Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thoughts On Insurgencies #8: Fundamentals of a Successful Insurgencies 101

It became apparent to me after a discussion with an invisible that I needed to take a step back in this series. Sometimes I am guilty of forgetting that most folks here have not spent a good portion of their live training for or being personally involved in an insurgency. We should discuss the fundamentals of a successful insurgency.

I am not saying that every insurgency must have each of these elements or it will not be successful. There are a certainly examples out there which do not fit every criteria but most tend to fit them if loosely. In no particular order.

Obviously some group or subset of a state needs to be unhappy with the current governmental system. Not just kinda unhappy but enough so to fight a war they may well die in. Taking a step back it isn't so much that there need to be people willing to take up arms but conditions that lead to people being willing to take up arms.

Some of these people will be active fighters. For every active fighter there are a few supporters or axillary types helping make things work.  These folks are involved to varying degrees. Some are full time intel, logistics or C2 types filling your conventional staff functions. Others may be a farmer who gives an old cow to feed some fighters or a Grandma with a big house who loves to feed and look after a bunch of teenage and early 20 something boys. For every person who actively aids insurgents they need a bunch of people who just keep quiet. The neighbor who sees something and goes about his business or the apathetic local cop who doesn't search for insurgents very hard.

For an insurgency to build from an initial nucleus to a group that has a real chance the government has to have problems. Maybe it is a backwards corrupt nepotistic regime, maybe it is an aging dysfunctional empire, maybe the economy is toast or the government is distracted by war. The reason for this is that functional governments can eventually use the stick and or carrot to decrease the total amount of people willing to take up arms. Eventually this makes insurgencies peter out until an 'acceptable level of violence' which varies from place to place. There are bombings and high amounts of murders in a lot of places but that is just normal.

Some sort of a safe haven is very helpful for insurgents. This safe haven is very important for insurgents to train, rest and plan and conduct a variety of logistical efforts. These safe havens can be due to political boundaries the insurgents can cross that the opposing force is unable to cross at least in a widespread regular way. Vietnam as well as the Pakistan/ Afghanistan border are good examples of this. Other times a safe haven can be due to an area's isolation in terms of rough geography, lack of improved all weather roads and low population densities. Areas outside aside from the AF/PAK border in Afghanistan fall into this category. The longtime Philippine insurgency  and the FARK in the jungles of Columbia are also examples.

Without this safe haven motivated governments can eventually wear down an insurgent group or at least prevent them from regrouping, recovering and training. This means they are not healing up injured fighters or training new ones which makes it hard to build numbers and win. Some sort of a (relative) safe haven is just about impossible for insurgents to do without.

Outside assistance is very important. It is cool to think about a bunch of guys running to the hinter boonies with rifles and fighting the big mean government but it is just not that simple. To keep things going insurgents need money, weapons, ammunition, food, medicine and often outside training. Admittedly money can handle most of those problems if the insurgents can get enough of it. For a long time during the good old Cold War a group could pretty much bet on assistance from whichever side didn't have a relationship with the regime they are trying to topple. Since the Cold War has ended it has become a lot more dicey but wide open. Islamic groups can get solid funding from various Gulf State groups. Other folks may have relationships that work for various reasons.

Those are the big ones that come to mind based on my formal and informal education on the topic as well as real world experiences. As always input is welcome but please try to keep it on topic. I hope that some of you get something out of this post.

Have a nice day,
Ryan


2 comments:

Commander_Zero said...

Does this post mean the book arrived?

Ryan said...

No, More that the conversation made me realize I needed to talk some fundamentals on the topic here.

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