19 February 2010

The American Insurgency

Over the past few years, I've enjoyed reading about the topic of guerrilla warfare, both from the perspective of successful counter-insurgents and from insurgents themselves. Nevertheless, I found it kind of peculiar that, whenever the topic of insurgency is brought up, the US military neglects to mention the obvious example of the American Revolution.

The American Revolution has all the elements of a successful insurgency. You have the perceived sense of the illegitimacy of the British government in the colonies ("no taxation without representation", anyone?) The British Army was far too small to successfully occupy and pacify the vast majority of the American countryside, in opposition to what we now know about successful counter-insurgency. As in many insurgencies, the Colonists received military aid from a foreign power (France), hoping to bankrupt their Britain in a proxy war. Not to mention, the Colonists had a well-trained militia--the Minutemen--ready to marshal at a moments notice, much like the Mahdi Army in Sadr City, Iraq. Most importantly, America's leading general, George Washington, lost the majority of the battles he participated in, yet he found himself the victor in the war, foreshadowing a famous statement made by an NVA officer about the Vietnam War.

I wonder if we simply don't think of the American Revolution as an insurgency because we have a popular image of the war being fought by rows of men marching rank-and-file towards one another. Does anyone have any good books to recommend about the original American insurgency?


tom ricks said...

Yeah, I had a lot of fun reading these:

John Shy, A People Numerous and Armed.

Piers Mackesy, The War for America. (one of the best books on strategy I've ever read, also)

I've got Mark Kwasny's Washington's Partisan War but haven't yet read it.

Tom Ricks

MikeF said...

Hi Starbucks,

One thing to consider is that the American Revolution was only part of a long-standing insurgency in the United States. We've had violent revolts over Native Americans, Slavery, Equal Rights, Anarchists, worker's rights, etc.

We peaked into a (Mao) Phase III during the War between the states. We had violent (Mao) Phase One and Two activities all the way into the 1960's over equal rights.

The last forty years is actually one of the first times in our history that most of dissent has been non-violent and handled on the political realm.

Spencer Ackerman said...

Man, get ready to be rabidly denounced by the right...