What Putin Really Wants in Ukraine
Russia Seeks to Stop NATO’s Expansion, Not to Annex More Territory
WHEN we soldiers speak of war, or warfare, the term implies combat conducted by a regular army, with all its rules and ramifications, its orthodox precepts for the handling of larger and lesser units of strength, its intricate over-all pattern of communications and supply. It is this kind of warfare which has been the object of analysis and study by generations of military experts and writers and which is taught in our military schools and academies; it is to the requirements and objectives of this kind of warfare that our entire unit organization and training are geared. And the outstanding characteristic of this kind of warfare may well be said to be that its theater of operations is clearly and discernibly divided into two distinct and separate zones--enemy and friendly--by the line of the front.
In the course of past centuries, however, there have been cases --one is tempted to qualify them as heretical--wherein irregular armed forces have conducted military operations on their own or have participated in the campaigns of regular armies. Although such activity has almost always had unfavorable effects on the opponent--and sometimes done him critical injury--it has never, so far as I am aware, been treated by high commands and general staffs as a serious subject of study. Though it is mentioned in some classical military textbooks, military investigators have given it scanty attention. It seldom has been considered worthy of advance planning or of premeditated use.
During the past decade, Greece has been a theater of war in which irregular forces formed one of the opposing sides. I will endeavor to sketch here briefly the circumstances in which their activity arose and how they conducted it, and to reach certain conclusions as to the practical extent to which one may generalize the Greek experience and apply its lessons to other countries. It seems necessary to describe the setting of the operations in question because without this the reader cannot evaluate them. Since it is somewhat audacious, of course, to draw broad conclusions from local experience alone, I shall proceed warily in this respect. It will remain for the qualified military student, on the basis of his coördinated knowledge of many such case histories, to reach final generalizations.
II. THE OCCUPATION OF GREECE--THE LIBERATION
In May 1941, after a sustained and victorious war against the Italians, and while the major part of the Greek forces were still engaged against them, Greece was attacked by the Germans in strength, and succumbed. The Greek people quickly rallied, however, and despite the severity of their struggle for mere subsistence did not lose their morale. Their inherent--and inherited--love of freedom did not for a moment allow them to doubt their continued responsibility to fight for that freedom. Hardly had enemy rule been established in the country when they set themselves to devise practical ways of continuing the struggle, not only by passive resistance, but aggressively. At first these efforts were sporadic and individual, but gradually became better focused and more and more coördinated.
At that time, the Greek Communist Party was extremely restricted and had few adherents and little influence among the people. But it was quick to take advantage of the psychological climate prevailing. Under the banner of resistance against the invader the Communists endeavored to assemble the people into what appeared originally to be a democratic movement of no specific political hue, inspiringly if misleadingly designated the National Liberation Front (known generally by the Greek abbreviation, EAM). The armed forces of EAM were known as ELAS--the People's Army of Liberation. Thousands of patriotic citizens, young men in particular, eager to fight the Germans, flocked unsuspectingly into the EAM ranks. With their lifelong experience as conspirators and their rigid adherence to Party precepts and directives, the Communists were able gradually to consolidate their hold over the two organizations. All the key posts passed into the hands of trusted Communists.
As soon began to be apparent (and as confirmed by subsequent events), the object of the leaders of the Greek Communist Party was not the restoration of national independence. They were not concerned with fighting the Germans, who, they foresaw, were doomed in any case. Their chief concern was to retain ELAS intact and to increase its strength sufficiently to give its Communist leadership complete control of the country. Consequently, under a limited show of armed resistance against the Germans--the bare minimum necessary to camouflage their true purposes--the ELAS confined their military operations in occupied Greece almost exclusively to annihilating non-Communist movements.
From the organizational point of view, the ELAS was primarily an irregular force. Initially it consisted of small individual bands of armed guerrillas, and though it attempted, as it grew, to assume the form of a regular army, with units designated as divisions and so on, this was superficial, done for its effect on the Allies in the Middle East, and in pursuit of political rather than military purposes.
