Soldiers Versus Gunmen

The Challenge of Urban Guerrilla Warfare

by Brian Michael Jenkins


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In the late 1960s, the world's revolutionaries moved from rural to urban guerrilla warfare. How have they fared in the first three years of the decade? In Northern Ireland, the struggle continues. In Argentina, leftist urban guerrillas, notably the People's Revolutionary Army, have been extremely active in kidnapping and various extortion schemes, but elsewhere things are different. The Tupamaro organization in Uruguay is in shambles. Harsh police methods have broken Brazil's urban guerrillas, although the crime rate continues high. Guatemala City, formerly a three-way battleground of guerrillas, right-wing counterterrorists, and government forces, is comparatively quiet. Palestinian terrorists have turned from Gaza Strip actions to international spectaculars. The tentative conclusions are that protracted urban guerrilla warfare is feasible, but even weak governments survived it, and have met it with extra-legal methods. Technology has played little part in overcoming urban guerrillas. Brutal government and vigilante methods failed to alienate the masses or create much sympathy for the guerrillas. Prosperity and jobs apparently provide a poor climate for guerrillas. Antiguerrilla campaigns have severely strained civil-military relationships. (Presented at MORS, U.S. Naval Academy, June 1963; a more detailed version was presented at U.S. Army Institute for Military Assistance, September 1963.)

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