Internal Warfare

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Internal Warfare

I. CIVIL WAR J. K. Zawodny




The articles under this heading deal with the organization, strategy, tactics, and social and political implications of civil war and guerrilla warfare. Broader aspects of these topics are covered in Civil disobedience; Conflict; Revolution; Social movements. Guides to additional related subjects can be found under International Relationsand War.


Civil war is conflict within a society resulting from an attempt to seize or maintain power and symbols of legitimacy by extralegal means. It is civil because civilians are engaged in it. It is war because violence is applied by both sides. Civil war is intrasocietal and may take place within a group, some parts of which either desire to maintain or wish to initiate separate ethnic and/or political identity or wish to change the government.

There are two basic types of civil war. The first is the spontaneous type: without any previous planning or even actual leadership, a street crowd can take on the characteristics of a mob and on impulse initiate events leading to the overthrow of the government in power. Subsequently, a political vacuum is created, providing opportunities for the seizure of power. This type of civil war defies systematic classification and is prone to occur in societies having no tradition of stable political institutions within which political changes could take place. This situation usually coincides with the weakening of the power structure to such an extent that the crowds on the streets can perceive its weakness.

It is, however, the second type of civil war—the planned one—that has been responsible for the majority of intrasocietal conflicts and has been of most interest to social scientists. In these cases a conscious division of labor and planning takes place. Planned civil war is a case of pathology in politics, upon which anatomical probing can be done with some precision.

Development of planned civil war. Two conditions appear to be prerequisites for the initiation of planned civil war. The first is an absence of effective formal and informal channels for settling political grievances or a sense of futility or fear of reprisals in claiming such grievances. Second is the assumption or conviction that there is no recourse other than violence for securing redress. Given these factors, a systematic building of the apparatus for subversion may begin. The ultimate objective is, of course, to seize power by violence, but unlike the spontaneous civil war, this approach is carefully calculated.

For long-range and planned civil war, it is necessary to build the structure of a resistance movement. This structure is the prerequisite for the emergence of sabotage and guerrilla groups systematically engaged in rendering violence. In an industrialized country, from one to two years is required for centrally controlled sabotage and guerrilla units to emerge from the resistance structure.

The second phase is the direct application of violence, occurring systematically but at varying intervals, against the physical resources and morale of the enemy.

The final phase is an insurrection in which the conflict explodes into open, coordinated uprisings in various parts of the country, preferably in cities. With this action the insurgents hope that the rest of the country will follow, that the power structure in existence will be overthrown, and that they will be able to assume the symbols of legitimacy and claim their political objectives openly. In this event, the result is an accomplished revolution.

The contemporary American term for this type of operation is “unconventional warfare” (Zawodny 1962). The term encompasses tactics and strategies of resistance movements, counterresistance measures, guerrilla, sabotage, and evasion activities, and related psychological warfare.

The stages of organizational development of a resistance movement resulting in civil war may also be described in terms of the escalation of violence. In the initial stage, while the structure of the resistance movement is being erected, the appliction of violence will be sporadic, uncoordinated, and nonselective.

In the intermediate stage, when the structure has solidified and covers the country with its order-giving, message-receiving network, the sabotage, underground, and guerrilla units apply terror at intervals, selectively hitting the brain and nervous system of the enemy power structure—the elite, the communication centers, transportation centers, the most sensitive industries, etc. Such actions are usually regulated and planned in terms of their frequency, intensity, and territorial coverage.

The third step in the escalation of violence in civil war consists of probes on the part of the resistance movement to obtain control of either the capital or strategic parts of the country in order to establish some sort of legitimate “government” which would act openly on behalf of the organization. This stage is critical because it compels the resistance to emerge on the streets and to fight until it wins or is destroyed. At this point the insurgents act in large units, and street fighting is conducted according to the rules of infantry tactics. The insurgents’ objective is a series of uprisings, spreading like brushfire, intended to destroy the enemy’s formal power structure and machinery of violence throughout the whole territory. The time intervals between the phases and the length of each phase will depend not only upon the relative power ratio of the factions engaged in conflict but, above all, upon the cultural values, lore, and conditioning of the groups involved in the struggle.

