Tag: insurgent leadership

Essay Campaign #10: Insurgent or Terrorist?

Summer Essay Campaign #10: “Insurgent or Terrorist?”

To Answer Question #1: “What is the difference between a terrorist and an insurgent?”

By First Lieutenant Neel Vahil

It is imperative that military and civilian leaders understand the fault lines that exist between terrorists and insurgents. Insurgencies have become a type of sub-state warfare that has acquired substantial nuance over the last two centuries. They have alternatively been romanticized and vilified. Terrorism has seared far reaching psychological effects in minds of all those affected and has contributed to significant policy modification and even war mobilization.  Just as important as the difference between terrorist and insurgent, however, is the historical context from which this modern demarcation derives. In “Invisible Armies,” Max Boot examines the evolution of insurgencies as well as what he deems “the closely related growth of terrorism.”[i] What quickly becomes obvious is that, while the dissimilarities between the two may occasionally be muddied, doctrinal definitions that highlight the differences in organizational structure, motives, tactics, and targets are useful for any great power in devising an appropriate strategic and operational response. For the United States, it is vital to understand this distinction not only doctrinally and philosophically, but also historically because the new age of American military operations will showcase an amalgam of insurgencies and terrorism, frequently on the same battlefield. We as military leaders must be able to navigate and exploit the chaos and cultural patchwork at all levels of war.

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50 Years After Rivonia: Mandela as General and Strategist

By Major Matt Cavanaugh

**Note: Updated on April 2, 2014.

One way of thinking about Nelson Mandela that has been vastly under appreciated is his  strategic judgment.  This is natural as he’s most famous for bringing together the Rainbow Nation after the fall of an entire way of life.  However, he was an insurgent at one point – seeking to overthrow a government through (selective) violent means.  So there is something there for those interested in military judgment – you just have to know where to look.  

60 Minutes is a good place to start.  When Mandela passed a few months back, they did a feature entitled “Nelson Mandela in his own words.”  The video is spellbinding, but so is the transcript. Note the commentary from one of Mandela’s closest compatriots – on how Mandela saw himself:

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