Moreover, since the arms and equipment available did not allow the maintenance of a large force on continuous active service, the system of the ELAS reserve was invented. All the able-bodied inhabitants of regions under ELAS control were compulsorily registered in this so-called reserve. As a result, the ELAS always could speak in large terms, even though its actual fighting strength was considerably smaller.
Through the use of this irregular armed force, the Communists aimed at gaining control over extensive mountain areas; and in this they gradually succeeded. The foreign occupation forces, concerned primarily with maintaining their lines of communication, left the mountain strongholds of the ELAS unmolested. There was no necessity for them to deal with the Communists, who caused them no trouble; and they lacked sufficient forces with which to ensure an efficient occupation of the areas in question even if once they conquered them.
Until the beginning of December 1944, that is, until about two months after the liberation of Greece, the Communist organization remained concealed--for appearances' sake--under the designation EAM. Then, however, it shed its mask and undertook to win control of the entire country by armed action. Its main target was the British liberation force which had meanwhile landed in Greece. As a result, all-out military operations developed in the Athens area between British and Greek national forces on the one hand and the Greek Communists on the other. There were considerable losses on both sides, and, in addition, there were barbarous Communist atrocities against the general population. After a bitter struggle lasting two months, the Communist leaders abandoned their efforts and came to terms; but under the Varkiza Agreement, signed in February 1945, these turned out to be notably favorable to them.
From the history here very briefly told of the development of an armed Communist force, and from an understanding of its purposes, we Greeks have gleaned the following lessons:
(a) The first essential element in the organization and operation of a movement of this sort is the existence of a suitable general undercurrent. In the case described, there existed a highly malleable mass resentment against the German and Italian conquerors. The Communists exploited it with subtlety and craft. The secret machinery of the Communist Party ensured that in the end the popular movement would come under its control.
(b) The masses, far from being Communist, did not even have Communist sympathies. In order to decoy the people, the movement had to make its appearance under the banner of armed resistance against the invaders and conquerors.
(c) To swell their ranks, the Communists used both persuasion and force. Persuasion took the form of lectures to the peasants, playing on their patriotic instincts and their desire for liberation. Force was used both directly, by the compulsory enlistment of the population, and also indirectly. Under the latter method, individuals refusing to join the Communist ranks were dubbed collaborators of the enemy, a charge which involved the death penalty or at least the burning down of the delinquent's home. Peasants who saw this happen and feared similar treatment joined the Communist ranks.
(d) In order to convert their recruits into an armed force the Communists needed arms and a cadre of leaders. The arms were procured from three main sources: first, the arms hidden in the villages by Greek soldiers after the German occupation and the disintegration of the Greek Army; second, considerable quantities parachuted into the mountains by the Allies; and third, after the armistice with Italy, the arms of the former Italian occupation forces. A cadre was formed of reservist noncommissioned officers and junior officers of the former Greek Army, lured in the manner described above. Since these ex-Army men were not always trusted by the Communists, the dual system of command was instituted, whereby each military commander was accompanied by a Communist political commissar who really controlled the unit.
Under such a system these armed units could not have really effective combat qualities. Most of the regular army officers joined nationalist resistance movements. The few that joined the ELAS were eyed askance. Rather than risk losing control, the Communists were willing to have their fighting potential against the Germans reduced.
(e) These armed bands were called regular army units. However, when they took part in battles against regular army forces (British and Greek) after the liberation in Greece--battles with definite locations, not involving guerrilla tactics--they were unable to gain the ascendancy. The fact that the fighting continued for two months was due not to any particular fighting capacity of the Communist bands, but to the anomalous conditions under which it was conducted. For example, a chief concern of the British and Greek forces was to confine to a minimum the damage inflicted on the city of Athens.
(f) The skill with which the Communists conducted their propaganda was noteworthy. It not only won over numbers of individuals who had originally been bitterly opposed to Communism, but also succeeded in creating the impression abroad that the movement was a pure resistance movement in accord with the sovereign right of the people to choose their own form of government.
