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By Dr. J. Cspedes, Ph.D.

International Baccalaureate History Program

January 6, 1961, Moscow, USSR:

Premier Nikita Khrushchev delivers a speech

predicting that the world was moving toward socialism and that "wars of national liberation'' will be the main instrument of that movement.

Additionally, Khrushchev pledges support for

indigenous rebellions to overthrow the fascists and capitalists. The Kennedy administration interprets the speech as the USSR's intention to use surrogate/proxy forces to advance its interests rather than direct engagements with the United States and the West.

Kennedy saw the Communist movements in Latin

America, Africa, and Southeast Asia as part of that large Soviet tactic, and he devised new counterinsurgency strategies to oppose them. Vietnam became the test case for Kennedy's counterinsurgency program to foil a war of national liberation.

Ernesto El Che Guevara (1967)

we could look into a

bright future should two, three or many Vietnams flourish throughout the world with their share of deaths and their immense tragediesand their repeated blows against imperialismand the increasing hatred of all peoples of the world!

Not surprising, because

Since the 1917 October Revolution, the objectives of

communism were shared by many anti-colonialist leaders, thus explaining the objective alliance between anticolonialist forces and Marxism. The concept of "imperialism" itself had been which had theorized in Lenin's famous 1916 book, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism.

For example, Ho Chi Minh who founded the Viet-

Minh in 1930 and declared the independence of Vietnam on September 2, 1945, following the 1945 August Revolution was a founding member of the French Communist Party (PCF) in 1921.

Guerilla War (Mid-late 20th Century)

Wars of national liberation are conflicts fought by

indigenous military groups against an imperial power in the name of self-determination, thus attempting to remove that power's influence, in particular during the decolonization period.

Ho Chi Minh

They are often founded in guerrilla warfare or

asymmetric warfare, sometimes with intervention from other states.


For example, the Jewish-Roman War (6670),

sometimes called The Great Revolt was the first of three major rebellions by the Jews against the Roman Empire.

Replication of Roman Army

The revolt began initially because of Greek and Jewish

religious tensions, but grew with anti-taxation protests and attacks upon Roman citizens and Jews thought of as traitors.

Outbreak of the Rebellion

Fearing overthrow, the pro-Roman king Agrippa II,

fled Jerusalem to Galilee. Cestius Gallus, the legate of Syria, brought Legion XII, Fulminata (the Lightning Struck Legion), and auxiliary troops as reinforcements to restore order. They were defeated in an ambush at the Battle of Beth Horon, a result that shocked the Roman leadership.

The Roman response

Emperor Nero now appointed Vespasian to crush the

rebellion. Vespasian, along with legions X and V, landed at Ptolemais in April 67. There he was joined by his son Titus, who arrived from Alexandria at the head of Legio XV, as well as by the armies of various local allies including that of King Agrippa II. Fielding more than 60,000 soldiers, Vespasian began subjugating Judea.

Emperor Nero


By the summer of 70, the Romans had breached the

walls of Jerusalem, ransacking and burning nearly the entire city. The besieged who had sought escape earlier were crucified.

During the spring of 71, Titus set sail for Rome. A new

military governor was then appointed from Rome, Lucilius Bassus, whose task was to undertake "mopping-up" operations. He used Legio X. He died of illness, and Lucius Flavius Silva replaced him, and moved against the last Jewish stronghold, Masada, in the autumn of 72.


Lucius Flavius Silva

After his orders for surrender were rejected, Silva

established several base camps and circumvallated the fortress. According to Josephus, when the Romans finally broke through the walls of this citadel in 73, they discovered that the 967 defenders had all committed suicide, preferring death over enslavement.

Masada Ramp


Decolonization of the Americas
American War of Independence (17751783) Haitian Revolution (17911804) Spanish American wars of independence from Spain

(1810s1820s by Libertadores such as Simn Bolvar in North and Jos de San Martn in the South Brazil's (1822) by Dom Pedro I.

Simn Bolvar

Jos de San Martn


The First Indochina War (194654) secured the

independence of Vietnam from French imperial domination, although liberation from the French was sought as far back as the 1920s by the nationalist Viet Quoc. The Algerian War of Independence (195462). The African National Congress (ANC)'s struggle against the apartheid regime is also part of these wars. National liberation movements in Angola and Mozambique, supported by Cubas Fidel Castro.

