War & Revolution Tactics 101
February 16, 2011 11:11 PM   Subscribe

Can you point me at some resources where I can learn more about revolutionary tactics? I'm looking for books describing strategies and tactics used in historical revolutions, or instructional books, perhaps in the vein of Clausewitz's On War. Basically, imagine your town is being defended by a guerilla platoon made up of the local teenagers. What books / blogs / etc would you have wanted the guerilla leader to have read?
posted by ejfox to Human Relations (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
On Guerrilla Warfare - Mao Zedong
posted by jfricke at 1:16 AM on February 17, 2011

Off a link from jfricke's post, try Wikipedia's category for Military strategy books. While they may not all be revolutionary-minded, I guess the spirit of guerilla warfare is to use what works, eh?

To go even more generic, here's the Military Strategy category, with tons of different terms, strategies, manouevres and so on. The guerilla leader would indeed be foolish to not read Wikipedia!
posted by Senza Volto at 1:33 AM on February 17, 2011

This recent NY Times article about Gene Sharp may be useful to you - he specifically focuses on nonviolent revolution.

Few Americans have heard of Mr. Sharp. But for decades, his practical writings on nonviolent revolution — most notably “From Dictatorship to Democracy,” a 93-page guide to toppling autocrats, available for download in 24 languages — have inspired dissidents around the world, including in Burma, Bosnia, Estonia and Zimbabwe, and now Tunisia and Egypt.

... Mr. Sharp’s “198 Methods of Nonviolent Action,” a list of tactics that range from hunger strikes to “protest disrobing” to “disclosing identities of secret agents.”

posted by danceswithlight at 2:14 AM on February 17, 2011

One classic, written as a counter-insurgency manual, was Robert Taber's War of the Flea.
posted by Abiezer at 2:19 AM on February 17, 2011

Film-wise, The Battle of Algiers, which depicts the tactics used by the Algerian National Liberation Front in the war against the French colonizers. The director, Gillo Pontecorvo, himself espoused a theory of revolutionary cinema to support the anti-colonial and independence movements of the 1960s.

Good article in Slate discussing both the film and the Pentagon screening it to study counterinsurgency tactics.
posted by so much modern time at 4:47 AM on February 17, 2011

Seems a bit obvious, but Che Guevara's Guerrilla Warfare?
Also, Sun Tzu's The Art of War.
posted by mistikle at 6:08 AM on February 17, 2011

Do romantic college student radicals still to read Che's Guerilla Warfare? Gene Sharp is a much better idea, IMHO.
posted by Mngo at 6:09 AM on February 17, 2011

I would care less if he was versed in grand strategy and focus more on implementable tactical capacities. For those, you can't beat the US Military Handbooks. A couple to get you started:


FM 21-75 COMBAT SKILLS OF THE SOLDIER: CHAPTER 1 - Cover, Concealment, and Camouflage: APPENDIX F - Survival, Evasion, and Escape
posted by eytanb at 6:33 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is going to sound a little weird, but the LTTE sometimes claimed to model their attacks on Western war and action movies (eg Rambo) - you'll find one eg in the Age of Kali, by William Dalrymple, cited about halfway down this page.
posted by Ahab at 7:35 AM on February 17, 2011

Realisticly, in these modern times, this might be just what you're looking for. I got it for a recent gift giving-based holiday
posted by Redhush at 7:49 AM on February 17, 2011

Just recalled another one, Towards A Citizens' Militia: Anarchist Alternatives To NATO & The Warsaw Pact
posted by Abiezer at 9:09 AM on February 17, 2011

How to Make War by James Dunnigan does a good job of condensing how modern industrial war is waged, and if you know this you can make the best decisions about how to attack the weakness of your enemy.

I believe the Marines have a very good counter insurgency warfare book, and the marines are quite good at it also. If you understand how to beat a guerilla war your can probably take a stab about conducted a guerilla war.

The army has lots of good manuals for tactical aspects of war. However their is a maxim among military types that amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics. How to equip, supply and care for a fighting force in the field is the tough part. The mudjahadein in Afghanistan only started being effective after the US gave them logistical support. The vietcong and the NVA in vietnam where effectively destroyed several times by the US but eventually won due to logistical support from the USSR. The American Revolution was successful after the French joined in and supported the US.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlien is actually pretty good on showing how you get a revolution started, and what external conditions are necessary to make one successful, which isn't quite what you asked but related and very necessary to win the war, not just the battle.
posted by bartonlong at 10:44 AM on February 17, 2011

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