That, in brief, is the outline of how in a specific case a force of armed irregulars was formed and developed. From it certain general conclusions might be deduced:
1. In numbers, Communism is a restricted force. In order to become an active operational force it requires allies, "fellow-travellers." To acquire them is the first concern of the Communist leaders. They have a variety of methods at their disposal. A classic one is that of the "united front" or "popular front." They do not hesitate to appear under the banners of causes entirely contrary to that of true Communism. And we may be certain that they have not exhausted their repertoire, and that they still will spring new surprises.
2. The only weapon against such tactics is an intensive, unremitting and aggressive campaign of public instruction and enlightenment--not so much vague anti-Communist propaganda as concrete arguments to meet specific cases. And here I would put a question that often recurs in my mind: Why, in these days when so many efforts are being made to rally the free democratic countries to common defensive action against an eventual attack from behind the Iron Curtain, is there no coordinated effort in the field of public enlightenment? Why has there not been set up a joint Western headquarters for such an educational movement?
3. Communism operates on a long-term basis. It does not concern itself exclusively with immediate results, but looks also to far objectives. We saw this in Greece, where the ELAS army was developed not to help the Allies win the war but to help Moscow win the peace.
4. The military objective of the Communists is subordinate to their political requirements. Thus there were no noteworthy operations against the conqueror, since that was not the political purpose for which the guerrilla army was created. But as soon as the Communist political chiefs decided that to use the guerrilla army against the British and Greek liberation troops would advance their political aims they did not hesitate to do so.
III. GUERRILLA WARFARE: 1946-1947
By signing the Varzika Agreement in February 1945 the Communist leaders did not relinquish their ultimate purposes but merely deferred them temporarily. It was an example of the Communist tactic of a provisional withdrawal in order to renew the attack later under more propitious circumstances. Proof that they had not renounced their plans is apparent in the fact that after the signing of the Agreement the ELAS did indeed hand over their old and useless arms, but hid and retained all the serviceable arms and ammunition possible.
The year 1945 went by peacefully. During the last quarter of that year and the early months of 1946, the Communist Party tried to reëstablish its organization and to expand it in the form of nuclear groups. It maintained contact with foreign Communist leadership throughout the Balkans, and under the directives of the latter the first Communist bandit groups were formed and reappeared on the scene in northern Greece. In the beginning these bands were small and few in number; but in the spring of 1946 they were sufficient to resume guerrilla warfare. Their activity was confined for the most part to the regions immediately adjacent to the frontier, where they attacked small isolated army outposts. Occasionally they succeeded in wiping out all of these, after which they would attack and loot the nearby village and then vanish into neighboring foreign territory. Gradually, as the strength and number of these bands increased, they extended their operations southward, as far as Thessaly. Their weapons were chiefly those hidden after the December 1944-February 1945 revolution, along with some supplied by neighboring states to the north.
In this period the military activity of these bands consisted, briefly, of attacks against main lines of communication, not as yet by means of mines, but by strikes at vehicles, civilian or military, travelling alone or in small convoys; attacks against small isolated army detachments or gendarmerie posts; harassing actions against larger army units, by long-range firing; and attacks against defenseless villages.
Their tactics were based on the following principles:
1. When deciding to attack a post or village, the Communist bands first made sure that its armed strength was considerably less than theirs, so that they might achieve their objective quickly, certainly and with few casualties.
2. In cases when the target was larger they mustered enough additional bandits to cut all the routes by which reinforcements might arrive. But wherever possible they chose isolated posts. If the operation was not successfully completed within a predetermined time it was abandoned.
3. The objective was not to capture, occupy and consolidate certain areas but only to make swift strikes, achieve local results and then withdraw rapidly to distant strongholds--preferably, if proximity to a frontier permitted, to foreign soil.
Parallel to this activity, and helped by it, the Communist leaders engaged in intensive underground activity. The purpose here was to organize a network of spies, informers, suppliers and recruiting agents to support the guerrilla activity. This organization, called by the misleading name "self-defense," succeeded in establishing invisible control over large regions, mostly mountainous, which the bandit groups could not occupy openly. Through terrorism and propaganda the invisible administrative hierarchy exacted subservience, concurrence or, at least, nonresistance from the inhabitants of a considerable number of villages in those areas. Villagers who opposed it were either killed or forced to abandon their homes and seek refuge in the cities.
