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Grandeur and Misery of Guerrilla Warfare

- Abstract

MY TITLE PARAPHRASES that of Clemenceau’s war memoirs. It is intended to suggest the central ambiguity of guerrilla fighting-its combination of petty and even squalid means with a level of personal heroism far above what is customary in orthodox combat. It may also bring to mind Clemenceau’s other and more celebrated phrase that war is too important to be left to the generals. In the activities of guerrillas, the professional soldier and the civilian blend: it is often difficult to tell one from the other. Here the talented amateur has traditionally had a free field; a few lucky hits, and he may find himself almost overnight established as the expert to whom the professionals defer.

I have before me no less than seven recently published books in the field of guerrilla warfare. Doubtless there are others that have escaped my notice. Most of them are brief and professional in tone, and all devote major attention to Communist use of guerrilla and counter-guerrilla tactics. Of primary interest are the classic works by revolutionary leaders themselves-Mao Tse-tung and Che Guevara-which are now for the first time made readily available in English translation. Two specialized studies deal with Russian guerrilla activities in the Second World War and with the protracted (and continuing) postwar struggle in Indochina.* An unclassifiable book is the dignified and pathetic account by an exiled Lithuanian of partisan resistance in his country against the imposition of Soviet rule.t Finally there are a pair of general works that try to acquaint the American reader with the whole range of irregular military experience-Peter Paret’s and John W. Shy’s Guerrillas in the 1960′s** and a volume of essays edited by Franklin Mark Osanka under the title Modern Guerrilla Warfare.*

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