The difference between civil disorder and civil war can be discerned by any of the following phenomena, which indicate a state of civil war: The insurgents control an area continuously without an attempt to disappear after clashing with the government forces; the insurgents act in units of approximately battalion size; they control the country during the night; they compel the legal government to invoke martial law; they are able to create and maintain a government of their own in the contested territory.

Organizational structures. It must be recognized that a clandestine organization is a social structure within which there is some division of labor. Five basic factors affect this structure. (1) A primary consideration is the density of population and the manner in which it is clustered. Organization of an urban underground will differ markedly from that of an agricultural country. (2) Topographical features are extremely important. (3) The ethnic composition must be taken into account. There is a propensity for ethnic groups to cluster and to treat other ethnic groups with suspicion, especially when under stress. (4) The local customs, lore, traditions, and social mores all affect the organization. For example, in some cultures women are encouraged to join fighting units, while in others this is not true. (5) Finally, and obviously, the quality and rate of influx of members greatly affect the group.

It can be assumed that the basic structural elements are: (a) the civil leadership of the resistance movement, who preferably should live abroad for security reasons; (b) the military headquarters, which, if possible, should also be abroad for the same reasons; (c) intelligence; (d) communication; (e) propaganda; (f) cadres in reserve and training; (g) logistic support; (h) fighting arms (guerrilla and sabotage units); and (i) services (units providing false documents, medical care, evasion assistance, etc.).

The most important problem in the formation of such an organization is the degree to which centralization should be imposed upon the structure. The issue here is that of control versus security. The more highly centralized and closely knit an organization is, the more easily it can be controlled by the underground leadership. However, when penetrated by the enemy, it is much more easily destroyed. The more loosely tied the organizational network, the more difficult it is for the enemy to penetrate it and arrest its development. On the other hand, it is then quite difficult to control and, consequently, might be conducive to the proliferation of various splinters in which ambitious politicians, playing the roles of local Robin Hoods, create their own resistance units, quite often keeping the membership under false pretenses; or the units can be misused for other private purposes under the guise of patriotic duty. There is a visible reluctance on the part of political leaders to surrender their private armies to a unified political leadership in these instances. In fact, one gauge of the stage of preparation for a nationwide revolution is the degree of cohesion among the various factions of the resistance organization. The greater the cohesion and centralization of leadership, the greater the possibility that unified action is approaching.

Techniques of violence in civil war. Guerrilla and sabotage units, the armed forces of resistance movements, which are usually organized along military lines, bring violence directly to the enemy. The techniques of guerrilla and sabotage units may range from inciting and assisting riots to selective or nonselective assassination, massacres, all forms of terror, sabotage on all levels of civilian activity and all phases of production, and the support of industrial strikes and slowdowns.

There are also nonviolent techniques aimed at separating the enemy in power from the population. This can be done by applying psychological warfare in both directions, that is, molding the hostile attitudes in the population, and creating self-doubts by disrupting images within the ranks of the enemy.

One of the most important contributions of sabotage and guerrilla units to the ultimate success of a civil war is that they catalyze the application of nonselective counterterror by the enemy. The dynamics of this process are quite simple. Even in the beginning phase of organizational development, during which nonselective terror is spontaneously applied by initial and rudimentary elements of resistance movements, the government delegates its security organs to restore order and prevent repetition of terrorist acts. As a rule the security organs (usually police in conjunction with counter-insurgency military units) apply pressure to the population from which, obviously, the logistic support and manpower for guerrilla and sabotage units come. Such pressure can be applied by controlling the movements of population or through other nonviolent means, including supervised hamlets and resettlement. What occurs more often, however, is counterterror in which the counterin-surgency forces, frustrated as they usually are with their inability to pin down guerrillas and saboteurs, in one way or another vent their frustration through violence on the population. If and when counter-terror commences, the long-range result is that the population recoils against the counterinsurgency forces, and either from the fear of repression, or for revenge, joins and augments the guerrilla forces. Thus begins a chain reaction ultimately working to the benefit of those who initiated the terror—the guerrillas.

The impact upon the participants. Mass participation in violence has a conditioning effect upon the participants and also upon the operational values of the society. Some of these effects are of particular interest to social scientists.

