, also called protracted people's war, is a Maoist military strategy. First developed by the Chinese communist revolutionary leader Mao Zedong (1893–1976), the basic concept behind People's War is to maintain the support of the population and draw the enemy deep into the countryside where the population will bleed them dry through a mix of mobile warfare and guerrilla warfare. It was used by the Chinese communists against the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II, and by the Chinese Soviet Republic in the Chinese Civil War.
A low-intensity conflict (LIC) is a military conflict, usually localised, between two or more state or non-state groups which is below the intensity of conventional war. It involves the state's use of military forces applied selectively and with restraint to enforce compliance with its policies or objectives. The term can be used to describe conflicts where at least one or both of the opposing parties operate along such lines.
An insurgency is a rebellion against authority when those taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents. An insurgency can be fought via counter-insurgency warfare, and may also be opposed by measures to protect the population, and by political and economic actions of various kinds and propaganda aimed at undermining the insurgents' claims against the incumbent regime. As a concept, insurgency's nature is ambiguous.
Sir Robert Grainger Ker Thompson (1916–1992) was a British military officer and counter-insurgency expert and "He was widely regarded on both sides of the Atlantic as the world's leading expert on countering the Mao Tse-tung technique of rural guerrilla insurgency".
Jungle warfare is a term used to cover the special techniques needed for military units to survive and fight in jungle terrain.
Fourth-generation warfare (4GW) is conflict characterized by a blurring of the lines between war and politics, combatants and civilians.
Irregular military is any non-standard military component that is distinct from a country's national armed forces. Being defined by exclusion, there is significant variance in what comes under the term. It can refer to the type of military organization, or to the type of tactics used. An irregular military organization is one which is not part of the regular army organization. Without standard military unit organization, various more general names are often used; such organizations may be called a "troop", "group", "unit", "column", "band", or "force". Irregulars are soldiers or warriors that are members of these organizations, or are members of special military units that employ irregular military tactics. This also applies to irregular troops, irregular infantry and irregular cavalry.
A counter-insurgency or counterinsurgency (COIN) is defined by the United States Department of State as "comprehensive civilian and military efforts taken to simultaneously defeat and contain insurgency and address its root causes". An insurgency is a rebellion against a constituted authority when those taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents. It is "the organized use of subversion and violence to seize, nullify or challenge political control of a region. As such, it is primarily a political struggle, in which both sides use armed force to create space for their political, economic and influence activities to be effective."
David Galula (1919–1967) was a French military officer and scholar who was influential in developing the theory and practice of counterinsurgency warfare.
The foco theory of revolution by way of guerrilla warfare, also known as focalism, was formulated by French intellectual and government official Régis Debray, whose main source of inspiration was Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara's experiences surrounding his rebel army's victory in the 1959 Cuban Revolution.
On April 21, 1862, the Congress of the Confederate States of America passed the Partisan Ranger Act. The law was intended as a stimulus for recruitment of irregulars for service into the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. The Confederate leadership, like the Union leadership, later opposed the use of irregular warfare, fearing that the lack of discipline among rival guerrilla groups could spiral out of control. On February 17, 1864 the Partisan Ranger Act was repealed after pressure from Robert E. Lee and other Confederate regulars persuaded Congress to repeal the act. Only two partisan rangers groups were exempt and allowed to continue to operate to the very end of the war: Mosby's Raiders and McNeill's Rangers. Both of these independent partisan rangers operated in the western counties of Virginia and were known to exercise military discipline when conducting raids.
David John Kilcullen FRGS is an Australian author, strategist and counterinsurgency expert and is currently the non-executive Chairman of Caerus Associates, a strategy and design consulting firm that he founded.
Guerrilla Warfare is a military handbook written by Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara. Published in 1961 following the Cuban Revolution, it became a reference for thousands of guerrilla fighters in various countries around the world. The book draws upon Guevara's personal experience as a guerrilla soldier during the Cuban Revolution, generalizing for readers who would undertake guerrilla warfare in their own countries.
The main strategy and tactics of guerrilla warfare tend to involve the use of a small attacking, mobile force against a large, unwieldy force. The guerrilla force is largely or entirely organized in small units that are dependent on the support of the local population. Tactically, the guerrilla army makes the repetitive attacks far from the opponent's center of gravity with a view to keeping its own casualties to a minimum and imposing a constant debilitating strain on the enemy. This may provoke the enemy into a brutal, excessively destructive response which will both anger their own supporters and increase support for the guerrillas, ultimately compelling the enemy to withdraw.
The history of guerrilla warfare stretches back to ancient history. While guerrilla tactics can be viewed as a natural continuation of prehistoric warfare, the Chinese general and strategist Sun Tzu, in his The Art of War, was the earliest to propose the use of guerrilla warfare. This directly inspired the development of modern guerrilla warfare. Communist leaders like Mao Zedong and North Vietnamese Ho Chi Minh both implemented guerrilla warfare in the style of Sun Tzu, which served as a model for similar strategies elsewhere, such as the Cuban "foco" theory and the anti-Soviet Mujahadeen in Afghanistan. While the tactics of modern guerrilla warfare originate in the 20th century, irregular warfare, using elements later characteristic of modern guerrilla warfare, has existed throughout the battles of many ancient civilizations.
Clear and hold is a counter-insurgency strategy in which military personnel clear an area of guerrillas or other insurgents, and then keep the area clear of insurgents while winning the support of the populace for the government and its policies. As defined by the United States Army, "clear and hold" contains three elements: civil-military operations, combat operations, and information warfare. Only highly strategic areas are initially chosen for "clear and hold" operations; once they are secure, the operation gradually spreads to less strategic areas until the desired geographic unit is under control. Once an area has been cleared, local police authority is re-established, and government authority re-asserted.
Guevarism is a theory of communist revolution and a military strategy of guerilla warfare associated with Marxist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, a leading figure of the Cuban Revolution who believed in the idea of Marxism–Leninism and embraced its principles.
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