Calling guerrilla warfare "irregular" or "unconventional" has it backward: It is the norm of armed conflict.
Their experience suggests that few people have ever chosen guerrilla warfare voluntarily; it is the tactic of last resort for those too weak to create regular armies. Likewise, terrorism is the tactic of last resort for those too weak to create guerrilla forces.
In reality, though guerrillas have often been able to fight for years and inflict great losses on their enemies, they have seldom achieved their objectives. Terrorists have been even less successful.
A spectacular vindication of this approach occurred during the Vietnam War, when the U.S. was defeated not because it had lost on the battlefield but because public opinion had turned against the war. The same thing almost happened in Iraq in 2007, and it may yet happen in Afghanistan. (This is why we should study Dau Tranh strategy)
The best-known term for this strategy is "winning hearts and minds"—a phrase popularized by the British Gen. Gerald Templer, who saved Malaya from a communist insurgency in the 1950s. But the term is misleading, since it suggests that a counter-insurgency campaign is trying to win a popularity contest. In reality, the populace will embrace the government only if it is less dangerous to do so than to support the insurgency. That is why successful population-centric policies aim to control the people with a 24/7 deployment of security forces, not to win their love and gratitude by handing out soccer balls, medical supplies and other goodies.
c. The insurgent, the counter-insurgent, and the peace keeper/enforcer have only two fundamental tools to work with to accomplish their goals:V/R
(1) The enhancement of popular perceptions of legitimacy.
(2) The credible capability to coerce
d. Success or failure is determined by each sides understanding, application, and the mixture of these tools (which is determined by the political leadership NOT the military leadership)
e. Remember that no armed political disturbances begin without significant lead times.
- THE SATURDAY ESSAY
- Updated January 18, 2013, 9:59 p.m. ET