It can be speculated that inevitably some experiences will leave permanent scars on the personalities of participants. On the other hand, it is possible to argue that for some an opportunity for direct expression of hostility would have a therapeutic effect.

In terms of group behavior, it is recognized that a profound reorientation of the operational values of a society takes place during strife. What was previously respectable and in conformity with social mores possibly would not be in time of war. For example, an honest fulfillment of a working contract in a factory situation is expected under normal conditions. However, during civil strife it will be a newly created social virtue to slow down and to sabotage production in all possible ways. What normally would be dishonest acquires the attribute of a social virtue, if not a duty.

To this can be added an inferred expectation that when conflict has broken out, both sides are beyond the stage of accommodation in a peaceful fashion. This means that there is a mutual expectation of violence and that violence has become an expected modus operandi. From this attitude it is only one step to a common approval of violence as a technique of social problem solving. Under normal circumstances violence is controlled by ethical and moral norms of society. However, during civil strife such norms are, as a rule, greatly modified, resulting in common expectation of violence. Moreover, in this type of violence the original causes are quite often forgotten and the struggles become merely an opportunity for waging personal vendettas.

In terms of political analysis, two developments appear to be the traditional aftermath of civil war. First, when the insurgents are victorious and their position has become legitimate, there is already a nucleus of a counterrevolutionary force within their own ranks, potentially ready to trigger the aspirations and develop the structures of a new countermovement. There are two explanations for this paradox: (a) With victory comes the elaboration of the political, social, and economic program of the new elite, which obviously cannot satisfy all the latent aspirations of all the revolutionaries; and (b) violence has become a part of the operational code of the participants. Quite often after a successful revolution, new revolutionaries are immediately ready to repeat the whole experience. The postrevolutionary difficulties of the Ben Bella government in Algeria in 1963 and of Castro’s regime in 1961 illustrate this point.

The second development (and this is particularly conspicuous when the revolutionary government has placed itself in a position of dependency upon strong supporters from abroad) is that even if the revolution is successful, the revolutionary leadership is apt to be eliminated by the foreign government which had been supporting the insurgents. In such a situation, the real purpose of the civil war and the intent of its supporters are likely to be distorted. A rule of political survival can be postulated: No revolutionary government or government-in-exile should permit itself to become politically dependent. An example is the unenviable position of the Polish government-inexile after World War II, when the American and British governments withdrew recognition to placate the Soviet Union and disregarded the Polish leadership’s choices in decisions which determined the political makeup of Poland, her frontiers, and national fate.

Further research in intrasocietal violence

Civil strife and the application of unconventional warfare has increased markedly since World War II: at least 12 countries have changed their ruling elite through civil war. In 1964 there were active resistance movements in at least 11 countries—Angola, Cambodia, Congo, Cuba, Cyprus, Guatemala, Laos, New Guinea, Republic of South Africa, Vietnam, and Yemen. In at least ten other countries one could discern symptoms of presently dormant underground movements waiting for an opportunity to initiate violence. There are two explanations for this phenomenon. Not only is there accelerated striving toward national identity in the twentieth century and resentment toward the last vestiges of colonialism, but there is also the plain fact that extralegal violence and its techniques are “cheap” in strictly economic terms. Under combat conditions the U.S. soldier uses 37 pounds of supplies per day (consisting of 6 pounds of equipment, 5 pounds of fuel and oil, 20 pounds of ammunition, and 6 pounds of miscellaneous supplies). However, for the monetary equivalent of this day’s supply, volunteers, guerrillas, and saboteurs in underdeveloped countries can maintain whole units for a month.

Because civil war has become a common instrument for the allocation of political power and values, more research is needed in order to understand its dynamics. Specifically, there is not enough knowledge about catalysts, organizational development and behavior, symptoms of emergence and escalation, methods for discernment, and manipulation of the stages of formation, to name several factors.

So far the bulk of the literature on subjects related to civil war deals mainly with historical treatment of events or descriptions of personal experiences of participants. It is expected, however, that analytical works will appear in the years to come.

