The term “guerrilla warfare” comes from the Peninsular War (1807-1814). The ubiquity of GNSS created new opportunities for communications, command, control, communications and intelligence (C3I), precision engagement, weaponisation of consumer technologies like drones and smartphones, and collaborative or remote engagement. It involves much more than winning "hearts and minds" -- a phrase invented by Sir Henry Clinton, a British general during the American Revolution, and popularized by Sir Gerald Templer, a general during the Malayan Emergency, in the late 1940s and 1950s. Table of Contents General Topics on Irregular Warfare Historical Studies Military Philosophy Organization, Analysis, Doctrine and Training Air Power in the Irregular Warfare Environment Bibliographies Irregular Warfare Websites Counterinsurgency Counterinsurgency Manuals, Evaluations, Metrics and Theory United States Current Counterinsurgency Operations Afghanistan Iraq United … Further, if all operations are eventually, but not immediately compromised, there is a temporal dimension to liminal manoeuvre: Resistance actors do not need to create permanent deniability, just temporary ambiguity. Retrieved from https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a592949.pdf. The advent of netwar. For one thing, their targets became bigger, requiring a shift in tactics. ©2021 Council on Foreign Relations, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Teams might infiltrate to locations—say, a diaspora community in a country remote from the AO, but connected to it through electronic means—to engage in organisational development and political warfare. As can be seen, the set of wartime UW components listed earlier resembles a pyramid of increasingly overt and violent actions at progressively larger scale, with increasing lethality, and in rough chronological sequence. Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare in which small groups of combatants, such as paramilitary personnel, armed civilians, or irregulars, use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, hit-and-run tactics, and mobility, to fight a larger and less-mobile traditional military. Instead, today’s techniques, doctrine and concepts should serve as tools to be critically evaluated, updated and (if necessary) discarded as we continue keeping pace with the evolution of unconventional warfare. In a less extreme version of the same scenario, the current trend towards remote UW by resistance warfare actors engaging in virtual infiltration, offshore shaping and collaborative engagement may develop to the point where kinetic resistance activities, political warfare and ordinary politics merge. It also meant that UW teams—or extremist groups—wishing to work with a resistance movement were able to access it without infiltration or covert insertion, either by engaging members online or accessing them indirectly through diaspora networks. The U. S. Army had considerable historical experience with irregular warfare in the 19th century, fighting against Indians from Florida to the Pacific coast, confronting guerrillas associated in one way or another with more regular forces in Mexico and in the Civil War, and at the century’s end fighting a frustrating colonial war against Filipino revolutionaries. But are these assumptions valid for modern resistance warfare, as it has evolved over the half-century since classical UW doctrine was codified? It suggests that in the future, low-intensity conflict could pose even greater problems for the world's leading powers than it has in the past -- and those problems were already vexing enough. There remained a few colonial wars and a larger number of essentially ethnic wars (in Congo, East Timor, and Nigeria's Biafra region) fought to determine the nature of postcolonial states, but the primary driver was socialist ideology. "In the history of warfare, it has generally been the case that military superiority lies with the wealthiest states and those with the most developed administrations," the historian Hugh Kennedy wrote in Mongols, Huns, and Vikings. Small wars, drone strikes, special operations forces, counterterrorism, proxies—this podcast covers the full range of topics related to irregular war and features in-depth conversations with guests from the military, academia, and the policy community. And be sure to follow the podcast on Twitter! Variation in particular characteristics confers selective advantage, with some variants performing better in a given state of the environment than others. The 1960s, with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s ‘wars of national liberation’ and a series of campaigns of decolonisation in Africa, Asia and Latin America, saw the retooling of Western SOF (and of UW) into counter-revolutionary warfare support for governments facing Communist insurrections. The Greeks in the 1820s, the Cubans in the 1890s, and the Algerians in the 1950s all enjoyed notable success mobilizing foreign opinion to help win their independence. It begins with a historical overview, examines how drivers of evolutionary change are manifested in modern resistance warfare and considers the implications for future UW. To defend itself, the United States and its allies erected a variety of defenses. Given the United States' demonstrations of its mastery of conventional combat in Iraq in 1991 and 2003, few adversaries in the future will be foolish enough to put tank armies in the desert against an American force. Technologies for remote UW, offset command and control, repurposing of consumer systems and connectivity tools have made infiltration into denied areas an option, rather than a necessity, and opened up the possibility that SOF units could engage in a continuous process of preparation, initial contact, organisation and build-up (phases one to four of the doctrinal UW sequence) across their entire area of