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Essay on Terrorism and Guerrilla Insurgency

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In this essay I will argue that it is difficult for a foreign power to defeat an insurgency in the insurgent’s home territory. To begin, I will examine literature in the field of asymmetric warfare related to the differences and similarities between guerrilla warfare and terrorism. Finally, I will look at how literature in the field can be applied to further our understanding of counterinsurgency efforts.
What is an insurgency?
The media does a poor job of differentiating between terrorism and guerrilla warfare. Within the field many scholars do seek to differentiate between these two phenomena. Understanding this difference is critical before beginning a discussion of how to counter insurgent movements.
Guerrilla insurgency Theory
It seems only logical that in an effort to explain guerrilla insurgency that we begin with a definition. John Nagl explains that guerrilla “is derived from the Spanish term for ‘small war’”. He then follows the mutation of conflict literature from Jomini to Clauseiwtz, to Mao . Jomini had a very simple focus that has provided the basis of many military strategies. He argued that “the annihilation of the opponent’s force was the best route to victory”. This idea “was corrupted before World War I into the concept that offense was both practically and morally superior to defense in all cases”. He further argues that this has continued to be the mantra of many militaries despite the tragic outcomes of WWI. Although Clausewitz and Jomini lived at the same time, Clausewitz understood the change that was caused by the way that “Napoleon harnessed the power of the French people to make warfare”. This “rise in nationalism meant that people and armies were much more intimately linked. ...


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...itary History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.

Nagl, John A. Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife : Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam. Paperback ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

Pape, Robert Anthony. Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. Random House Trade Paperback ed. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2006.

Polk, William Roe. Violent Politics : A History of Insurgency, Terrorism & Guerrilla War, from the American Revolution to Iraq. 1st Harper Perennial ed. New York: Harper, 2008.

Record, Jeffrey. Beating Goliath : Why Insurgencies Win. 1st ed. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2007.

Taber, Robert. War of the Flea : The Classic Study of Guerrilla Warfare. Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 2002.

Tse-Tung, Mao. On Guerrilla Warfare. Edited by Samuel Griffith: University of Illinois Press, 1961.


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