Revolutionary organizations are basically groups in frustration and conflict, and they could serve as laboratories for systematic inquiry into the general nature and propensity of man to apply violence in solving his problems. It is suggested that a research institute under academic auspices be established for the sole purpose of analyzing the political and organizational behavior of resistance movements, guerrillas, and subversive organizations. The focus should be on selected cultural groups in frustration and under stress. Data could be tabulated and stored in a manner permitting efficient access. Such an institute should be staffed by an interdisciplinary team of social scientists. The range of investigation could include: (1) integration of the available body of theories and empirically validated hypotheses in the social sciences bearing upon behavior of groups in frustration which apply violence; (2) development of methods and techniques for discerning the sources of tensions in other cultures from a distance; (3) psychological barriers to communication; (4) escalation of conflict on various levels; (5) decision making under stress; (6) controlling factors in human motivation with regard to cooperation; (7) the integrative process of group behavior under stress.

There is already a considerable body of research in some areas of human behavior. What is needed now is a systematic and sustained effort in collating the data to fill the gaps in knowledge and to draw conclusions concerning human behavior under specific conditions of intrasocietal and intersocietal strife. Such work would not only expand our knowledge of political behavior but would also provide empirically certified data for making policies relating to violence as an instrument of social and political change.

J. K. Zawodny


American Academy OF Political AND Social Science 1962 Unconventional Warfare. Edited by J. K. Zawodny. Annals, Vol. 341. Philadelphia: The Academy.

Brinton, Clarence Crane (1938) 1952 The Anatomy OF Revolution. Rev. ed. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

Canetti, Elias (1960) 1962 Crowds and Power. New York: Viking. → First published as Masse und Macht.

Clutterbuck, Richard L. 1966 The Long, Long War: Counterinsurgency in Malaya and Vietnam. New York: Praeger.

Guthrie, Edwin R. (1938) 1962 The Psychology of Human Conflict: The Clash of Motives Within the Individual. Gloucester, Mass.: Smith.

Hopper, Rex D. 1950 The Revolutionary Process: A Frame of Reference for the Study OF Revolutionary Movements. Social Forces 28:270-279.

Komorowsm, Tadeusz (1950) 1951 The Secret Army. New York: Macmillan; London: Gollancz.

Trinquier, Roger (1961) 1964 Modern Warfare: A French View OF Counterinsurgency. New York: Praeger. → First published in French.

Zawodny, J. K. 1962 Unconventional Warfare. American Scholar 31:384-394.

zawodny, J. K. 1966 Men and International Relations: Contributions of the Social Sciences to the Study of Conflict AND Integration. 2 vols. San Francisco: Chandler.


The term guerrilla, which means literally “small war,” was originally used to define the resistance activities of armed Spanish civilians who harried the French occupation army during the Peninsular War of 1808-1814. It has come into common English usage to describe all nonregular militarylike combat that has accompanied partisan activities in civil wars, revolutionary wars, and popular resistance to foreign invasion and occupation. A guerrilla force is usually viewed as an irregular tactical adjunct or supporting arm of the professional army.

In modern times, the objectives of guerrilla warfare have been more political than military. Since the end of World War II, there have been at least ten revolutionary wars using guerrilla warfare as the principal means of violence. In most cases the revolutionary leaders have ascended to national power. Where the revolutionary wars were lost militarily, the conflict nevertheless often had the effect of influencing, if not directly initiating, political and social changes, and in several cases national independence ultimately resulted. The principles of revolutionary war and guerrilla warfare have become so enmeshed in recent times that the two seem inseparable. The most adequate descriptive term would seem to be “revolutionary guerrilla warfare.” It is revolutionary in that it is used as a means of acquiring national power for the purpose of altering or completely changing the social and political structure of a nation. It is guerrilla warfare in that its participating advocates of change are indigenous civilians waging a small war utilizing principles learned from guerrilla history. The following is a brief description of the basic historical characteristics of guerrilla warfare, with emphasis on modern revolutionary manifestations. (The term “ruling power” is used below to denote the military or political governmental body that the guerrillas seek to dislodge.)

Military—political characteristics

The strategic objectives of the guerrillas are to reduce the military and political strength of the ruling power while increasing their own until the guerrilla force can be organized and trained as a regular army capable of defeating the ruling-power army on the open battlefield or causing the ruling power to collapse or otherwise surrender to revolutionary guerrilla demands, thus producing guerrilla national victory by political default.

