On the Origins of Insurgent Strategies

39 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 16 Aug 2011

Date Written: 2011


Do insurgent groups fight in different ways? Guerrilla warfare has historically been considered an effective tool for weak actors at war with significantly more sophisticated adversaries. However, not all insurgent groups employ guerrilla warfare in the same ways. What explains this variation? This study focuses on one critical issue: why insurgents adopt certain unconventional military strategies as opposed to others. The study of strategy matters because the strategy insurgents choose dictates how quickly and heavily rebels are able to impose costs on incumbents. I find that in the post-Cold War world insurgents are likely to adopt tit-for-tat military strategies. That is, compared to guerrilla warfare, when a state intentionally victimizes civilians, insurgents will respond in kind; when the state employs a highly mechanized military force - when compared to guerrilla warfare - insurgents are more likely to respond with a strategy that emphasizes the use of heavy weapons with the goal of denying the state’s military objectives, while eschewing civilian targeting.

Keywords: Insurgency, Strategy

Suggested Citation

Linetsky, Zuri, On the Origins of Insurgent Strategies (2011). APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1900777

Zuri Linetsky (Contact Author)

University of Virginia ( email )

1400 University Ave
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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