Thursday, August 03, 2006

Tactics of insurgency

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Tactics of insurgency: "The difficulty inherent with asymmetric warfare - the military term for fighting irregular forces with conventional forces - is that your enemy is able to "move among the people like a fish in water". This description of the nature of revolutionary war by Mao Zedong in the 1920s does well to define the aim of counter-insurgency as the need to "separate the fish from the water" or the insurgent from the people.

Firstly, they have a chameleon-like ability to shift back and forth across the divide from insurgent to civilian; recognising when it is best to fight and when to walk away, downing tools when continued resistance would result in their own futile destruction.

The insurgent's second advantage is propaganda. The media, when used skillfully by the insurgent, can have far greater effect than any amount of bullets or bombs. The current conflict in Lebanon is not militarily equal, but Hizbullah abides by no laws or treaties, nor is it burdened by accountability. Well managed, an insurgent group can portray itself as "freedom fighters". Additionally, Hizbullah can turn every dead fighter into a hero, and every civilian death into a recruiting tool. It is unlikely to run out of recruits for the foreseeable future.

The final area where any insurgent campaign is likely to have an advantage is in its knowledge and use of the ground. It is reported that Hizbullah has been preparing for this conflict for six years. It has constructed a network of tunnels, selected its ambushes, and prepared the local population."

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