Insurgency: The Unsolved Mystery AUTHOR Major Eric N. Nyberg, USMC CSC 1991 SUBJECT AREA - General EXECUTIVE SUMMARY TITLE: INSURGENCY: THE UNSOLVED MYSTERY The purpose this paper is to present some of the basic characteristics of an insurgency. Both civilian and military leaders have predicted that the most likely form of future conflict will fall on the lower end of the conflict spectrum. During the last decade much has been written about fighting low-intensity conflicts, but there is still alot of ground to cover. One of the most complex forms of warfare is countering an insurgency and a great deal of education and training is required to be successful in this type of an operation. Insurgent movements owe a great deal to the circumstances in which they are conceived. As new causes of unrest arise, with fresh aspirations for change, so will insurgent methods be developed and tailored to meet the needs of the moment. An insurgency does not, therefore, follow any set pattern, nor does it lend itself to precise definition. There are, however, certain basic elements and certain common characteristics which recur. It is not within the scope of this paper to discuss all of these common elements, nor to develop any of the elements in detail. After covering a basic definition and description of an insurgency, it is necessary to consider the problems that exist in developing nations and how these problems contribute to the nature of the insurgency. It is equally important to understand the leaders of the insurgency and how their backgrounds, personalities, and ideologies shape the character of the movement. The leaders establish the strategic, operational, and tactical objectives that further mold the insurgency and guide it toward the desired end state. Insurgencies develop organizational and operational patterns from the interaction of all of the factors previously mentioned. Though no insurgency will follow one pattern exclusively, they serve as a starting point for a comparative analysis. Finally, successful insurgencies progress through common stages of development. INSURGENCY: THE UNSOLVED MYSTERY OUTLINE Thesis Statement: Military leaders must begin their education for operating against the insurgency threat by gaining a basic understanding of the nature of an insurgency. I. Definition and description of an insurgency II. The emerging nation III. Insurgent leadership A. Single and group leadership B. The study of individual leaders IV. Insurgent ideology V. Objectives of the insurgency A. Strategic objectives B. Operational objecitves C. Tactical objectives VI. Organizational and operational patterns A. Subversive model B. Critical-cell model C. Mass-oriented model D. Traditional model VII. Stages of an insurgency A. Passive stage B. Active stage C. Counteroffensive stage INSURGENCY: THE UNSOLVED MYSTERY Marines have a rich heritage in low-intensity conflicts. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries Marines conducted a variety of operations that fall within the low end of the conflict spectrum. A record of the lessons learned during these operations was published in 1940 in the Small Wars Manual which has been reprinted and retains uselfulness in the conduct of modern "small wars." The next significant encounter with low-intensity confict came with the Vietnam War. Our failure in Vietnam inspired a deep-seated public resistence to protracted U.S. military involvement abroad and also contributed to the discrediting of the doctrines and a dismantling of the forces that had participated in the counterinsurgency effort in Indochina. In the latter part of the 1970s the focus of planning and training shifted back to mid- to high-intensity conflict. By the mid 198Os strategists were recognizing that serious threats to U.S. interests were developing in the form of regional insurgencies. In 1987, the President issued National Security Defense Directive 88, U.S. Capabilities to Engage in Low-Intensity Conflict and Conduct Special Operations, which outlined policy and stategy for low-intensity conflict. Four categories of military response were identified: (3: 31) - Insurgency and Counterinsurgency - Peacekeeping Operations - Peacetime Contingency Operations - Combating Terrorism During the last five years the Marine Corps has increased its focus on our role in this type of conflict. In the October 1987 issue of the Marine Corps Gazette, General A.M. Gray stated: (6: 18) I believe there will be a war in the next decade. Probably some Third Word scenario. The time to think about it is now. We need to be able to conduct low-intensity warfare. We need to be able to conduct revolutionary warfare and defeat it. Sure, we have to be prepared for NATO contingencies, but we must not lose sight of the kind of conflict that's most apt to confront us. We must be effective at the low end of the warfare spectrum, in the protracted conflicts that so often occur in the Third World. The Marine Corps has signed up to fight in the low-intensity conflict arena, but as Major Hammes points out in his article; "Insurgency: The Forgotten Threats," the Marine Corps is not prepared to conduct counterinsurgency operations. He concludes: (8: 44) The challenge facing Navy and Marine Corps officers is to understand this threat and how to combat it. From this understanding, we must develop doctrine, command relationships, and plans for how to rapidly reorganize, train, and deploy our current forces for the most