Guerrilla warfare

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The defining moment, for me, came in a meeting in El Salvador with a group of students at the University of El Salvador, and at a certain point a friend there said, "Look, we're really grateful for these North American comrades who come to help us, but what would be really best for us is if you all would go home and make revolution in the US. That would really be better than trying to come help us here." And it was true, of course; I don't think any of these North Americans were particularly helpful. But I said at that point, "You know, Reagan's in the White House... I have no idea what it would mean to make revolution in the US." And he said, "Look — don't you have mountains in the US?"

Guerrilla warfare (Spanish: guerra de guerrillas, "war of little wars") is a form of asymmetric or irregular warfare which exploits the mobility of small forces, usually against a larger, more traditional army. Guerrilla tactics include ambush, hit-and-run attacks, raiding, and sabotage. Guerrilla tactics are typically used for defense against an invading force. Usage of guerrilla tactics in the 20th century was influenced by the example of the People's Liberation Army during the Chinese Civil War and took off during the anti-imperialist liberation wars of Africa, Asia, and South America. The term originated during the Peninsular War of 1808, in which Spanish peasants and shepherds used such tactics against Napoleonic France.[2] Its use in English peaked during the 1970s,[2] possibly due in part to the tactic's success during the Vietnam War.

Guerrilla tactics focus on avoiding head-on confrontations with enemy armies, typically due to inferior arms or forces, and instead engage in limited skirmishes with the goal of exhausting adversaries and forcing them to withdraw. Due to this, guerrilla tactics are rarely used for anything other than defence. Organized guerrilla groups often depend on the support of either the local population or foreign backers who sympathize with the guerrilla group's efforts.

If a guerrilla force possesses strong support from the local population, it can be incredibly difficult to eliminate using conventional means. Anti-guerrilla or "counter-insurgency" tactics were refined in counter-insurgencies like the Philippine–American War and Vietnam War include the use of forced relocation, concentration camps, and even mass killings and genocide. The strong support of locals for the Taliban in Afghanistan played a role in the failure of the American invasion there. Communist insurgencies continue to the present day, including in the Philippines.


  1. Michael Hardt on revolution, timestamp 1m20s, from the documentary Examined Life, 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "guerrilla". Etymonline. 26 April 2015. Retrieved 6 July 2023.

See also