Courtesy Reuters

Unconventional Warfare

Unconventional war is the war that is being fought today in Laos and South Viet Nam; it is the war that the French fought in Indochina and are now fighting in Algeria. It is a form of warfare the Communists have learned to employ with great effectiveness, and one which they will continue to exploit to the maximum in furthering their long-range objectives.

Unconventional warfare differs profoundly from warfare in which regular armies are openly engaged in combat. The objective of such conventional combat is to win control of a state by defeating the enemy's military forces in the field. In contrast, the strategy of unconventional forces must be to win control of the state by first winning control of the civil population. For without the disciplined support of the civil population, militarily inferior guerrilla forces can have no hope of success.

As yet the West has not developed a form of defense that is adequate against this form of warfare. And even where the defense has been effective, the costs to the West of suppressing such attacks have been many times the costs to the Communists of mounting them. In Greece between 1945 and 1948, for example, Communist guerrilla forces, numbering less than 20,000 armed men, successfully cut the country in two so that the only communication between north and south was by sea and air. A Greek army of several hundred thousand men, heavily supported by the United States, was required to contain the very much smaller guerrilla force. The total cost of military and political pacification, and of economic reconstruction, was about $2 billion-or somewhere between 100 and 1,000 times what the Communists had spent. The fortuitous defection of Jugoslavia from the Soviet bloc, and the consequent loss of guerrilla bases in Macedonia, caused the Communists to call off their attack. Had this not occurred, the costs in men, money and matériel needed finally to subdue the Communist rebels would have been many times greater. And the outcome would not have been certain.

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