complex form of conflict known to man. Major Hammes presents us with an impressive collection of challenges which begins with an understanding the threat. Military leaders must begin their education for operating against the insurgency threat by gaining a basic understanding of the nature of an insurgency. The official Department of Defense definition of insurgency is stated in JCS Pub 1 as, "An organized movement aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government through the use of subversion and armed conflict." This definition is expanded by the description of an insurgency provided in FM 100-20, Military Operations in Low Intensity Conflict: (4: 2-0) An insurgency is an organized, armed political struggle whose goal may be the seizure of power through revolutionary takeover and replacement of the existing government. In some cases, however, an insurgency's goals may be more limited. For example, the insurgency may intend to break away from government control and establish an autonomous state within traditional ethnic or religious territorial bounds. The insurgency may also only intend to extract limted political concessions unattainable through less violent means. The contest between the insurgency and the ruling government is one of legitimacy. Each player strives to demonstrate that it is better capable of meeting the needs and expectations of the people. The effort of the contestants is to capture the loyalty of the uncommitted majority through some combination of intimidation, promises of reform, and appeal to grievances. This struggle may take place within any political or economic system as long as there exists sufficient conditions that contribute to the disatisfaction of one or more segments governed by that system. Insurgency is a product of unsatisfactory conditions, social change, and a belief in the prospects for improvement. Characteristically, the aspirations of the people or a segment of the society are not being met by the government or ruling elite and there is an organized effort to further discredit and dispossess the existing leadership. (5: 3) Most insurgencies are associated with developing countries because they are characterized by many of the unsatisfactory conditions upon which the insurgents base their cause. To begin to understand the nature of an insurgency, we must understand the environment in which that insurgency is born. Most insurgencies develop in the furtile ground of emerging nations. As the world passed through the Industrial Revolution and is now in the midst of the Technological Revolution, many nations are struggling toward becoming economically and socially advanced nations with efficient, popularly supported governments. To accomplish these goals, these nations must overcome handicaps which are characteristic of an underdeveloped society. These handicaps include: a static economy, limited technology, immobile social structure, and rule by custom and traditional process. (5: 1) The early stages toward development are expensive and do not always result in benefits which are tangible to the people. The speed with which the modern media spreads information and ideas has created rising expectations, causing people to be impatient for immediate, visble evidence of progress. The process of modernization brings societal and psychological turmoil which creates exploitable conditions for those who seek power or the redress of social grievances. The insurgent leadership uses the unsatisfactory conditions that cause discontentment among the people as the rallying point of the insurgency. The leadership provides the vision, direction, guidance, coordination, and organizational coherence that focuses political and military actions. In order to be successful, the leaders must gain popular support by establishing the credibility of their movement. They must break the ties of the people with the government, replacing the government's legitimacy with that of their own. (4: 2-2) Some insurgent organizations depend on a single leader with a charismatic personality to provide cohesion, motivation, and a rallying point for the movement. Single leadership organizations can produce decisions and initiate new action rapidly, but are vulnerable to disruption by removing this key leader. Other insurgencies de-emphasize individual personalities, basing their success on a group of leaders. Collective leadership is more resilient to change due to the distribution of the responsibility for making decisions; however, they are more vulnerable to penetration. Regardless of the number of individuals leading the insurgency, knowledge of their education, background, family, social connections, and experiences will provide insight into how they think, what they want, and how they will fulfill their goals. Insurgent leaders study the masters of their trade. They read the works of Sun Tzu, Mao, Lenin, Giap, Guevarra, and other revolutionary leaders. Often a preference is shown toward a particular revolutionary leader and his strategy. To properly analyze the nature of an insurgency we must understand the functions of the leadership, identify how the leadership is organized, and know the personalities, aspirations, politics, and ideologies of those leaders. The next aspect of an insurgency that requires our awareness is the ideology that guides the insurgents in offering their society a goal. The insurgency must have a program or a body of ideas that explains what is wrong