Friday, January 26, 2007

The success rate of insurgencies isn't high

'Vietnam taught many Americans the wrong lesson: that determined guerrilla fighters are invincible. But history shows that insurgents rarely win, and Iraq should be no different'.

So writes Donald Stoker in Foreign Policy Online for January. Stoker is a professor at the US Naval War College, so might not be entirely dispassionate about the prospects of American success in Iraq. But he makes a persuasive case that guerillas almost never win a war by themselvews. As exceptions, he lists the Irish Republican Army in 1922, the FLN in Algeria, and Castro in Cuba.

'[T]he list of failed insurgencies is longer: Malayan Communists, Greek Communists, Filipino Huks, Nicaraguan Contras, Communists in El Salvador, Che Guevara in Bolivia, the Boers in South Africa (twice), Savimbi in Angola, and Sindero Luminoso in Peru, to name just a few'.

That's the good news. The bad news, says Stoker, is that insurgencies typically take eight to eleven years to extinguish. The US did indeed fight for eight years in Vietnam, but seems unlikely to commit to Iraq for anywhere near that much time.


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