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Blurred Lines: The Myth of Guerrilla Tactics

Friedman, Brett, “Blurred Lines: The Myth of Guerrilla Tactics”, Infinity Journal, Vol. 3, Issue No. 4, winter 2014, pages 25-28.


Irregular warfare is in style. As the United States and its allies waged two wars against irregular actors in the last decade, the need to understand the conflicts in which the West was engaged spawned an industry of theorists discussing the phenomenon, and a few evangelists who feared a US shift to irregular warfare. The discussion is based on one assumption: that conventional tactics and irregular tactics are different. This conversation garnered so much emphasis that glaring issues of strategy were largely ignored. It is built on a false assumption: that there are two different styles of warfare.

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Submitted by Anonymous at: April 4, 2014
Of course there are differences. A guerilla force which has the sovereignty of their own terrain can rely upon it to both cache weapons and supplies, find shelter as concealment and gain command and control as global awareness through a COG. Take away any element of that and they flounder. Drive cross country and they cannot pursue without being seen. Refuse to give them a CS/CSS target group driving down an MSR and they don't engage in ambush and IED tactics because they cannot maneuver against the main force or it's supporting logistics. If they -can- disable one by actions against the other, it doesn't mean that they are engaging as a conventional force but rather that the conventional force needs to get rid of it's gas turbines so it isn't maneuvering with it's foot in a bucket. I would argue that irregular forces don't gain tactical finesse from experience of combat. I have seen BBC videos of Afghan ambushes waiting along a roadside for U.S. forces to pass by and so clearly exposed that a walking group of women and kids can see them. So badly site-defiladed that to engage their targets they have to pop up just to look through the fog to see them, by which time their target was too close to engage. So reliant upon cell phone comms that they failed to put out OPs down the road or a security screen to their backs across an open field. So lacking in basic field discipline that their leader did not see them properly dressed for an early morning attack in frigid air and several were shivering to the point of being unable to sit still. So herd-like that they all bunched up around the leader rather than maintain an engagement line down the drainage ditch. With so little thought for a maneuver plan /after/ the engagement that they didn't have a means to get away from the very exposed position they had just set themselves up in except to ditch their RPG and walk along the same road (as the sun came up and the fog burned off) just like the women before them. This is not an 'as equals' force. Yet they were deemed veteran guerilla warriors in _their sector_. Which is to say they could not act beyond it with even the levels of pre-targeted arrival and chat-about that they did. Btw. an IED and an infiltration are only combined arms if they occur simultaneously in a manner which exposes _the casualty_ to added attritional risk. If they simply enable a set of distinct engagements in either space or time, they are not combined and specifically, if they occur as part of the same ambush then they are simply sequential applications of fires. Combined Arms must create simultaneous and ongoing risk that, to engage/suppress one threat is to be exposed to another. This is basic. Main Force elements need to understand that they cannot abandon conventional warfare doctrines, simply to fight a series of SUW fights. They need to understand that a 'hybrid' enemy whose sum force of perhaps 10-20 AT-4 launchers in caves on the high sides of a restricted AA is only a threat to them because they adopted a strategy which a conventional force would use against them (traffic choke), _not_ because they are subject to guerilla tactics. Guerilla tactics only work when you are 'in amongst them' and they can carry out desultory engagement on their terms because they know where to find you, on familiar ground. Maneuver warfare seeks the opponent out and by doing so, puts at risk the loss of force integrity as command contiguity by challenging for sovereign ownership of that dirt. To eliminate a guerilla force requires one of two things to happen: Exemplary Annihilation. Whereby it's made clear that supporting the enemy buys you death, even if you had nothing to do with it. Caesar genociding the Gauls after his Legions got bushwacked in their winter encampments is an example of this. Alternatively, you may put the threat into lockdown. Using their very cellular insularism as 'familiarity of terrain' to differentiate them from outside forces and isolate them from given actions by a few which associates the lot of them with a murderous action. Such techniques can be easily done using UGS and a network centric National ID system which gains access