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08/11/2005

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» Best Practices in Counterinsurgency - Can we shift the debate? from chez Nadezhda
"Best Practices in Counterinsurgency" is the title of an article in the May/June issue of Military Review (pdf, published by CGSC at Leavenworth). It's written by a... [Read More]

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JohnFH

Thanks for some fine analysis and sage advice.

For whatever reason, however, I think you fail to concentrate on a key aspect of revolutionary movements of various stripes: their tendency to depend upon the support of rogue states (like Syria or like Iran with respect to revolutionary movements in Iraq) or rogue elements within states (like the Revolutionary Guards in Iran, like Khan of Pakistan). There is an analogy here to the support that totalitarian states like Sudan and Zimbabwe receive from other totalitarian states (like China).

This aspect is important because, for the simple reason of symmetry, a state (and a State Department) has more leverage over a state than it will ever have over a revolutionary movement, short of physically annihilating its adherents (not very practical anyway).

Another aspect that deserves further elucidation is the role of ideology (religious or political or both) in driving a revolutionary movement. There is a sense in which an ideology, for example, Marxism, can lose its appeal when it so obviously is not a "strong horse" anymore. Conversely, the real and often sole purpose of terrorist activity is to give the impression that a particular ideology is a strong horse.

The utter failure of totalitarian revolutionary movements to achieve their goals needs to be stressed relentlessly. Apparent cases to the contrary (Iran, Cuba, China, North Korea, Zimbabwe) need to be deconstructed in a myriad of ways.

Matthew Shugart

OK, I will admit it. I do not know anything about a civil war in Morocco. You said it was often overlooked. Apparently so.

What is/was the civil war in Morocco? Why is/was there no international dimension?

Matthew Shugart

Kingdaddy says:
"Al Qaeda's plan to intimidate the United States through the 9/11 attacks backfired. Rather than dropping support for the Saudi Arabian and Egyptian regimes, the United States moved swiftly to topple the Taliban regime and eject Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters from most of Afghanistan."

What about Al Qaeda's involvement, on September 10, 2001, in the assassination of Massoud, a leader of the Northern Alliance? I always thought this meant that Al Qaeda anticipated direct US intervention in Afghanistan after 9/11 and moved to decapitate the man who, at the time, was seen as the most likely alternative to the Taliban leadership.

Then Kingdaddy suggests, interestingly:
"Since Leninists have an urban focus, putting them more in contact with global culture and media, they understand international politics better than other types of revolutionaries."

I am skeptical that this cultural awareness stems from the organizational choice, as you seem to be implying. First of all, I think the causality, if there is any, must run the other way. (Revolutionaries interested in integraring into contemporary urban culture--even if only to transform it--are more likely to adopt what you are calling Leninist forms.)

Secondly, is your statement (or, for that matter, my reversal of it) true independent of the very international connections that your post is focused around? That is, if you take the Sandinistas to be the model of the movement that understands how to work within the Western media world, is that because they were (I would say still are) Leninists, or because they were being advised by, and sought to integrate with, the Soviet and Castroite world, which was itself urban and modern? That is, assuming there are non-Soviet-line Leninists (are there?) do they necessarily share this media sensitivity? I am skeptical that they necessarily go hand in hand.

In the end, your stament about Leninists implies that they are not so revolutionary after all--which is precisely what the Maoist critique was all along.

Kingdaddy

Yeah, Matt, I agree--certain groups choose the Leninist path because they're already urbanites. That was certainly the case, say, with the Tupemaros and other Latin American groups like them. It's that much more impressive, therefore, when people from that background take to the hills to pursue a Maoist campaign.

As for the Sandinistas--I don't think the advice they got from the USSR and Cuba was as important for their outlook as, say, their utter failure to pull off a foco strategy. Either they lacked the skills to build more than a nominal guerrilla force, or Nicaragua was the wrong place to pursue a Maoist strategy. Either way, they got their nose bloodied a couple of times and found the other approach more productive.

Thanks for pushing me on these points, by the way. I freely admit that, because I had such a hard time writing this post, a lot of it may have been garbled.

Matthew Shugart

Well, the Sandinistas did not win with either the Guevarist 'foco' strategy or a Maoist one. And, sure, Nicaragua was a bad place to try to pull off a rural insurgency of any kind. By the 1970s, it was already at least half urban (as was Cuba itself in the 1950s). In both places--as political scientist Robert Dix observed--it was ultimately a sort of all-class urban insurrection against the dictator that led to the overthrow, not a classic insurgency.

Where these folks showed their Leninist side was AFTER coming to power, using "salami" tactics to eliminate more liberal elements of the anti-dictator coalition bit by bit.

In El Salvador, on the other hand, I would say the rebels, once driven out of the cities, did pursue an essentially Maoist strategy. And yes, as you say,

"It's that much more impressive, therefore, when people from that [urban] background take to the hills to pursue a Maoist campaign."

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I like what Kingdaddy suggests,"Since Leninists have an urban focus, putting them more in contact with global culture and media, they understand international politics better than other types of revolutionaries."

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