responsibility, with multiple potential resistance partners, from their home locations, all the time. Tom Wolfe captured the moment in his famous 1970 essay "Radical Chic," which described in excruciating detail a party thrown by the composer Leonard Bernstein in his swank New York apartment for a group of Black Panthers, one of myriad terrorist groups of a period whose fame far exceeded its ability to achieve its goals. Electronic connectivity began a massive expansion in the 1980s, initially in the industrialised world. In most cases, the decisions quickly backfired. It is important neither to underestimate nor to overestimate the potency of guerrilla warfare. The animated conversations have covered a wide variety of topics including terrorism and its implications in modern-day society, the Vietnam War, and literature. Kennedy explains this seeming contradiction by citing all the military advantages nomads enjoyed: they were more mobile, every adult male was a warrior, and their leaders were selected primarily for their war-making prowess. On the contrary, the years between 1959 and 1979 -- from Fidel Castro's takeover in Cuba to the Sandinistas' takeover in Nicaragua -- were, if anything, the golden age of leftist insurgency. A … Retrieved from https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/journal/j37/borneo#84. Under the influence of the wars of national liberation, the early 1960s saw this progression solidify into doctrine. Redcoats certainly knew enough to break ranks and seek cover in battle when possible, rather than, in the words of one historian, "remaining inert and vulnerable to enemy fire." Earlier work on netwar by John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt also supports the notion of a mesh of multi-role cells that self-synchronise and swarm to support each other across multiple functional areas (Arquilla & Ronfeldt 1996; Brose 2017). As noted, Jeffrey Hasler (2017) addresses this issue very well in his critique of the SORO pyramid. Foreign Affairs, Published by the Council on Foreign Relations. Never before or since has the glamour and prestige of irregular warriors been higher, as seen in the ubiquity of the artist Alberto Korda's famous photograph of Che Guevara, which still adorns T-shirts and posters. In this method, individuals or teams would be infiltrated in plain sight with no military equipment, weapons or other compromising material, simply a memorised URL allowing them to download a cache of 3D printing data to manufacture weapons and devices on site. The creation of a base at Dien Bien Phu married irregular warfare methods of British provenance with a historic French commitment to the militias of montagnards—tribal highlanders—in the upper Tonkin. The very success of the imperial armies meant that future battles would take place within imperial boundaries, however, and that they would be, as the historian Thomas Mockaitis wrote in British Counterinsurgency, "considered civil unrest rather than war." (2017). The truth lies somewhere in between: insurgents have honed their craft since 1945, but they still lose most of the time. No change was more important than the adoption of standardized uniforms, which meant that the difference between soldiers and civilians could be glimpsed in an instant. Sometimes, they were able to force serious setbacks; a famous example was the 1842 British retreat from Kabul. DOI: http://doi.org/10.31374/sjms.35. Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies, 2(1), pp.61–71. But not after they had lost the support of parliament. But the epochal consequences of these religious leaders' ideas did not seize the world's attention until the fateful fall of 1979, when protesters occupied the U.S. embassy in Tehran. They might never need to infiltrate a field team into denied areas, or if they did, would never have to infiltrate ‘blind’, but could always work with vetted, developed and organised groups based on thorough and deep OPE. And it meant that at least the first four phases of the classic seven-stage UW model (preparation, initial contact, infiltration and organisation)—and possibly the fifth and sixth (build-up and employment)—could now be done remotely by online UW teams (or extremist sponsors) engaging many resistance groups simultaneously across multiple AOs without ever leaving their home locations. Ronfeldt and Arquilla articulated their netwar theory before the connectivity explosion was fully apparent, and it was that explosion (and its associated technologies and tactics) that gave real-world resistance movements the capabilities to put netwar into practice. But as soon as they saw the irregulars' effectiveness, they copied the Austrian example. Western soldiers and scholars have tended to view it as unmanly, even barbaric. Others (including the British Long-Range Desert Group and M Special Unit, part of Australia’s AIB, became the progenitors of later special reconnaissance organisations. Still, by the turn of the twentieth century, most of Europe and North America was moving in a more liberal direction -- even those absolute monarchies, such as Austria, Germany, and Russia, that remained as such were making greater efforts to appease and direct popular sentiment. