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Old 03-03-2004, 15:32   #1
Roguish Lawyer
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Marine Officer on Insurgency

I don't know if this has been posted before, but I came across it while looking for something else and thought I'd post it.


Insurgency: The Unsolved Mystery

AUTHOR Major Eric N. Nyberg, USMC

CSC 1991




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.


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


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.

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