with the present political and social system, and how the new insurgent government will remedy these deficiencies. (4: 2-2) Revolutionary ideolgy following World War II centered around nationalism (anticolonialism). Communist inspired insurgencies label their ideology as `Wars of National Liberation' or revolts against imperialism. The insurgent leadership selects an ideology that has great appeal to important sectors of society in order to win their support. Ideological conflicts within the movement create a vulnerability that can be exploited by the government; therefore, the insurgency's future plans must be vague enough for broad appeal and specific enough to address important issues. Additionaly, insurgents will likely project some ambiguity to accommodate differences in aims among the various groups within the society. It is difficult to sort through the ideological machinations of an insurgent movement; however, we must attempt to distinguish the true ideals that fuel the movement from propaganda. By analyzing ideology we can gain a better understanding of the insurgency's objectives. The insurgency can be considered as a nation at war. The leadership establishes strategic objectives that give focus to both political and military action. The strategic objective is the insurgent's desired end state. This end state goes beyond the overthrow of the existing government and addresses how the new insurgent government will use its power to accomplish specific social, economic, and political reforms. The polictical aim or end state of any insurgency forms the structural basis for all else that occurs during its course. The fact that insurgencies have strategic objectives, highlights the aspect of total war against the existing government with its focus of effort directed at the political-social institutions. Political mobilization, psychological warfare, propaganda, and terrorism are major weapons of revolutionary conflicts. Armed conflict is important but it is primarily an adjunct to the major struggle. Political mobilizers and cadres are more important, in the long run, than battlefield soldiers. Operational objectives are those intermediate goals pursued as part of the overall process of destroying government legitmacy and progressively establishing the desired end state. Some common operational objectives include: (4: 2-3) - Isolation of the government from diplomatic and material support, and increased international support for the insurgency. - Destruction of the self-confidence of the government's leaders and armed forces, causing them to abdicate or withdraw. - Destruction of the government's credibility and authority. (Political and military actions are designed to throw the government off balance, cause panic in the population, and dislocate the economy.) - Establishment of civil services and administration in areas under insurgent control. - Capture of the support (or neutrality) of critical segments of the population. Within the framework of the operational objectives, the insurgents establish tactical objectives or the immediate aims of insurgent action. Achieving these immediate aims leads to accomplishment of operational goals. Tactical objectives can be psychological in nature, such as the distribution of propaganda leaflets. Tactical objectives of a physical nature may include capture or destruction of a key facility. The objectives established by the insurgency influence the development of certain organizational and operational patterns. These patterns or forms of insurgency have been described in many ways. However described, we need to appreciate that each insurgency is unique and will not follow one model exclusively. FM 100-20 proposes four general patterns: (4: 2-5) - Subversive. - Critical-cell. - Mass-oriented. - Traditional. Subversive insurgents seek to penetrate the political structure of the government to control it and use it for their own purposes. They selectively use violence to coerce voters, intimidate officials, and disrupt and discredit the government. The political arm of the insurgent organization, while maneuvering for control of the existing political structure, directs the military arm to conduct carefully planned and coordinated violence. (14: Chapt 9,10) Employment of violence is designed to show the system to be incompetent and to provoke the government to an excessively violent response which further undermines its legitimacy. A subversive insurgency is suited to a more permissive political environment which allows the insurgents to use both legal and illegal methods to accomplish their goals. The Nazi rise to power in the 1930s is an example of this model. When conditions dictate, this type of insurgency can quickly shift to the critical-cell pattern. In the critical cell model, the insurgents also seek to infiltrate the government's institutions, but their object is to destroy the system from within. The use of violence remains covert until the government is so weakened that the insurgency's superior organization seizes power, supported by the armed force. One variation of this pattern is when the insurgent leadership permits the popular revolution to destroy the existing government, then emerges to direct the formation of a new government. The Sandanistas' takeover of the Nicaraguan revolution provides a excellent example of this type of critical-cell model. Another variation is seen in the Cuban revolution and is referred to as the foco (or