The national military forces and the gendarmerie were unprepared for this kind of warfare. After each operation the armed bands disappeared, so that when the military arrived they found no sign of the enemy except perhaps a few parting shots from afar. The attacks against the lines of communication made it necessary for all vehicles to move under armed escort. The raids against the defenseless villages, which brought desperate appeals for protection, necessitated a piecemeal allotment of a large part of the existing armed forces to guard key points. Not merely were these detachments static, but being isolated were extremely vulnerable to bandit attack. In addition, Communists had managed to insinuate themselves not only into the state machinery but even into the ranks of the Army. Towards the end of 1946, then, the situation was critical. The national struggle against Communism had begun to disintegrate.
Although known and unknown Communists in the various Army units were forming Communist cells, disseminating propaganda and obtaining and passing on information, no mass mutinies occurred, and desertions to the Communist bands were few and far between. The Communists who had infiltrated were instructed to stay in the Army units and gradually erode them. The Greek Army commanders were well aware of the situation, but the government hesitated to adopt special measures against the Communists without indisputable proof of guilt, and only rarely were the Communists careless or artless enough to provide it. However, there were two or three cases where, during attacks by bandits against small Army units, Communist soldiers turned against their comrades, killed their officers and helped the bandits to win.
It is perhaps difficult for outsiders to realize the psychological stress of this period. The situation in itself was extremely unpleasant, and in addition it contained the distinct threat of dangerous developments in the near future. Helped by their conscious or naively unconscious allies, the Communists had succeeded in erasing the memory of the atrocities they had committed little over a year ago. They succeeded in creating a general belief that appeasement measures could end the bandit activity, which, they alleged, resulted exclusively from excesses by the "Right." Nor was this belief confined to Greek public opinion alone; it received widespread credence abroad.
During the winter of 1946-47, in those regions where the guerrilla bands were most active, the Army, for the reasons outlined above, was concentrated around the main cities and towns and their lines of communications. The small detachments hitherto scattered over the countryside were withdrawn and grouped together. Simultaneously, under the pressure of events and in view of the seriousness of the situation, the first measures were taken to rid the units of Communist soldiers and confine them in a separate camp. Virtually no active cleaning-up operations against the guerrilla bands were undertaken during this period. Taking advantage of the situation, and favored by the fact that heavy snowfall had rendered many routes impassable, the Communists were able to gain complete control over large mountain areas, whence they would frequently emerge to the nearby plains to raid villages or harass troops. A study of the positions thus occupied reveals that they extended progressively southward, reaching out towards the ultimate objective--Athens, the capital. Moreover, an unbroken network of mountain corridors linked the strongholds to one another and to the northern frontier; not all the corridors were under Communist control, but the guerrilla bands had comparative ease of movement and supply from the north.
On the whole, the operations of the bandits during the year 1946 were designed first of all to achieve psychological results which, in turn, would yield material results. We cannot actually be certain whether this was the original Communist plan, or whether it developed with the trend of events. Even the professional soldier, whose teaching and experience has been connected with regular army warfare, finds it hard to appraise with certainty the material gains of the Communist bandits. It is a fact that the national forces were numerically superior to the guerrilla bands. Also, they were better armed, their leaders were tried veterans of the 1940-41 war (some even were veterans of previous wars as well) and their casualties negligible. No large-scale battles were fought, no mass enemy movements occurred. And in these negative factors lay the strength and effectiveness of the guerrillas' interconnected cold and hot war. The hot element remained smaller than the cold, so that the national forces were in danger of losing the war without fighting it.
IV. THE YEARS 1947 AND 1948
During the late winter of 1946-1947 the command of the country's armed forces examined the situation and reached certain general decisions.
Extensive cleaning-up operations would be initiated in the spring. As the available forces were not deemed sufficient for simultaneous operations of this kind in all the districts infested by Communist bandits, plans were laid to progress gradually from the south to the north. It was estimated that by the end of the year the Communist bands would have been liquidated. While the principal operations were in progress in a certain district, such forces as were available in other infested areas would also attack the bands there in order at least to hinder their further development.