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001, another decade was spent on large-scale counterinsurgency, counterterrorism and stabilisation operations, again in weak and failing (or occupied) states. Resistance actors could now plan, reconnoitre, radicalise, recruit, pass target information, collect and collate intelligence, perform battle damage assessment, synchronise supporters, conduct political and information warfare operations, mount cyberattacks (including lethal attacks on infrastructure connected to the ‘Internet of things’) and publicise their operations, all online and on the move, via handheld smart devices. The jungle is neutral. These include the idea that UW occurs mostly within denied areas; the categorisation of resistance movements into underground, auxiliary and guerrilla components; the model of a pyramid of resistance activities becoming larger in scale, more violent and less covert until they emerge ‘above ground’ into overt combat; and the assumption that the external (non-indigenous) component of UW primarily consists of infiltrated Special Forces elements, or support from governments-in-exile. Arquilla, J., & Ronfeldt, D. (1996). Nationalism, a relatively recent invention, had not yet spread to those lands. Journal of the Australian War Memorial, 37. This was a tradeoff that most of them were happy to make. Even improvements in ISR capability, which push the attribution and detection thresholds down, only open up greater manoeuvre space for liminal warfare. Too many indigenous empire builders in the developing world imagined that the tactics they had used to conquer local tribes would work against the white invaders as well. But the process of state formation and, with it, army formation took considerably longer in most of the world. (2016). Once an adversary’s response threshold and reaction time are identified, a resistance actor can calculate the time window available to achieve objectives before a response, render a response ineffective or prevent it altogether. By setting up schools and newspapers that promulgated Western ideas such as nationalism and Marxism, Western administrators eventually spurred widespread resistance to their own rule. Galula, Thompson, and other experts reached a remarkable degree of agreement that insurgencies could not be fought like conventional wars. More fundamentally, classical UW, designed for operational preparation of the environment (OPE) ahead of an invasion, was less successful during the Cold War where such invasions were not contemplated, leaving resistance groups with no immediate objective beyond survival. Throughout the winter, Irregular Warfare has been pairing veterans and humanities scholars with high school classrooms around Providence. That is a sobering thought. When the United States had to confront a guerrilla threat in Vietnam, William Westmoreland, the commander of U.S. operations there, formulated an overwhelmingly conventional response that expended lots of firepower and destroyed lives on both sides but did not produce victory. Where the British did face determined opposition, as in India and Palestine, it did not take much to persuade them to leave. DOI: http://doi.org/10.31374/sjms.35, Kilcullen D. The Evolution of Unconventional Warfare. Irregular Warfare is defined in US joint doctrine as A violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant populations. The fundamental principle that set counterinsurgency apart was the use of "the minimum of fire." Original version of the SORO pyramid. As the statistician George Box pointed out (Box, Hunter, & Hunter 2005) all models are wrong, but some are useful. The only way to gain control is to garrison troops 24 hours a day, seven days a week, among the civilians; periodic "sweep" or "cordon and search" operations fail, even when conducted by counterinsurgents as cruel as the Nazis, because civilians know that the rebels will return the moment the soldiers leave. Such special operations are un… But these were only temporary reversals in the inexorable westernization of the world. By 1914, Europeans and their offspring controlled 84 percent of the world's landmass, up from 35 percent in 1800. As discussed briefly in the previous post, current US military doctrine describes irregular warfare as having five core activities: counterterrorism (CT), unconventional warfare (UW), foreign internal defense (FID), counterinsurgency (COIN), and stability operations (SO). An enemy may be beaten before the first tank rolls, and thus the tanks may never roll at all. Because changes in the environment—and hence in selective pressures acting on resistance movements—are continuous and ongoing, the character of resistance warfare continuously evolves. They were subject to prosecution as bandits rather than treated as soldiers entitled to the protections of the emerging laws of war. It incorporates several assumptions inherent in modern UW doctrine, including the categorisation of resistance into underground, auxiliary and guerrilla components, the covert/overt dichotomy, and the notion that successful resistance must be built from the underground upward, progressing from psychological and political operations by clandestine underground cells, through auxiliary networks and increasingly violent covert activities, toward open warfare by mobile guerrilla forces. Prelude to invasion: Covert operations before the re-occupation of Northwest Borneo, 1944–45. The fact that the response threshold is politically-driven rather than capability-dependent emphasises the reality – recognised in UW doctrine all along – that resistance warfare is fundamentally a form of political warfare. This, in turn, drew on First World War efforts like those of the Arab Bureau (including T.E. United States Army Special Operations Command 2016: 9, European Global Navigation Satellite System Agency 2017: 5, https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/journal/j37/borneo#84, https://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR789.html, https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/atf/Cyber%20War%20Netwar%20and%20the%20Future%20of%20Cyberdefense_Header.pdf, https://www.soc.mil/SWCS/SWmag/archive/SW3003/SoroResistanceChallenged.pdf, https://apps.dtic.mil/docs/citations/AD1004650, https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a592949.pdf, https://doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520253476.001.0001, https://www.soc.mil/ARIS/books/pdf/HumanFactorsS.pdf, https://www.soc.mil/ARIS/books/pdf/Unconventional%20Warfare%20Pocket%20Guide_v1%200_Final_6%20April%202016.pdf. 