On Insurgency: The Social Origins Of Rebel Military Strategy, 1983-2010

Linetsky, Zuri, Foreign Affairs - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Owen, John, Department of Politics, University of Virginia

This dissertation posits that guerrilla warfare defined as small groups of lightly armed rural bandits using hit-and-run attacks against a state’s military forces to wear down the latter’s resolve, is one of four distinct military strategies adopted by insurgent groups in war. The key to determining which strategy a group employs is the location in which a group organizes and fights. That is, groups coalescing and fighting in urban, rural, or peri-urban areas (where people are dispersed and mobile between urban and rural spaces) fight differently. This conclusion explains why the rural FMLN in El Salvador was a traditional guerrilla organization, whereas urban Iraqi insurgents, like the Mahdi Army pursue a strategy focused on terrorism, and why Hezbollah has developed into the foremost hybrid warfare organization in the world. Furthermore, the work explains why large-scale rebel collective action in a civil war can affect a decisive politico-military settlement, whereas fragmented rebellions, like that in Syria, often lead to drawn-out, roiling, civil conflicts.
I examine these claims using a novel statistical data set, which I compiled, on rebel military strategies in insurgencies between 1984 and 2010. In addition, I investigate my theory in greater depth through three qualitative case studies of Hezbollah’s military strategy in its 2006 war with Israel, the strategy of the Maoist Insurgents (CPN-M) in Nepal between 1996 and 2006, and Hamas’s military strategy since 1987.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Political Science, International Relations, Security Studies, Civil War, Insurgency
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