By Mike Smith
21st of May 2016
Following is an excerpt from a French perspective on the experience of Napoleon’s forces against Spanish “Guerrillas” during the seven years “Peninsular War” (1807-1814).
Guerrilla warfare differs to conventional warfare in that the guerrilla does not attempt to acquire and occupy large territories of land as quickly as possible, but rather to destroy the manpower of the occupying enemy over a drawn out period of time.
It is largely a twofold psychological war aimed at increasing popular support amongst the locals on the one side and destruction of the enemy’s morale and will to fight on the other. The aim is to harass and feed off the enemy like mosquitoes on a host. The host slaps around, but he cannot see what he is slapping at. There is nothing there to slap, but an irritating whirr in the ear . Eventually he realises that the only solution is to stop fighting and leave on his own accord for staying would mean the commitment of too many resources and funds. It is simply not worth it anymore.
Robert Taber, says in “War of the Flea; The classic study of guerrilla warfare”, page 20:
“Analogically, the guerrilla fights the war of the flea, and his military enemy suffers the dog's disadvantages. Too much to defend, too small, ubiquitous, and agile an enemy to come to grips with. If the war continues long enough--this is the theory--the dog succumbs to exhaustion and anemia without ever having found anything on which to close its jaws or to rake with its claws.”
The question is, after reading the excerpt below, “Is this the kind of war we should wage...or is this kind of war being waged upon us at the moment?" - - You be the judge.
..................Start of Excerpt:
Such was the system Spain used against us.
One hundred and fifty to two hundred guerrilla bands scattered all over Spain had sworn to kill thirty or forty Frenchmen a month each: that made six to eight thousand men a month for all guerrilla bands together.
The order was never to attack soldiers travelling as a body, unless the guerrillas outnumbered them. But they fired on all stragglers, attacked small escorts, and sought to lay hands on the enemy’s funds, couriers and especially convoys.
As all the inhabitants acted as spies for their fellow citizens, the guerrillas knew when the convoys would leave and how strong their escorts would be, and the bands would make sure they were twice the size.
They knew the country very well, and they would attack furiously in the most favourable spot. Success often crowned the undertaking; but they always killed a lot of men, and the goal was achieved.
As there are twelve months in the year, we were losing about eighty thousand men a year, without any pitched battles. The war in Spain lasted seven years, so over five hundred thousand men were killed…but that includes only those killed by the guerrillas. Add the battles of Salamanca, Talavera and Vitoria and several others that our troops lost; the sieges,…the fruitless attack on Cadiz; add too the invasion and evacuationof Portugal, the fevers and various illnesses that the temperature caused our soldiers to suffer, and you will see that we could add a further three hundred thousand men to that number during those seven years…
…From what has been said, it will be apparent that the prime aim of this sort of war is to bring about the destruction of the enemy almost without him noticing it, and as a drop of water dripping on a stone will eventually dig a hole in the stone, patience and perseverance are needed, always following the same system.
In the long run, the enemy will suffer more from this than he would from losing pitched battles.
“On partisans and irregular forces” - J.F.A. Le Miére de Corvey, (1823)
|Boer guerrillas. Deeply religious, the Boers used to go to war in |
their best Sunday church clothes.
Look at those faces. No hint of retreat nor surrender.