Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thoughts on Insurgencies 7: How They Happen, Advantages and Disadvantages

An insurgency could be defined as an armed competition for the heart of the people and thus power. Almost without exception insurgencies involve at least one non state actor otherwise they would just be a war.

Insurgencies develop when a group of people feels they are facing injustice (real or perceived) and either cannot or do not want to participate in the main stream political process. That they do not have the numbers/ influence to achieve their goals through normal political channels leads these groups to take up arms. I do not find ethics or value judgements to be particularly useful here. Many groups in the middle east as well as Africa had really legitimate cases to pick up arms but happened to be Islamic and or Communist a holes.

Folks like to talk about the white Afrikaners and Rhodesia's.  A small minority holding all of the power and most of the wealth in a system with very limited mobility is a good way to make the other people angry. That the small minority happen to be a different color than the poor majority is a real problem. Also it makes for a very good case as to why that system should be changed through violence. Of course sooner or later the many will question why they are so blatantly and brutally held down by the few. That the commie's would give these disenchanted groups indoctrination, training and weapons was just icing on the cake.

I cannot say it is a 1-1 thing but for insurgencies to really have a chance to take roots a lot of people need to be pretty unhappy as happy people do not fight their own government. The government needs to be incapable or unwilling to address their real or perceived issues that are making people so unhappy. Governments that are healthy have the right combination of being aware and able to address, if just in a token way peoples needs and having a viable security apparatus to keep the lid on things. So we have a couple conditions. We need a fairly large group of people that are really unhappy with their government and a government that cannot or will not address their needs and or shut them down with the security apparatus.

Now we have these two (or more but let's stick with two right now) opposing groups with a bunch of normal folks stuck in the middle. The government wants to maintain the status quo and the insurgents/ guerrillas want to be in charge or have some freedom or see land distribution in their favor or whatever. The government could be broken down into foreign or local. Foreign being the classic usually European Empire (say the Brit's in Malaysia, Kenya or whatever) and local (Rhodesia back in the day or Syria right now are fine examples). The difference is notable in that foreign or predominantly foreign (there is always a proxy force) forces have far less of a stomach for a long fight. It is pretty natural that folks will eventually give up on keeping/ taking over Nowhereistan and go back home. On the other hand and equally naturally people will fight tooth and nail to stay in power at home. This is why you see a lot more 10, 20 or 30 year conflicts between the local (national or state) regime and people who do not like them than with foreigners from far away. It is like a semi sporting fight between casual acquaintances and a brawl in a dark alley with a stranger. One ends when somebody gets hurt and the other ends when somebody is crippled or dead.

Both sides have advantages and disadvantages. Rather obviously the government has men, money, weapons, technology and pretty much every conventional warfare advantage you could name. On the other hand the insurgents/ guerrillas have some advantages also. One is low expectations. That they do not have to win but just have to convince people they are not losing is obviously an advantage. It is kind of like a handicap in golf. 

Another advantage is adaptability. It takes a conventional force like the Russians or the Americans forever to adopt a new weapons system. If we started now I would probably retire before a genuinely new weapon was widely fielded. On the other hand if a group of guerrillas finds that they need say a .50 caliber rifle they just need to get their hands on a few and train some dudes to use them. It could potentially be done in weeks. The same for new explosive charges or uniforms, radios or tactics.

Rather obviously guerrillas need weapons, ammunition, stuff and money. Money is probably the most important as it can readily be turned into the other stuff. We could break guerrilla funding sources into three basic streams. 1) Donations typically large foreign donations by sympathetic groups/ nations is pretty simple. A country such as both the US and USSR during the cold war or group such as Gulf State extremists supporting the Mujaheddin and then Taliban in Afghanistan and sympathetic Americans funding the IRA comes in with big bucks. Smaller donations can also be a consideration. 2) Various illegal or semi legal dealings such as drugs in the case of the Taliban and many South American Groups, the IRA selling guns and all manner of jerks and thugs robbing banks, printing fake money and running various scams. 3) Illegal taxes and forced donations from businesses and everyday folks. Either they are taking stuff without paying for it or making people make 'donations' or whatever. Unless people are sympathetic or they are providing some services in return this tends to make people unhappy though just about all insurgent and guerrilla groups do it.

Obviously it is a lot easier to conduct an insurgency if you are flush with cash. Groups with cash can get whatever sort of weapons they want, explosives, pay bribes and all sorts of fun stuff. This means that groups are hitting funding techniques 2 and 3 pretty hard. The difference between an insurgent group that is actively participating in the global gun/ drug/ smuggling/ etc trade and a big nasty gang like the Russian Mafia or MS-13 can get blurry. To me it comes back to the groups primary purpose. MS-13 are scary international gangsters to make money and get respect while the Taliban sell opium to fund their fight against the US and goals to regain regional domination or whatever.

As to equipment unless a group is getting  regular resupply via a friendly force or purchases they will by necessity use the same weapons systems as the government they are fighting. Having your own weapons, set up how you like and zeroed, in those calibers/ systems just makes sense. Even if you hate a system having one set up and put away for a rainy day is smart.

Well I am bored of writing now so it is time to wrap this up.



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Anonymous said...

I think you're being unintentionally shy about something.

True colonial/post-colonial adventures end sooner. True also that intramural throw-downs last multiple decades.

But the one that tops them all are Muslim insurgencies against anyone. Muslims vs. Dharfur and South Sudan, 10 yrs and counting. Muslims vs. USA, 33 years and counting (leaving out the Barbary pirate affair). Vs. Catholics in the Phillipines, 500 yrs. Vs. Hindus in India 1000 yrs. Vs. Jews 3000 yrs. And counting. And when they grow weary of haggling issues with outsiders, they're busy trying to knock each others' countries off both from within and without.

In fact, with very few exceptions, the single greatest predictor of "insurgency" or any other type of conflict is a country possessing a significant Muslim sub- or primary culture.

Other than Mexico (which is merely 1920s Chicago on a national scale) and Northern Ireland (another religious squabble) and North Korea (the last country standing when Communism's musical chair music ended) there is hardly any other squabble left on the entire planet that Islam isn't the beginning, middle, and end of.

Chechen separatists, Somali pirates, Mumbai bombers, rioters in Paris and London, shooters at LAX and Ft. Hood, hijackers, bombers, assassins, drug smugglers - Mohammedans one and all.

Advantages - their religion was born in war, based on war, advances at swordpoint, and commends jihad to its followers. Never gets its hands on any new technology, from guns to oil to nuclear weapons, without eventually using it to advance its cause. Well funded to a disgustingly high degree by the oil money from the "peaceful" faithful, and supplied with foot soldiers from the rest. Has lost almost every struggle outside of its native regions since 700 AD, but like grandma's leftover Rhubard Casserole, just keeps coming back.

That's one elephant in the room that bears noticing.


Ryan said...

Aesop, Interesting angle that I will have to think about.

Archer Garrett said...

Aesop is on a roll, with the minor quibble that Islam was founded circa 600 A.D.

Not that the Jews haven't had trouble in the region for 3K years.

Here's an excellent presentation on Political Islam, courtesy of the GoV:

it helps to put some faces to the statistics that have been the victims of Islam.

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