More on Sun Tzu & Insurgency

Yesterday I posted a bit about Sun Tzu and the nature of asymmetrical conflict. Here is a bit of a ramble…

The interesting point I was so lamely trying to grasp was that over time the insurgent, rebel [insert term here] escalated activity with almost mathematical precision. They learned on the job. In fact insurgents in different locations exhibit different apparent rates of “learning.”  I found this interesting paper –  here (yes this is what happens when you finish all the books in the bag on vacation and tire of reading on the ‘tablet thingy’). The authors hypothesize that some of this heterogeneity can be explained by how opposition to the insurgents (occupying forces) learn how to defend themselves from insurgent attacks. Thus dampening the effectiveness, but not lessening the frequency of attack. Source: blog post referencing report below 

Victory here is somewhat meaningless the more you look at it. Intra and Inter State wars benefit an Elite few. Which got to me to wondering just how many such conflicts have their been since 1945? Typically most of these Insurgencies and Civil Wars are broken into 2 categories. Those that receive outside support, from foreign powers for some strategic (we hope ) reason and those that do not.

High Level Summary prior to WWI! since the Post ACW era:

Wars of Insurgency  “Insurgency (defined as an organized movement aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government through use of subversion and armed conflict) in the post 19th Century era has been a spotty thing.”

United States experience in the Philippines
1899 – 1902 Philippine American War
1902 – 1913 Philippine Insurrection (defeated, duration 14 years)
1913 – 1934 Occupation
1935 – 1941 Philippines as U. S. Commonwealth
1942 – 1945 Japanese conquest and occuupation of the Philippines
1945 – 1946 Phillipines as U. S. Commonwealth
1946 – present Philippine independence, Republic of the Philippines

British Commonwealth and the Malayan Emergency
1948 – 1960 British and Commonwealth troops defeat insurrection
1960 – 1989 Last insurgents surrender to Malasian Government

Algerian War of Independence
1954 – 1962 Algeria forces France to withdraw

1961 – 1975 MPLA with Cuban assistance overthrows Portugeuese rule
1975 – 2002 Angolan Civil war between MPLA and UNITA

Eritrean War of Independence (from Ethiopia)
1961 – 1991 Eritrea becomes independent in 1991.

First Indochina War

1947 – 1954 French Colonial forces defeated by Viet Minh, Partition of Vietnam.
Second Indochina War
1955 – 1968 Republic of Vietnam with U.S. Assistance defeats Viet Minh insurgency
1969 – 1971 Republic of Vietnam maintains control
1972 – 1973 North Vietnamese Invasion (Easter Offensive) fails to overthrow South Vietnam
1970 – 1973 U. S. Forces are withdrawn from South Vietnam
1975 Second North Vietnamese Invasion overthrows South Vietnam

Operation Enduring Freedom (unconvential war)

2001-2004 Taliban “Government” defeated and Karzai government elected.
Afghan Insrugency
2003-Present Ongoing

Operation Iraqi Freedom (conventional war)
20 March – 30 April 2003 Conventional forces (primarily US and UK) invade Iraq and overthrow Ba’athist regime of Sadam Hussein.
Insurgency / Counter Insurgency
01 May 2003 – 22 Nov 2008 US and allied forces defeat Iraqi insurgents (and foreign fighers) supported by Syria and Iran.

Box Score: Total Insurgencies, 9
Successful 4 (Algeria, Angola, Eritrea, Indochina I)
Defeated 4 (Philippines, Malaya, Indochina II, Iraq)
Ongoing 1 (Afghanistan)

Now in fact there have been a staggering number of conflicts more than the onces listed above since 1945 just thru 1999. The death toll very high, and not taking into account the horrors of the last decade and a half.

‘About 3.33 million battle deaths occurred in the 25 interstate wars that killed at least 1000 and had at least 100 dead on each side. These wars involved just 25 states that suffered casualties of at least 1000, and had a median duration of not quite 3 months. By contrast, in the same period there were roughly 122 civil wars that killed at least 1000. A conservative estimate of the total dead as a direct result of these conflicts is 16.2 million, five times the interstate toll. These civil wars occurred in 73 states – more than a third of the United Nations system – and had a median duration of roughly six years. ‘

From: ETHNICITY, INSURGENCY, AND CIVIL WAR by James D. Fearon and David D. Laitin Department of Political Science Stanford University 2002.

The results in the larger picture are just as messy:

insurgency-govt_win_loss rate

The fact that with studied accuracy we can predict escalation of actions by insurgents and see the deadly impact as well as potential for victory makes the Militaries job all the harder. Perhaps a new type of army is required. Clear and Hold is no longer acceptable. The Armed Forces of the US struggle to adapt as do many nations to this hearts and minds approach.  Sun Tzu would seem to fall silent here. How would he have handled these ‘rebellions’?

In gaming terms, as I read the abstracted rules for how War of the Suns handles Guerilla warfare and counter Guerilla actions I am  intrigued as to how this will unfold with often at least 2 different groups of Guerillas fighting in a given area, and able to impact each other for a range of reasons.

Game design in this area for traditional hex and counter models would be hard, but not impossible and I look at Angola as a successful implementation of such complex war.  Ok. Enough avoiding the rule book and boxes on my desk to work!

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