These cleaning-up operations would consist at first of a pincer movement around a chosen area, with the points of the pincer gradually converging toward the center. It was hoped thus to capture a large number of bandits or, at least, force them into battle and exterminate them. The second period, estimated to be very short, would be given to mopping up the remnants. Following this, the bulk of the armed forces would be available to assume similar operations in the next area. However, a few forces would be left to deal with the last remnants of bandits and the local Communist "self-defense" organization. By now all understood that this was quite as dangerous as the bands themselves, who could not thrive without it.
It was also decided that the units of the Army would be systematically purged of Communist soldiers. These would be sent to a special camp to undergo a moral rehabilitation. Those who sincerely abjured Communism, into which they had been inveigled, would be returned to their units.
However, these operations did not go according to plan for several reasons. The Communist bandits were informed of impending attacks in given districts in time to withdraw, for the most part, to some neighboring district which had not yet been cleaned up. Even when they did not withdraw ahead of time most of them usually succeeded in leaking through gaps in the pincers. When the cleansing of a district from the "self-defense" organization and the liquidation of its remnants proceeded satisfactorily, much more time and much larger forces than had been estimated were required. In order to encourage the inhabitants to support the Army in its job, they had to be convinced that the Army would not withdraw and leave them unprotected. And when the cleansing had been successfully effected in some of the early operations, the Communist rebels elsewhere withdrew not only their bands but also the greater part of the local "self-defense" machine.
Moreover, to clear a district of rebel bands and keep it clear demanded the stationing on the spot of larger forces than had at first been estimated. In an effort to overcome this disadvantage armed peasants under military leadership were at first employed on a small scale; but they tended to be ineffective. The result was that as the main operations were carried northward the number of available government troops was continually reduced and finally was insufficient to cope with the situation. By avoiding battle, the Communists endeavored, at times successfully, to reenter the districts from which they had been expelled, either by infiltrating through gaps in the cordon or by circuitous movements.
Finally, despite their losses and numerous defections, the Communist bands succeeded in refilling their ranks through compulsory recruiting of peasants. They also retained their fighting spirit. In June they actually attacked a significant urban center with large forces. That attack failed, but it was another proof that the numerous military operations undertaken against them had neither destroyed their fighting ability nor curbed the warlike disposition of their leaders. During the summer of that year the Communist bands for the first time received designations as regular army units (battalions), and their leaders endeavored to organize them in accordance with regular army standards--adjusted, of course, to the means at their disposal and to the lessons they had learned in guerrilla warfare. They were reinforced, moreover, by cadres freshly trained in military schools functioning in the neighboring satellite countries. And simultaneously, the supply of arms and ammunition reaching them from the neighboring countries was intensified.
The result of the 1947 operations was disheartening. Though the progress of the bandits had been checked the Communist threat was by no means ended. In the winter of 1947-1948 the bandits reorganized their forces and set to work to increase them. They returned to the districts from which they had been driven and prepared to meet the Army's new attacks in the coming spring. Moreover, the efforts to intercept the supplies dispatched from neighboring countries were not successful and the rebels now came into possession of artillery.
Along with these developments, the Communist leadership endeavored to assume a more official appearance. The leaders announced the formation of a government and endeavored to occupy some urban center adjacent to the border with the intention of using it as a "capital." They failed in this, however. According to the Greek Government's information, had they succeeded in this they would have received official recognition from the Communist countries, followed probably by open military aid.
The leaders of the Communist bandits also strove to create a "free area" which would be securely in their hands. This was a political necessity for them after forming a "government," and it was a military move as well, since if they were to extend their operations they needed a stable base on Greek territory. They selected as a base the mountainous region of Grammos-Vitsi, near the Greek-Albanian-Jugoslav border, and fortified it during the winter with military works, barbed wire and some minefields. The bulk of the Communist bands were assembled there. Several attacks were also made upon points guarded by the Greek Army, but they were of little avail.
