P. Edronkin

Guerrilla Warfare As Survival Tactic For Feeble Nations

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The invasions of France and Germany against Russia, the Napoleonic occupation of Spain, the Vietnam war and the conflict in Iraq demonstrate the great vulnerability of military superpowers thorough history.

All these armed conflicts can be characterised by the same dynamics: A big country uses its military muscle against a smaller, weaker one, invades it in a blitz and then begins to slowly suffer an increasing number of defeats at the hands of irregulars. It all ends in the same way: The big guys are defeated, and in all cases, defenders or resistance fighters use effectively guerrilla tactics that enable them to fight in their own terms, no matter how economically, technologically or militarily the invaders are.

The history of Russia is remarkable regarding the use of guerrilla tactics in combination with conventional forces; in this way, Russian defenders vanquished the powerful French and German armies that invaded the country during the Napoleonic wars and WWII, respectively. However, as the Tzar's regime was crumbling during WWI, Russian forces could not fight effectively against the combined armies of Germany and the Austro-Hungarians; the revolutionary fervour at home gave no real motivation to fight.

But Vietnam is arguably the paradigmatic case of an apparently weak nation defending itself against more powerful adversaries: We should not forget that in just the span of half a century, Vietnamese fighters defeated the Japanese, the French, the U.S. forces, the Chinese and the Khmer Rouge using guerrilla warfare techniques combined with what little technology they could get their hands on.

The case of Israel and the Jewish people is worth mentioning too, since its enemies have been trying to exterminate Jews for thousands of years with no success, and since Israel's independence, in 1948, it has been fighting against enemies that are far greater in numbers and economically superior; if you don't believe this, just count how many people that said "Death to Israel" and how many governments supportive of that stance exist - they are mainly Muslims, and this is no discrimination but a statement of facts -; the GNP of those nations and the number of inhabitants of those countries adds up to a far greater number than what Israel can deploy.

So, from all these conflicts it is easy to conclude that technology or numbers are not the key to victory. It seems invariable that guerrilla tactics are superior to those based purely on technology or firepower, but the case of Israel - a country that applies technology against guerrillas and terrorists - is not a contradiction but a confirmation of the same rule.

Indeed, Israelis in a way fight against "inferior" enemies but at the same time "superior" ones, depending on how you look at them. Thee key to Israel's success so far is that its population is as highly motivated to fight as their opponents, so under such circumstances, organisation, firepower and technology do make a difference.

Motivation is a great leveller against the superior military might of an enemy, but can do little if the enemy is motivated too. So I think that the key to form a truly effective military machine that gets closer to invincibility than anything else is not to pay too much attention either to technology or fanaticism (as motivation taken to extremes) but to embrace both technology and guerrilla warfare training.

Ironically, forming a guerrilla army is far cheaper than a conventional one, it has more survivability than scores of tanks, helicopters and fighter planes piled up in their bases, and while it cannot make an invasion totally impossible, it can pester the invaders so much as to make their little adventure unbearable.

Who knows? This might prove a better deterrent than heavy weapons and could turn the world into a more peaceful place.

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