2019;2(1):61–71. But after 1945, direct action and special reconnaissance missions (which we might call ‘elite conventional’ rather than unconventional operations) diverged from UW in its guerrilla support and resistance warfare manifestation and were increasingly performed by different organisations. For current US definitions of clandestine, covert and overt operations see United States Department of Defense (2010). In the United States, that would translate into 1.5 million deaths, or 500 September 11 attacks a year. DOI: http://doi.org/10.31374/sjms.35, Kilcullen, D.. “The Evolution of Unconventional Warfare”. World within: A Borneo story. The author has no competing interests to declare. Liberal insurgents scored their most impressive victories in the New World. Hasler, J. The origins of guerilla warfare are lost in the swamps of prehistory, but the kinds of foes that guerrillas have faced have changed over the centuries. There had been notable instances of UW since the Cold War—in particular, during the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Sunni ‘awakening’ in Iraq in 2006–8 and the Libyan uprising in 2011. As noted earlier, evolution is a continuous process that affects all actors in the resistance warfare ecosystem—adversary states, sponsors, domestic and international populations, resistance movements, neutral states and international institutions. The experiences of the United States in Iraq in 2007-8, Israel in the West Bank during the second intifada, the British in Northern Ireland, and Colombia in its ongoing fight against the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) show that it is possible for democratic governments to fight insurgents effectively if they pay attention to what the U.S. military calls "information operations" (also known as "propaganda" and "public relations") and implement some version of a population-centric strategy. Instead of attempting to engage in guerrilla warfare -- which, even if unsuccessful, might have staved off ultimate defeat for years, if not decades, and inflicted considerable costs on the invaders -- most non-Europeans fought precisely as the Europeans wanted them to, that is to say, in conventional fashion. In Greece and Cuba, the anti-imperialists won by highlighting the colonies' suffering to spur what would today be called humanitarian interventions by Western powers. Still, effective population-centric counterinsurgency is not as touchy-feely as commonly supposed. While it is easy to conceive of resistance movements where some or all of these elements might apply, there are clearly others—global jihadist insurgency or national resistance movements against occupation, for example—where they might not. Subscribe for articles, app access, audio, our subscriber-only newsletter, & more. Militaries played an important role, too, although seldom as central as in Afghanistan and Iraq -- countries whose governments were toppled by American invasions. In years past, it was not hard for foreign empires to gain the necessary legitimacy. In the Pacific, Special Operations Australia (SOA), the Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD) and the Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB) attempted initially to apply European methods over vastly longer distances, with fewer local partners and correspondingly lower rates of success. The combination of selection, variation and replication allows those best adapted to a particular environment to dominate. A settled life was much easier -- and safer. Beyond Hasler’s critique, a couple of other observations are worth making. publishers of Once nomads began living among more sedentary people, they "easily lost their superior individual talents and unit cohesion," write the historians Mesut Uyar and Edward Erickson in A Military History of the Ottomans. However, none of these campaigns involved support to a classic pyramidal resistance; rather, in each case the primary purpose of UW teams was to liaise with an existing, established guerrilla force, provide access to fire support from western air forces and ensure a smooth flow of enablers such as money, equipment and intelligence. Increasing public perception of connectivity as an essential service, so that resistance actors (or their opponents) who disable or manipulate connectivity can achieve significant leverage over a population. Of critical importance, unlike the two lower thresholds, the response threshold is determined not by ISR capability, but by political decision-making. And the American rebels used a more sophisticated form of irregular warfare than the French backwoodsmen and Native American warriors whom the redcoats had gotten used to fighting. Nationalist movements, such as the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Irish Republican Army, fared better, although they were also hobbled by a decline in outside support. Shooters, sensors and targets no longer had to be in the same geographical area. The answer lies largely in the use of hit-and-run tactics, taking advantage of mobility and surprise to make it difficult for the stronger state to bring its full weight to bear. Joint publication 1-02. Lawrence in the Ottoman-occupied Hejaz), 19th-century irregular campaigns in the European colonies of Asia and Africa and the Anglo-Russian ‘Great Game’ in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Every great empire of antiquity, starting with the first on record, the Akkadian empire, in ancient Mesopotamia, was deviled by nomadic guerrillas, although the term "guerrilla" would not be coined for millennia to come. While UW remains a viable, low-cost method of indirect warfare, some of the assumptions underpinning traditional UW have diverged from reality in the last two decades. Before about 3000 BC, tribal guerrillas fought exclusively against other tribal