The Greek command changed its tactics in 1948. It was decided that after a rapid cleaning-up operation from the south to the north, the Army's main effort would be concentrated against the Communist fortified area, in the hope that the enemy would give battle, and, forced to withdraw to the neighboring countries, would sustain serious losses. The seizure of this territory would seriously hamper, if not cut entirely, the supply lines by which the Communists maintained their troops in the interior.
The past year's experience had shown that the government forces were insufficient for their task, and thanks to American aid the size of the Army was notably enlarged. More of the quasimilitary units called M.E.A., composed of armed peasants under military command, were organized. Operations began in the spring, when the Army's forces were concentrated opposite Mt. Grammos. The fighting continued for more than two months, with considerable losses on both sides, and in the end the area was taken. The remaining Communist forces escaped through Albanian territory, however, and reentered Greece in the Vitsi area, farther to the north.
In the beginning of autumn the Army attacked this mountain mass, but failed in the operation and incurred serious losses. The losses of the Communist rebels were heavy also, but they were not dislodged. Clashes occurred continuously through the country, and the Communist bands extended their activity to the southernmost tip of continental Greece and to some of the islands. Supplies reached them at these distant points by sea from Albania. They mined the roads and railways, and the destruction of communications forced the Army to disperse its efforts. Thus by the end of 1948 and the beginning of 1949 the whole situation was deteriorating. Communist bandits reëstablished themselves on Grammos during the winter. Two years of hard and bloody effort seemed to have ended in failure. The end of the ghastly affair was not in sight.
By spring the Communists had made good their losses, mainly by the compulsory recruiting of peasants, and supplies from the neighboring Communist countries were reaching them in ever-increasing quantities, including heavy armament, especially artillery. As a result they were enabled to attack even important towns successfully. The Communist excesses, as well as the executions by the reactionaries, had caused numbers of peasants to abandon their homes and seek safety in guarded towns. This created an enormous refugee problem. The year's fighting had shown that the concentration of Army efforts on uprooting the Communist base (Grammos-Vitsi) close to the border had simply enabled the bandits to extend their activity in the interior. Moreover, the Communist forces had now taken the shape of a regular army, thanks to the abundant supplies pouring in from abroad and the training of officers in the military schools of the satellite countries. The situation was critical. Communism seemed an unconquerable hydra.
V. THE YEAR 1949
Three years of indecisive guerrilla warfare were indeed a terrible price for a weary and impoverished nation to pay for learning the correct method of finally defeating the Communists who had taken up arms against the legal government. The fellow-travellers were still advising appeasement. Nobody else doubted that this would mean in fact handing the country over to Communism and that this would be followed by its subjugation by the Slav satellites of Moscow. Even so, some people doubted whether a victory by the national forces was possible. The writer was not one of these. He believed that, on the contrary, Communism could be defeated, that the measures applied for this purpose in the past had failed because they were either inadequate or uncoordinated, that a radical change would lead to victory, but that there was no time to waste.
The change in the command of the Greek armed forces took place in January 1949. The wide powers with which the new command was invested were, one may say, the fundamental reason for the subsequent improvement in the situation. The immediate and most important result was the recovery in morale of both the people and the Army. The new general plan of action, drawn up in agreement with the American and British military missions, was plain and simple. It was based on an analysis of existing Communist activities. In the first place, the Communists had firmly occupied a certain number of areas close to the border, with their rear resting on friendly foreign territory; these areas, mainly Grammos and Vitsi, were well fortified with barbed wire and minefields and were defended by important forces well supplied with artillery and ammunition. Second, they had operated throughout the rest of the country by normal guerrilla activity --that is, by bands which evaded pitched battles but tried to control a whole area by visiting the different districts in it from time to time and dealing out severe punishment to unfriendly peasants.
The one possible way to deal with the firmly-held areas close to the border was to undertake an offensive action based on the usual rules employed by regular forces to annihilate an opponent. To deal with the Communist bands scattered through the country different tactics were necessary. In the first place, they must be pursued ruthlessly and relentlessly by day and night, by sufficient forces, proceeding from different directions, so that they would be obliged either to give battle or to disperse. Secondly, stern measures must be taken to liquidate the "self-defense" setup which provided them with essential intelligence, recruits and supplies.
