First and foremost, I'd HIGHLY recommend this series. For anybody who seriously thinks this kind of conflict may be in their future or who just wants to understand how to read them in a realistic manner, this is pretty solid stuff.
The guest is Bill Buppert. He has a master's degree in irregular warfare and spent years as an intelligence officer with the 101st Airborne in Afghanistan. Since that time, he has fully converted to voluntarism and now runs the ZeroGov blog.
Bill (and the general military academia) defines war at four generations:
- Peace of Westphalia war. That is, militaries marching into an open battlefield and engaging each other in an extremely formal process. It is this generation that evolved formal militaries of hierarchy and order, which persists to this day.
- Firepower/attrition warfare. Focuses on pounding through the enemy with artillery and mopping the remaining opposition with infantry.
- Maneuver warfare. Perfected by the German military in World War Two, the objective is to encircle the enemy, rather than engage head-on. Ostensibly adopted by the US Marines and Army over the course of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, the 1940s Wehrmacht appear to be the only national military ever truly capable of deploying this battle doctrin.
- Irregular war: Mass migration, terrorism, insurgency, guerrilla warfare, cyber warfare, propaganda, etc.
Of the irregular war categories, Bill and CJ spend most of their time talking about insurgencies and guerrilla tactics.
Insurgencies Run on Dunkin
In the final part, Bill identifies three key aspects to the ultimate success of an insurgency:
To my eye, it seems that any intelligent insurgency can bait any statist government into handing them legitimacy and grievances on a silver platter. In order to police against the insurgency, violence against the general population will normally be employed, in the form of intrusive surveillance and attacks on innocents. If an insurgency can seize the narrative when they attack, government overreaction will practically guaranteed.
Seizing the narrative will be more difficult, but insurgencies are still in a favorable position, in that they can plan their propaganda pushes beforehand to maximize their presence in the mind of the wider population. For example, having videographers on hand to broadcast attacks immediately afterwards allows the insurgency to dictate how the operation is revealed. If a high enough frequency of events can be maintained, the counter-insurgents will hardly be able to get a word in edge-wise.
From here, transitioning into a wider political movement involves consistent communication about the insurgency's vision for the future.
In the specific case of insurgencies that have fought the West, CJ and Bill point out that Western counter-insurgency (COIN) tactics are heavy-handed. Specifically, these are to establish concentration camps, eliminating the free movement of people, employing the military in police functions, and viciously seek to eradicate the leadership of the insurgents, even if it means killing the innocent. Ostensibly, there are also attempts to win the hearts and minds of the people, but these largely end up being token gestures not remotely capable of countervailing the intense violence employed against the native population.
Bill and CJ identify the Kenya rebellion against British colonialism and the Malayan socialist insurgency as some of the few failed attempts at defeating invaders, and from these we can draw a few lessons.
In Kenya, over the course of a relatively short period of time, the British eradicated around a quarter of the total rebelling population, and in Malaya, the rebellion failed to form any sort of cohesive strategic vision.
In both cases, I would argue that the insurgencies failed because the British were able to catch them at an early enough stage and employ enough violence to completely snuff out any hope for victory by the insurgency.
The American Revolution as a Failed Insurgency
I would also personally argue that the American Revolution also represents a failed insurgency. While the rebellion absolutely started as an insurgency and saw almost the entirety of its military victories come as a result of insurgent military activity, by the end this democratic spirit had been usurped by previously established American oligarchs who were primarily concerned with maintaining their own wealth. This becomes especially apparent if you consider the Constitution and the formation of the United States (as opposed to the originally conceived Articles of Confederation) as a counterinsurgency.
Insurgents as a military force
The primary limitation of insurgencies is projecting force over long distances. Thus, expecting them to perform an offensive role in a military campaign is not going to be particularly effective. Instead, they are best when they can operate on their home turf.
Insurgents excel at interrupting supply lines, defeating relatively unsupported infantry units in detail, and disturbing routine social/political activity of the local government through assassination, intimidation, and vandalism. Bill and CJ point out the use of insurgents in the Spanish fight against Napoleon as one of the first times that European militaries took advantage of this. There were also several examples of this in the American Revolution.
These are just some highlights from the series. I highly recommend listening yourself. I found this extremely thought provoking and, most importantly, sobering. I would argue there's no school of political thought more hardcore than that of the insurgent, because you are essentially deciding the force the public to come face-to-face with the fact that States are fundamentally violent organizations.