Counter-Insurgency Lessons from History
By Ian F W Beckett & John Pimlott
Pen and Sword (www.pen-and-sword.co.uk)
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In the current environment counter-insurgency operations have assumed the most dominant role of modern warfare. Counter-Insurgency warfare has been around for many decades but it is only in recent years where it has assumed dominance. This book is a timely contribution of the lessons from history which can be applied to such modes of combat.
Insurgencies can be defined as guerrilla / revolutionary / terrorism warfare and they are all modes of low intensity warfare. Usually insurgencies are conflicts between a state and a “group” with intentions to remove the in-situ government by changing the modus operandi of a state. Normally insurgents have political aims and aim to overthrow the existing government by replacing it with one of their choosing. Insurgencies are also often characterised by operating from neighbouring states and by launching cross-border attacks.
In the modern world low intensity warfare dominates and there a few (if any) examples of high intensity warfare in which large armies are pitted against each other. Therefore this book has arrived in a timely manner as it has significant relevance to the development of modern military doctrines. It is certainly recommended as critical reading for those leading campaigns against small scale terrorist groups and guerrillas.
The book is divided into chapters dealing with different armies’ experiences of counter-insurgency warfare. It considers conflicts since the end of World War 2 and the experiences of the British, French, American, Portuguese, Rhodesian and South African armies are described. Also the insurgences in Latin America are noted. The experiences of these campaigns – their successes and their failures are debated and indicated.
The various armies considered have applied different techniques / doctrines to dealing with insurgencies. In essence the book reveals that a purely military option will not produce positive benefits and success. It shows that in the long term success requires a military / socio-economic / political solution. The “hearts and minds” policy often used in such warfare is essential.
Many insurgencies tend to start in the provinces (especially those propagated along the lines of the Communist Chinese leader Chairman Mao) rather than the urban areas. For the in-situ government gaining control of these regions is vital and the benefits of strategies such as re-settlement methods are noted in the text. The usage of Special Forces against insurgents is eloquently described and so too are the other approaches that the military can take.
This excellent guide will no doubt be of benefit to modern day militaries as most of their efforts are currently against insurgences. Hopefully military staff planners can use the lessons in the book to help formulate a strategy that will prove beneficial in the modern environment. If that is done, then this book will no doubt have achieved its primary aim.