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Urban Guerrilla Warfare

Urban Guerrilla Warfare

Anthony James Joes
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Urban Guerrilla Warfare
    Book Description:

    Guerrilla insurgencies continue to rage across the globe, fueled by ethnic and religious conflict and the easy availability of weapons. At the same time, urban population centers in both industrialized and developing nations attract ever-increasing numbers of people, outstripping rural growth rates worldwide. As a consequence of this population shift from the countryside to the cities, guerrilla conflict in urban areas, similar to the violent response to U.S. occupation in Iraq, will become more frequent. Urban Guerrilla Warfare traces the diverse origins of urban conflicts and identifies similarities and differences in the methods of counterinsurgent forces. In this wide-ranging and richly detailed comparative analysis, Anthony James Joes examines eight key examples of urban guerrilla conflict spanning half a century and four continents: Warsaw in 1944, Budapest in 1956, Algiers in 1957, Montevideo and São Paulo in the 1960s, Saigon in 1968, Northern Ireland from 1970 to 1998, and Grozny from 1994 to 1996. Joes demonstrates that urban insurgents violate certain fundamental principles of guerrilla warfare as set forth by renowned military strategists such as Carl von Clausewitz and Mao Tse-tung. Urban guerrillas operate in finite areas, leaving themselves vulnerable to encirclement and ultimate defeat. They also tend to abandon the goal of establishing a secure base or a cross-border sanctuary, making precarious combat even riskier. Typically, urban guerrillas do not solely target soldiers and police; they often attack civilians in an effort to frighten and disorient the local population and discredit the regime. Thus urban guerrilla warfare becomes difficult to distinguish from simple terrorism. Joes argues persuasively against committing U.S. troops in urban counterinsurgencies, but also offers cogent recommendations for the successful conduct of such operations where they must be undertaken.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7223-1
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    More than two millennia ago, Thucydides gave us a description of urban guerrilla warfare, involving Theban troops who were occupying the city of Plataea:

    The Thebans immediately closed up ranks to repel all attacks on them. Twice or thrice they beat back their assailants. But the Plataean men shouted and charged them, the women and slaves screamed and yelled from the houses and pelted them with stones and tiles; besides, it had besen raining hard all night, and so at last their courage gave way and they turned and fled through the city. Most of the Theban fugitives were quite...

  4. 1 Warsaw 1944
    (pp. 9-38)

    Poland was the scene of Europe’s largest resistance movement during World War II. The principal act of that movement was the Warsaw Rising of 1944, called by its most recent historian “the archetypal model of urban guerrilla warfare.” Although eventually defeated, the Warsaw uprising had the gravest consequences for the emerging postwar world: “The Rising did not cause the Cold War by itself. But it was a major step in that direction.”¹ Nevertheless, these Warsaw events, with their complexity, nobility, and tragedy, have faded almost completely from Western consciousness.

    Josef Stalin played a malevolent and determining role in the outcome...

  5. 2 Budapest 1956
    (pp. 39-52)

    In 1956, Communist Hungary seemed the very model of a modern Leninist dictatorship. It had a ferocious political police; a carefully recruited and heavily indoctrinated army; a large and disciplined party (10 percent of the total population); and complete regimentation of the economy, the media, the schools, and the labor unions. But in just a few days in October 1956, this apparently all-powerful regime rapidly and utterly collapsed. This Hungarian cataclysm might have alerted the world to the fact that the Soviet empire was perhaps not the omnipotent, inevitable monolith that it seemed—and that in politics, much is illusion,...

  6. 3 Algiers 1957
    (pp. 53-68)

    Studies of the 1954–1962 conflict in Algeria have long displayed a “Manichean” character—depicting a struggle between good and evil—and perhaps never more so than in recent times.¹ Of course, every war excites controversy, and “the Algerian War was to be the last, probably, and certainly the greatest and most dramatic of the colonial wars.”² But the conflict was much more than that, because “Algeria was France’s Ireland, almost as closely linked to the homeland as Ireland had been to Great Britain until 1922, and with the same problems of a minority population implanted by colonization.”³ In military...

  7. 4 São Paulo 1965–1971 and Montevideo 1963–1973
    (pp. 69-90)

    During the 1960s, outbreaks of rural insurgency swept across Latin America, inspired by the success of Fidel Castro’s Cuban revolt—or, rather, by a grotesquely flawed understanding of that success. The resounding failure of these efforts in the countryside, culminating in the 1967 execution of Ernesto Guevara in Bolivia, resulted in a turn by would-be revolutionaries toward urban guerrilla warfare.¹

    In the 1950s Cuba was in the grip of the dictator Fulgencio Batista. This decidedly uncharismatic figure succeeded in simultaneously antagonizing the Catholic Church and the business community, and eventually the U.S. State Department as well. His unpopular, corrupt, and...

  8. 5 Saigon 1968
    (pp. 91-108)

    Named for the lunar month of Tet, the great offensive of January 1968 was the biggest operation ever launched by the Communist forces in South Vietnam and their North Vietnamese sponsors. It was the most spectacular event of the Vietnamese war. And it was the greatest defeat sustained by the Communists in that entire conflict.

    By 1965, the United States had become heavily involved in what many Americans described as a “limited war.” But there was certainly nothing limited about it on the Communist side; the state of North Vietnam was making an all-out effort. By spring 1967, Communist losses...

  9. 6 Northern Ireland 1970–1998
    (pp. 109-130)

    The Irish Republican Army is “the world’s oldest, continually operating, unsuccessful revolutionary organization.”¹ The most recent effort of the IRA (not, of course, to be confused with the Army of the Republic of Ireland) involved the partially successful hijacking of a legitimate civil rights movement by the self-proclaimed revolutionaries of the breakaway Provisional Irish Republican Army—the “Provos.” The main theater of Provo activity was the urban centers of Northern Ireland, especially Belfast, but their violence spread across the border to the Irish Republic, to England itself, to the Continent, and even to the United States.

    A note about terminology:...

  10. 7 Grozny 1994–1996
    (pp. 131-150)

    Only six years after their disastrous experience in Afghanistan, the Russians found themselves fighting another traditional, mountain-warrior Islamic people, the Chechens. With an area of six thousand square miles, Chechnya is one-fortieth the size of Afghanistan, and significantly smaller than El Salvador (eighty-two hundred square miles), Wales (eight thousand) or New Jersey (seventy-eight hundred). The resident Chechen population in 1992 numbered only three-quarters of a million, about half that of Northern Ireland, or Clark County, Nevada.

    Russia’s seemingly endless entanglement in the Chechnya conflict had its first and most dramatic act in an assault on the capital city, Grozny (which...

  11. Conclusion: Looking Back and Ahead
    (pp. 151-164)

    We should now review the most essential aspects of the eight urban insurgencies examined in this volume, to see what common salient features they display and what lessons they suggest.

    Five years of Nazi savagery made the uprising in Warsaw inevitable. But in addition, its leaders had high expectations of outside help. Soviet armies were fast approaching from the east, and the Polish resistance hoped that Allied airpower would help overcome their woeful shortage of arms and munitions. The rising might well have succeeded if either of these expectations had been fulfilled. But Stalin halted his forces within clear sight...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 165-200)
  13. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 201-218)
  14. Index
    (pp. 219-222)