The main tactical strength of the guerrilla fighter lies in his intimate knowledge of the local terrain and populace. Guerrilla tactics are adapted to the local social conditions, capabilities of the participating guerrillas, terrain, and strength of the ruling-power forces earmarked for attack. Guerrilla tactics consist of raids, ambushes, and sabotage. The primary targets of attack are isolated police and army outposts and units, national and military communications, transportation, and supplies, and sources of ruling-power economic revenue.

Guerrillas usually attack only when they are numerically superior, hold the tactical advantage, or are otherwise assured of success. They traditionally avoid pitched battles not of their own choosing, rapidly concentrate for an attack, rapidly disperse after an attack, and avoid concentrating in large numbers for long periods of time. They avoid providing the enemy with a target for the utilization of superior technological weaponry such as artillery, tanks, and air power. Guerrillas attack when and where the enemy is most vulnerable, planning attacks so that many occur at the same time at widely different locations, creating the impression of numerical strength greater than actual strength. The guerrilla seeks to create a special psychological effect within the ranks of the ruling power and the populace: he wants to be perceived as being everywhere yet nowhere.

Guerrillas constantly strive to maintain the offensive and seek to force the enemy to be on the defensive. Guerrilla attacks (particularly when they involve the destruction of national sources of economic revenue or disruption of lines of communication, transportation, and supply) create a paralyzing effect, restricting the mobility of the ruling-power forces and reducing their numerical superiority by causing the diversion of many troops to static protection duties and the concentration of a large proportion of the remaining forces at the places under attack. All of these tactics considerably reduce the ruling power’s administrative control, thus demonstrating to the populace its inability to maintain law and order. These tactics provide the guerrillas with the time, space, and conditions necessary for them to implant their own political and economic apparatus, further insuring guerrilla strength and control of population and national resources.

Geopolitical characteristics

The types of geographic environment in which revolutionary guerrilla wars take place usually contain thick forests, mountain ranges, swamps, jungles, deserts, or a combination of these. Such areas are usually characterized by inadequate roads and by poor or absolutely no communications between the sparsely settled population clusters and the center of the ruling power. Far removed from ruling-power control, such areas provide ideal natural settings for establishment and maintenance of guerrilla base areas, sometimes referred to as redoubts or base camps.

A base area is usually located in a near-impenetrable region containing adequate natural concealment from air or ground observation and surprise attack. It is ideally suited to guerrilla foot and pack-animal mobility and insures tactical advantage in ambush or other combat operations. It provides natural obstacles to the effective utilization of the superior technological mobility and armament of the ruling power. Adequate roads would make security for a base area nearly impossible, since a ruling power can utilize modern motorized transport to encircle and disrupt the base or destroy it completely.

Base areas are essential, particularly in the early stages of revolutionary guerrilla development. Strategically, they serve as centers for the development of political and combat guerrilla elements. Without secure base areas, guerrillas are little more than armed stragglers with little or no means of control and coordination of political and military activities.

Most base areas are within the country in which the conflict is occurring, though several—often those containing the principal revolutionary guerrilla leaders, clandestine radio stations, and large hospitals—are located across the geopolitical boundaries of a contiguous country. Such locations are often referred to as friendly sanctuaries or safe havens and have had significant influence on the success of several revolutionary guerrilla wars since 1945. Neighboring foreign ruling powers separated from the countries under contention by natural land-mass borders have allowed and logisti-cally supported such activities either when they favored the political objectives of the guerrillas or when they were obligated to another foreign ruling power that was not adjacent to the country but favored the political objectives of the guerrillas.

Such external support to guerrillas is unheralded and often publicly denied by the supporting foreign ruling power and by the revolutionary guerrillas. Both recognize the international political significance of maintaining that the conflict is indigenous. Indigenous ruling powers, faced with the knowledge that the guerrillas are being supported and given safe sanctuary by a neighboring country, are usually reluctant to violate the border sovereignty of the offending country for fear of escalating the conflict and for a host of other political and economic reasons.