Cuban model) insurgency. This model involves a single, armed cell which emerges in the midst of degenerating government legitimacy and becomes the nucleus around which mass popular support rallies. The insurgents use this support to establish control and erect new institutions. Unlike the two previous models, mass-oriented insurgents emphasize the creation of a political and armed legitimacy outside the existing system. These insurgents patiently construct a base of passive and active political supporters, while simultaneously building a large armed element of guerrilla and regular forces. They plan a protracted campaign of increasing violence to destroy the government and its institutions from the outside. They have a well-developed ideology and carefully determine their objectives. They are highly organized and effectively use propaganda and guerrilla action to mobilize forces for a direct political and military challenge to the government. The communist revolution in China, the Vietcong insurgency, and the Shining Path insurgency in Peru are examples of the mass-oriented model. Once established, this type of insurgency is extremely difficult to defeat because of its great depth of organization. The final model is the traditional insurgency. It differs from the other types of insurgencies because it normally grows from very specific grievances and initially has limited goals. The traditional insurgency involves tribal, racial, religious or linguistic groups who perceive that the government has denied their rights and interests and work to establish or restore them. They seldomly seek to overthrow the government or control the whole society; however, they frequently attempt to withdraw from government control through autonomy or semiautonomy. The Mujahideen in Afghanistan, the Tamil separatists in Sri Lanka, and the Kurdish revolt in Iraq illustrate the traditional pattern of insurgency. Another means of analyzing the nature of an insurgency is by recognizing that they develop through common phases. Though FM 100-20 does not identify specific phases, it states: (4: 2-4) Successful insurgencies pass through common phases of development. Not all insurgences experience every phase, and progression through all phases is certainly not a requirement for success. The same insurgent movement may be in another phase of development in other regions of a country or theater. Successful insurgencies can also revert to an earler phase when under pressure, resuming development when favorable conditions return. Insurgencies are not sudden events. They occur over an extended period of time. Their beginnings usually go unnoticed, progressing and growing to the enventual overthrow of a government. FMFM 8-2 organizes the insurgency into three stages: (5: 11-14) The Passive Stage, the Active Stage, and the Counteroffensive Stage. These stages are similar in nature to Mao Tse-Tung's strategy which develops through three phases: (7: 20-22) Latent and Incipient Insurgency, Guerrilla Warfare, and War of Movement. The first stage (or phase) of the insurgency is the initial period of the conflict and is the most difficult and protracted. During this phase the insurgents establish an infrastructure, actively recruit, focus on gaining popular support, and demonstate that they can provide a better alternative to the existing government. Preservation is emphasized to ensure the completion of the necessary political and military preparations for the succeeding stages. Many of the activities of the first stage are continued in the subsequent stages. The second stage is initiated to extend political control and increase military action in armed resistance against government forces. The organization continues to expand. Emphasis is shifted to establishing insurgent-controlled areas and providing an alternate government structure. The insurgents use guerrilla warfare to tie down and frustrate government security forces while building their own military force. Through additional acts of terrorism, inciting civil disobedience, inciting labor strikes, and promoting general disorder among the people, the insurgents cause the government to lose confidence in its ability to control the situation. The final stage of the insurgency occurs when the insurgents believe they have gained sufficient military strength and popular support to meet and defeat the government forces tn decisive combat. The characteristics of this combat are more conventional in nature; however, guerrilla action continues in order to assist in the eventual defeat of the government's military forces. In the recent war against Iraq, our military forces achieved a remarkable victory. We enjoyed a technological advantage. We dominated our enemy both tactically and operationally. We fought an enemy who quickly lost his will to fight. The insurgency/ counterinsurgency battlefield will be different. Our technology can be effectively neutralized. Our enemy will likely have the tactical and operational advantage. More importantly, the insurgent is willing to fight a protracted struggle, patiently using time to his advantage. Military leaders must appreciate the compexities of this type of conflict to determine effective courses of action. This appreciation must start with a basic understanding of the nature of an insurgency. BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Charters, David and Maurice Tugwell, ed. 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