As the available Army forces were not sufficient for the simultaneous execution of both tasks, plans were laid for a gradual advance from south to north. The cleaning-up of the Peloponnese had begun at the end of 1948, but fresh measures were needed to make sure that areas once cleared of guerrillas would not be reinfected. Militarized units of armed peasants under the command of Army officers were assigned this task. Meanwhile, sufficient forces for the occupation of Grammos and Vitsi had to be concentrated. To guard against Communist inroads among them, all personnel under suspicion were removed and sent to a special camp for national rehabilitation.[i]
The general plan, matured with American aid, was applied with strict attention to the minutest details. The new combined force, aided by the local military units, successively cleared one district after another from south to north. They accomplished their tasks virtually within the designated time limits. Fresh units replaced worn ones as the main force moved to new areas, and light battalions were left behind to hold the ground gained. Their job was not too difficult, for the campaign had been so thorough that all but a small number of the roving bandits had been exterminated and the local "self-defense" organizations which maintained them had been wiped out. Finally, most of the Army's divisions were drawn up in imposing array before the Vitsi-Grammos fortified area. It fell after a swift drive. Victory had been achieved in nine months.
The Communists had reacted to these operations both tactically and strategically. By attacking with one echelon in the Vitsi-Grammos area in coordination with an offensive by roving bands in the interior they attempted to distract the Army's main forces from the cleaning-up operations further south. At another time they tried to occupy an important town near the Vitsi area; and later they resorted to a strong raiding action in depth. But they failed both tactically and strategically. They could not compel a change in the general plan or force the Army to withdraw from the main effort in order to protect the threatened areas.
VI. GENERAL CONCLUSIONS
Let me now summarize my conclusions from our experience in Greece.
Communist guerrilla warfare has two methods of operation: attack by arms and propaganda. Propaganda precedes the armed action and continues during and after it. The cold and hot war are closely coordinated, and one helps the other; but the emphasis is on the cold war. Communism cannot sustain its efforts alone; it requires allies, that is, the help of fellow-travellers. Without an auxiliary organization for obtaining information and giving general support guerrillas are condemned to early extinction. Parallel with their military operations, the Communist guerrillas seek to disintegrate their opponent--the army, the people, the state--by subversive propaganda and by reducing as many of the population as possible to destitution. To create a huge wave of hungry and ragged refugees they resort to any sort of ferocious and criminal action.
The first and principal antidote to these activities is timely diagnosis and ruthless suppression. Any leniency shown will inevitably be paid for later with blood and treasure. In saying this I wish not to be misunderstood: I do not imply that social problems are to be solved by the use of violence. On the contrary, it is the primary duty of a truly democratic government to seek and find just and generous solutions to such problems. But by now it has become quite clear that Communism is concerned only to exploit social problems; it seeks to aggravate rather than solve them because it thrives on unrest. The forcible measures which I advocate are to be used only against the professional dealers in subversion, the Communists and Communist agents who speculate in human lives. For them, no quarter. Our experience in Greece showed, however, that a considerable number of those who have accepted Communist leadership can with proper treatment and guidance be reclaimed and made into good members of the community. This should be one of the nation's chief aims. But the fanatic and hardened incorrigibles must be prevented from spreading their poison.
Public education and psychological warfare must be used intensively in order to counteract the Communist propaganda. Every democratic citizen should understand the Communist challenge.
When a nation reaches a point where it is forced to engage in military operations against guerrillas, the Communists have already won the first round. Thereafter the process will be painful. To suppress them will take much larger armed forces than those in the guerrilla bands. Moreover, activity must be directed simultaneously against the guerrillas and against the unseen organization which supports them. The members of this must be sought out everywhere, even in districts where guerrilla activity has not yet come into the open. The particular form of the military operations used against the elusive guerrillas themselves will be determined by local conditions, but in general the best procedure is continuous, relentless, unremitting pursuit, especially by night, so as to exhaust them and to force them either to fight or disintegrate.
[i] The rehabilitated men later were formed into separate units, some of which distinguished themselves in the field.