guerrillas. By 2011, however, competition between Western powers and revisionist or rising states such as Russia, China, Iran and North Korea was increasing, and by 2014 this had broken into military confrontation (though mostly short of war) in Ukraine, the Baltic, the Middle East, the South China Sea and parts of Africa. In fact, conventional warfare is the relatively recent invention. It was only when the United States gave up hopes of a quick victory, ironically, that it started to get results, by implementing the tried-and-true tenets of population-centric counterinsurgency. London generally only fought to hold on to a few bases, such as Cyprus and Aden, that it deemed to be of strategic significance or, as in Malaya and Kenya, to prevent a takeover by Communists or other extremists. The 9/11 attacks serve as a reminder that seeming security against an invisible army can turn to vulnerability with shocking suddenness and that, unlike the more geographically restricted insurgents of the past, international terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda, can strike almost anywhere. Even a small minority is enough to sustain a terrorist group, however, and al Qaeda has shown an impressive capacity to regenerate itself. The 1960s saw the publication of influential manuals such as Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice, by the French officer (and Algeria veteran) David Galula, and Defeating Communist Insurgency, by the British official Sir Robert Thompson, a suave veteran of Malaya and Vietnam. Become a subscriber for unrestricted access. US or allied air superiority, but with a limited weight of allied air power, less-than-capable local ground (partner) forces and extremely tight legal and political constraints on the use of air power. European Global Navigation Satellite System Agency. Of course, the precise nature of the ideological agendas being fought for has changed over the years, from liberalism and nationalism (the cri de coeur of guerrilla fighters from the late eighteenth century to the late nineteenth century), to socialism and nationalism (which inspired guerrillas between the late nineteenth century and the late twentieth century), to jihadist extremism today. The Evolution of Unconventional Warfare. ), & United States Army Special Operations Command. The Evolution of Unconventional Warfare. It is appropriate that the term "public opinion" first appeared in print in 1776, for the American rebels won independence in large part by appealing to the British electorate with documents such as Thomas Paine's pamphlet Common Sense and the Declaration of Independence. Department of the Army Pamphlet No. Their growing success is due to the spread of communications technology and the increasing influence of public opinion. Updated version of the SORO pyramid (Tompkins 2013: 6). Arguably, a fourth megatrend—climate change—is equally long-standing, but has emerged as a military factor only in recent years with the opening of ice-free Arctic sea routes, great-power competition in the high North and changes in maritime and land access to polar settlements. Retrieved from https://www.soc.mil/SWCS/SWmag/archive/SW3003/SoroResistanceChallenged.pdf, Johnson, D. (2009). The Mongols eventually turned into a semiregular army under Genghis Khan, and the Arabs underwent a similar transformation. The return of great-power competition created new opportunities for UW. “The Evolution of Unconventional Warfare”. Fort Bragg, NC: United States Army Special Operations Command. Attempts by either insurgents or counterinsurgents to short-circuit the process usually backfire. Scandinavian Journal of Military Studies. Napoleon used a combination of political and military maneuvering to take control of Spain and place his brother on the throne. Likewise, the ability to access targeting data, intelligence, propaganda support and other enablers online might allow individuals or teams to operate in near-complete electronic blackout conditions between periodic downloads. This article examines that evolution and its implications. 3Note that Axis powers had their own variants of special operations, but these translated poorly to UW since the raw material, i.e. Harrisson, T. (1959). regions controlled by hostile governments or occupying forces) and could act as a sort of strategic hinterland or virtual safe haven, giving resistance actors greater freedom of action and better access to funding and political support. Similar effects are likely to appear in the future in Antarctica, while across the globe populations in low-elevation coastal zones are increasingly subject to flooding and extreme weather events. They fought in traditional Bedouin style while spreading Islam across the Middle East in the century after Muhammad's death, in 632. Retrieved from https://www.soc.mil/ARIS/books/pdf/Unconventional%20Warfare%20Pocket%20Guide_v1%200_Final_6%20April%202016.pdf, Kilcullen, D., 2019. When native rulers did try to correct course, their impulse was usually to make their armies even more conventional by hiring European advisers and buying European arms. Hasler’s analysis is worth reading in full: he questions many assumptions in the pyramid, pointing out that, rather than moving sequentially through a series of increasingly overt, vertically-stacked horizontal layers of activity, real resistance movements operate on a continuum of actions and can go forwards or backwards depending on circumstances, while individuals and cells within a movement can take on multiple roles traditionally associated with guerrilla, underground and auxiliary components or can transition among roles over time. The end of the old regime in Moscow and the gradual opening in Beijing had a more direct impact on insurgent groups, too, by cutting off valuable sources of subsidies, arms, and training. 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