GUERRILLA: A Historical and Critical Study by Walter Laqueur
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GUERRILLA: A Historical and Critical Study

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This ambitious survey of guerrilla warfare--defined to include all sorts of irregulars from peasant jacqueries to urban terrorists--maintains that it is futile to generalize about the subject, and no theory can predict the outcome of any guerrilla clash. Indeed, most of the truisms about guerrillas are either ""myths and post facto rationalizations,"" as in the case of Cuba, or simply false: the case of Cyprus is adduced to show that guerrillas can operate on open, limited terrain, the Mau Mau to disprove the linkage of insurgency to agrarian unrest. Thus stressing the particularity of each case, Laqueur--director of the London Institute of Contemporary History--rushes from the scattered quasi-guerrilla actions of antiquity through the 18th century, then settles down to the abundance of later irregular wars. The interesting transitional study is of the Chouan peasant uprisings in the early 1800s--a ""pure"" case, isolated, apolitical, and spontaneous, which Balzac stirringly chronicled. Laqueur also resurrects 19th-century theoretiCians of guerrilla war, forgotten because ""reality refuted them,"" but nevertheless striking--like Johannes Most, the German emigre to the US who invented the letter-bomb. As for 20th-century movements, Laqueur warns against taking their political rhetoric at face value; he even contests the decisiveness of the political motivation of the Vietnamese, as well as General Giap's strategic prowess. The trend toward Third World military dictatorship, he adds, dooms the future prospects of guerrilla insurgents. Roughly covering the same time and space as John Ellis' A Short History of Guerrilla Warfare (p. 165), this volume offers more material on post-WW II conflicts (Ellis omits urban guerrillas altogether) and--while both books emphasize the sociopolitical context--a greater commitment to interpretation.

Pub Date: Nov. 23rd, 1976
Publisher: Little, Brown