When there is no contiguous land-mass border, or when the ruling power adjacent to the country does not favor the political objectives of the guerrillas, external logistical support can reach the guerrillas if there is a sea access to the country that is not adequately controlled by the ruling power. Although air supply to anti-Axis guerrilla groups was perfected by the Allied Powers during World War ii, since 1945 there have been relatively few cases of external support being delivered by this method. It is difficult to keep air supply secret. The full impact of modern guerrilla operations is seldom realized until external support is attained—first logistical, then political.

Generally, external support on a large scale is not rendered until the guerrillas have established a strong political and military organization and have displayed other indications of eventual victory. This is also true when foreign powers have trained and indoctrinated indigenous groups and have returned them to their native countries to initiate a revolutionary guerrilla movement. Once the guerrillas have established a strong political organization and have wide popular support, terrain factors increasingly decline in importance, and population density becomes decisive.

Sociopolitical characteristics

Revolutionary guerrillas must establish not only physical base areas but political mass bases as well. A political mass base is a sociopolitical condition resulting when the guerrillas successfully gain the support or neutralization of the majority of the populace in given areas. While the modern guerrilla relies heavily on political and logistical support from the international foreign community, he relies most importantly, as did his historical predecessors, on the indigenous populace. Effective control of the local population is the indispensable condition of success, and guerrillas cannot operate, or even exist, for long without the active support of an enthusiastic minority, plus at least the political apathy of a significant portion of the majority. Operationally, the guerrillas carry out overt and covert actions on the basis of timely intelligence information from agents within the populace. The populace further aids the guerrillas by providing food, shelter, medical supplies and care, guides, laborers, and recruits. Most significantly, the population under guerrilla control denies the ruling-power forces information concerning the activities and locations of the guerrillas. Guerrilla operations are fought by few but depend on many. Men, women, and children of all ages participate in a variety of roles, such as fighters, couriers, intelligence agents, and food providers. In fact, guerrilla wars, and particularly revolutionary guerrilla wars, are frequently referred to as “people’s wars,” although, of course, never by the opposing ruling power.

The nature of guerrilla conflict, with its inherent sociopolitical subtleties, has thus far precluded the systematic application of modern social science methodology. Generally, however, available data imply that, at the outset of many modern guerrilla wars, the populace may be found to be divided into three distinct opinion groups: a minority (perhaps 20 per cent) are disposed to favor the guerrillas; a majority (perhaps 60 per cent) are completely neutral; and another minority (again 20 per cent) are actively opposed to the objectives of the guerrillas. Both the guerrillas and the ruling power compete for the support of the 60 per cent. The guerrillas’ efforts are facilitated by the fact that the bulk of the population will refrain from participating actively on either side and will remain passively neutral until confident of the eventual outcome. The political apathy of the majority favors the guerrillas because the ruling power cannot enact adequate defensive or offensive measures without intelligence provided by the segment of the populace that is aware of guerrilla movements. The guerrilla force increases its support percentage and keeps the majority passively apathetic by the advocacy of an acceptable political doctrine or the identification with a popular “cause,” by the use of terrorism, and by demonstrations of military victories. And these functions are all amplified and reinforced by an extensive propaganda program.

Guerrilla wars have often occurred in nations in which societal grievances are manifested by a desire for social and political change, resulting in conflict and disorganization. These grievances are often considered primary causes of revolutionary wars. The severity of conditions causing the grievances can be actual or imagined. Societal grievances can be nationalistic, e.g., foreign occupation, exploitation, or influence; political, e.g., a corrupt ruling power or a nonrepresentative political system; economic, e.g., inequitable distribution of privilege, revenue, or other sources of wealth; social, e.g., sectarian, racial, or class discrimination; or psychological, e.g., injustices and oppression. When a combination of these conditions exists, the populace often welcomes agents of change.

Guerrilla leadership often professes the desire and potential ability to remedy societal grievances and attempts to unite all of the dissatisfied elements of the populace under the guerrilla political banner in an effort to rally the support and the sympathy, as well as the neutrality, of the civil populace.

Guerrilla methods

Specific and common acts of terrorism by guerrilla, as well as ruling-power, forces are murder (assassination), kidnaping, and property destruction. Although there have been a few cases in history in which guerrillas have attempted to garner popular support or neutrality primarily by pure nonselective terrorism, guerrillas have generally attempted to keep this tactic at a minimum. Terrorism is an obvious indication of weakness, and it has proved to have short-term effectiveness. In the long run its use usually alienates essential popular support.

