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

Linetsky, Zuri
Thesis/Dissertation; Online
Linetsky, Zuri
Owen, John
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.
University of Virginia, Department of Politics, PHD, 2014
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