The Portuguese colonial wars finally led to the

recognition of Angola, Mozambique and GuineaBissau as independent states in 1975, following the April Carnation Revolution. The operations of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Organization for African Unity (OAU) The Polisario Front efforts for the independence of Western Sahara (1975)

Philippines: The Hukbalahap Rebellion, an armed struggle

against the Philippine government and its supporters. The organization was re-formed in 1968 and the New People's Army (NPA) was established in 1969. Philippines: 1960s 1980s, Moro National Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (separatist organizations). The Malayan Emergency Commonwealth forces vs. the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA), the military arm of the Malayan Communist Party 1948 1960/89 The Farabundo Mart National Liberation Front - (FMLN), El Salvador became a political party and have current presidency

Zapatista Army of National Liberation, Mexico - have

been relatively non-violent since 1994 Peru: The Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), and the Tpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement. Started in 1980 and, although still ongoing, had greatly wound down by 2000. FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias Colombianas) and ELN (National Liberation Army) - Colombia Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland Euskadi ta Askatasuna (ETA) in Spain

PLO Emblem

Flag of the youth wing of the IRA


Historically, guerrilla wars against European colonial

powers were nearly always a political/military success.

Colonial powers tired politically Extended time period Wars of attrition International pressure Aid from other countries to rebels


Defeating guerrillas can be difficult, but certain

principles of counter-insurgency warfare are well known since the 1950s and 1960s and have been successfully applied.

Many modern countries employ manhunting doctrine (such as

using locals) to seek out and eliminate individual guerrillas. Elements of Thompson's moderate approach are adapted here: 1. Since insurgents rely on the population for recruits, food, shelter, financing, and other materials, the counter-insurgent force must focus its efforts on providing physical and economic security for that population.

2. There must be a clear political counter-vision that can overshadow, match or neutralize the guerrilla vision. This can range from granting political autonomy, to economic development measures in the affected region.

3. Removing corrupt or arbitrary officials, cleaning up fraud, building more infrastructure, collecting taxes honestly, or addressing other legitimate grievances can do much to undermine the guerrillas' appeal. 4. The counter-insurgent regime must not overreact to guerrilla provocations, although anti-guerrilla forces should take full advantage of modern air, artillery and electronic warfare assets.

5. Aggressive mobility. Confinement to static strongpoints simply concedes the field to the insurgents. 6. Integration with local security forces and civilian elements: Green Berets, CIA's/Hmong, Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in 2001 7. Cultural sensitivity.

Finnish Coastal Ranger Green Beret

Hmong Child in Traditional Dress

8. Systematic intelligence effort. 9. Local/village self-defense groups and citizen militias (Kit Carson units in Vietnam). 10. Time: Democracies and their electoral cycles are especially vulnerable to this factor.

Echoes from past wars of national liberation:

You can kill ten of my men for every one I kill of yours,

but even at those odds, you will lose and I will win. --Ho Chi Minh to the French, late 1940s

You have a row of dominoes set up; you knock over the

first one, and what will happen to the last one is that it will go over very quickly. --Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Now we have a problem in making our power credible,

and Vietnam is the place. --John F. Kennedy, 1961

We are at war with the most dangerous enemy that has

ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it has been said if we lose that war, and in so doing lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening. --Ronald Reagan, 1964

Ronald Reagan

Let us understand: North Vietnam cannot defeat or

humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that. --Richard M. Nixon, 1969

We believe that peace is at hand.

--Henry Kissinger, Oct. 1972

Henry Kissinger

You have my assurance that we will respond with full

force should the settlement be violated by North Vietnam. --Richard Nixon in a letter to President Thieu, Jan. 1973

1975: Democrats in Congress cut off funding for South Vietnam

From 1.26 Billion to 700 million This encourages North Vietnam to intensify military operations against South Vietnam. Without the necessary funds, South Vietnam finds it logistically and financially impossible to battle the North Vietnamese army. it was not the Hanoi communists who won the war, but rather the American Congress that lost it. ~ Historian Lewis Fanning

A Sense of Betrayal
If the Americans do not want to support us anymore,

let them go, get out! Let them forget their humanitarian promises! ~Nguyen Van Thieu, April 1975

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