Guerrilla terrorism is generally “selective,” that is, the targets are representatives of the ruling power, such as local government officials, uncooperative and influential village chiefs, town mayors, local police and other security forces, school teachers, and ruling-power informers. The populace itself is not immune to experiencing terrorism. Complete villages are sometimes burned to the ground. Psychologically, and in this case practically, selective violence is patterned to influence the perceivers of the violence. The assassination of one individual is intended to influence many. The burning of one village is intended to influence the attitudes and behavior of the populations of many villages.

However, guerrillas usually will not implement terrorism—selective or nonselective—until they have established a firm foothold within the population. Also, guerrillas will attempt to justify, through various psychological operations techniques, the necessity of any particular act of terrorism.

In guerrilla warfare, favorable political propaganda is at least as important as success in combat and the destruction of enemy resources. The goal of the guerrillas’ psychological operations program is to solidify public and international opinion in favor of their objectives. Although specific guerrilla units are responsible for carrying out a psychological operations program, all guerrilla personnel are imbued with the importance of creating a favorable public image.

Revolutionary guerrilla leadership directs its appeals to four target audiences: rank-and-file guerrilla personnel, local populace, ruling-power personnel, and the international community. All ancient and modern means of transmission are utilized. Face-to-face communications, e.g., rumors, mobile drama groups, and lectures; and propa ganda-of-the-deed, e.g., battle victories, civic action, and exemplary behavior in dealing with the populace, are the most frequent methods. Communications media ranging from clandestine radio stations to the printed word are widely used.

The combination of a natural inclination by many Western nations to favor the underdog and improved international mass communications tends to favor the guerrilla. Modern guerrillas go to great pains to prepare interesting, readable, and selected factual news releases for foreign news representatives and agencies. Such releases contain information regarding guerrilla victories, ruling-power misdeeds, and an outline of guerrilla objectives. Propaganda themes will vary according to local situations, but, in general, guerrilla themes promote the ideas that the revolutionary guerrilla cause is a just one—consequently, guerrilla victory is inevitable—and that the enemy ruling power is morally and legally unqualified to rule and has been doing so against the wishes of the majority of the populace. The continual objective of the revolutionary guerrilla is to separate the populace and the international community of nations from the ruling power morally, physically, and politically. While nonparticipant guerrilla historians have often neglected to give proper attention and analysis to the importance of psychological operations, successful guerrillas have not. [SeePsychological WARFARE.]

In this age of potentially devastating nuclear weaponry, with the accompanying reluctance on the part of nations to release such destructive power, guerrilla and other forms of internal war may become the only forms of political violence that are internationally tolerable. Guerrilla warfare, traditionally considered to be of minor significance and useful primarily as a tactical adjunct to regular warfare, may become an entity in itself. Regular war, and even nuclear war, may indeed become a by-product of guerrilla warfare.

A perusal of a modern geopolitical map and mass media coverage readily indicates many areas of the world in which geopolitical and sociopolitical conditions exist for the application of violence by means of revolutionary guerrilla and other forms of internal war. Revolutionary guerrilla warfare, when induced or applied by revolution-inclined world powers, can become both the strategy and the tactics of political violence as a means of social and political change.

Little systematic knowledge exists about the organization, tactics, methodology, participants, escalation potential, and sociopolitical interaction dynamics of revolutionary guerrilla wars. The clandestine, subtle, and varied nature of internal war seems to defy scientific inquiry. With a few exceptions, the available literature is general, and it is often emotional and biased. The greatest confusion lies in the area of definitional terms and semantics.

The current and potential significance of the subject will require a greater use of social scientific intellectual resources. With few exceptions, social scientists have traditionally viewed guerrilla warfare as a strictly military phenomenon. The first step, then, is an acceptance by the international community of social scientists that internal wars are worthy of scientific inquiry. The second step is the application of social scientific research methodology to this laboratory of violence. The third step is to make the findings of this research available—through publications and university curricula—to the academic community and to those who frame and implement policy.

Franklin Mark Osanka


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Internal Warfare