to perks. If you cannot leave a given cellphone or RFID chip zone without triggering a passage event you are locked into a time:space plot as 'city limits' condition where by you cannot be among those who are out in the boonies doing evil deeds. Make not having an ID a crime which forfeits access to cooking gas or food deliveries and now the population will self segregate itself and you can use further UGS to associate vehicle traffic with what amounts to IFF tagged signatures. No IFF = investigate. Non-resident IFF = surveil. Indeed, even if you have some IFF, the ability to track movements between zones while discriminating residents living inside them is the ability to know where the threat came from and probably have VID on faces to work with (National ID system should also require a biometric photo taking using a system similar to that of our Southern Border database). Combine these technical means with a set of _laws_ defining explicit crimes and penalties for which justice may be meted out arbitrarily at a field court and you have a POLICING SYSTEM whose control methodologies are those of breaking down populations into habitation zones of predictive movement tracking and isolating LOC interchanges of outsiders as a historical backtrace. Just because the modern military forces have no concept of how to deal with a guerilla threat does not mean that they can or should conflate such a 'force' with their own TTP methods and disciplines in dealing with them. Were guerilla attacks are about opportunism by hicks who have a 2nd grade education, giving them the mantle of conventional force equivalency is to impart paranoia of the order of 'Southern Comfort' or 'Deliverance' levels of "They're all around us!" assumptive equality. No. They are not all around you, they are not hunting you back, you walked in amongst them. That was your fault as a maneuver trained force seeking alinear engagement with a conventional enemy vs. an assymetric guerilla force which can only engage you, desultorily, (with fewer shots than are attritionally LER required to win) if they know you're there. Bluntly, they are exactly where they are all the time. Why are you there? Too much of what we call 'tactics' are gaming psychology responses designed to deepen commitments of bad position/posture strategic engagement conditioning by generating 'equivalencies' of capability as intent in pumping up the apparent risk of leaving a given threat alone. Which is the wrong way to look at the coup psychology of primitive populations looking to gain street cred with their voyeuristically entertained fellows. Where _the enemy_ is loss of morale as common belief in purpose through body bag counts, removing the opportunity for maneuver by dealing with threats only so much as is required to maintain force protection allows you to quickly gain upper hand supremacy by tracking the SOURCE of the attack, rather than fighting it's desultory hit'n'run effectors in the engagement itself. That this must come with the cooperative agreement of a friendly regime change government is what drive the baseline commitment to a Conventional Maneuver Campaign as a conditional equivalency whereby the nature of the tank driving down the road justifies the collateral killing of the innocents by nature of the threats which could harm -it-. Most smart people run from tanks. But once you are into the occupation phase, if you are not willing to undertake selective sterilization of areas to deny home and hearth logistics, you are now in a conditional assymetry fight where sorting sheep from goats is the chief requirement and that has nothing to do with maneuver against an active threat so much as preemption of unknown stranger movements into conflict zones. And historical tracing of all post-engagement threats back to where they can be picked up and interrogated, as you would under any normal police procedural followup to a crime. You can lose 10 guys to chasing a rocket or mine layer through the hills and still end up only tired and empty. But if a check of the local village NID network shows that only kids and Mr. X were out of the village at the time you were playing wombat killer olympics games, then Mr. X is going to have a lot of esplainin' to do. These are highly distinct tactical as doctrinal, approaches to warfare. Conventional forces eat logistics at an incredible rate and so have to seek out and engage their opponents to secure their own logistics and chain of command base. Not so guerillas who eat where they live rather than on compaign but have limited ammunition and weapons stocks by which to win only thru 'occasionally' killing enough of you to make you want to leave. Water without a slope doesn't run, Maneuver without (or after) a war threat of occupancy to drive engagement doesn't work. Don't give the enemy a hard occupation surface to deflect off of and they will not seek a gapped opening through which to flow. Something easily done so long as YOU control centrist distribution of all goods and services to outlying areas.

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