Archive for the ‘GLOBAL GUERRILLAS’ Category


March 31, 2016

John Robb on his blog Global Guerrillas on March 30, 2016 reported on the return of great power war. After a brief post Cold War hiatus, great power conflict has returned and it is likely to intensify as the economic woes of China, Russia, and the US worsen. Excerpts below:

During the Cold War, great power conflicts were fought through proxies using a variety of different means (see Frank Hoffman’s Hybrid Warfare). This method of indirect fighting was used to avoid situations and military casualties that could trigger a nuclear war.

In the near future, we are likely to see the great powers — China, Russia, and the US — fight it out in the same way they did historically, in intense set piece battles (see explanation below).

What is a set piece battle?

Is optional. It only occurs when both opponents agree to fight (it’s not a siege).

Is contained. It’s only fought in a finite battlespace that both opponents agree on (e.g. a specific field or river crossing or island).

It’s a showcase of capability. It allows both opponents to execute their plans simultaneously.

…these battles will be fought and won by autonomous robotic systems.

In the next dozen years, as robotic weapons become autonomous and capable of executing mission orders, we’re going to see a spike in the number of lethal (to the system) tactical engagements between robotic weapons fielded by peer competitors. These early engagements will condition the military and political leadership to fighting in this way without escalation.

However, it won’t be long before one of the great powers decides to test their capabilities in robotic weapons against a regional antagonist.

For example, China could deploy a fully robotic A2/AD (anti access, area denial) system of precision guided munitions, autonomous drones/UUVs/etc. across hundreds of the Spratly islands. A veritable hedgehog of lethal machines capable of destroying anything that entered the territory.

China could then provoke a set piece battle by activating the system and declaring that anything within a very specific territory is off limits to all traffic not specifically approved by the Chinese government.

At this point, the US has three options in response… It could:

 Ignore it. This would likely lead to more pop-ups all over the world from any power capable of fielding robotic A2AD.

 Engage it with manned forces. There are two options here. First, the US could sail a carrier battle group into the area in a classic Cold War test of strength, challenging the Chinese to sink it, which would escalate the engagement to a nuclear war. Second, the US could choose to attack it with conventional forces augmented with robotics (teaming), however the battle would likely result in significant loss of US life (a waste of lives if the islands aren’t retaken or neutralized).

 Engage it with autonomous robotics in a set piece battle. This option would test the relative strengths of the respective militaries in robotic systems and AGI (artificial general intelligence). It would be bloodless and contained to a specific battlespace.

These battles could be short and over in hours, fought with robotics and cyber combined arms. In some cases, they could go on for decades. An eternal contest until one side or the other runs out of money or the political need to distract an angry population.

Comment: No doubt John Robb has a point here. Of the empires challenging the United States and the rest of the West are Russia and China, which may very well soon have autonomous robotic weapons. Most likely attempts to prohibit these weapons will fail. For the West they will be of great defensive importance.


March 23, 2016

John Robb on his webpage Global Guerrillas on March 23, 2016 reported that the successful terrorist attacks on Brussels and Paris have left the EU vulnerable to tens of thousands of fast, frequent and fake attacks by self-activating terrorists.

The recent attack on Brussels was big, bloody, and effective.

Unfortunately, there is a way for terrorists to get around that limitation [of real attacks]. There is a way to continue to damage the EU without mounting a new, large-scale attack. This is accomplished by self-activating terrorists making small, frequent and fake attacks. Fake attacks that have a disruptive impact similar to a real attack. Attacks like:

 threats to buildings, organizations and individuals
 suspicious packages left on trains, airports, etc. or mailed bombs/biochem
 reports of suspicious activity – building, organizations, and individuals

Why are fake attacks effective?

 in the current environment, every threat/attempt is taken seriously by the government. Police, fire, and the military responds. Buildings are searched. People are accosted.
 it costs orders of magnitude more to respond to a fake attack than it takes to mount it. Airports are closed. Subways are suspended. Traffic is stopped.
 these attacks can be made frequently, with very little risk/cost to the attacker. Simply, anybody can participate with 10 minutes of instruction.

Comment: The attacks could cost the EU billions of dollars in costs. The Schengen agreement is already under serious threat. Fake terrorist attacks could further threaten that agreement.


June 9, 2015

Fox News on June 8, 2015, reported that a raid last month by American commandos on the home of an ISIS leader in Syria turned up a trove of valuable information, reportedly including the role played by the leaders’ wives, who sometimes acted as couriers in delivering information. Excerpts below:

Fox News has confirmed that laptops, computers and sim cards were recovered during the May 16, 2015, raid on the home of Abu Sayaaf. His wife, who was captured in the operation, is reportedly providing valuable information and is being interrogated by the Iraqis.

The trove also yielded important information on ISIS financing, contact networks and tactics.

According to the New York Times, information collected during the raid also shows how ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi stealthily conducts his business.


January 1, 2013

The Washington Times on December 31, 2012, published an AP report on Al Qaeda using remote desert bases, in the escarpments and cliff faces of northern Mali. Islamist fighters are burrowing into the earth, erecting a formidable set of defenses to protect what has essentially become al Qaeda’s new country. Excerpts below:

They have used the bulldozers, earth movers and Caterpillar machines left behind by fleeing construction crews to dig what residents and local officials describe as an elaborate network of tunnels, trenches, shafts and ramparts.

Northern Mali is now the biggest territory held by al Qaeda and its allies. And as the world hesitates, delaying a military intervention, the extremists who seized control of the area earlier this year are preparing for a war they boast will be worse than the decade-old struggle in Afghanistan.

“Al Qaeda never owned Afghanistan,” said former United Nations diplomat Robert Fowler, a Canadian kidnapped and held for 130 days by al Qaeda’s local chapter, whose fighters now control the main cities in the north. “They do own northern Mali.”

Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Africa has been a shadowy presence for years in the forests and deserts of Mali, a country hobbled by poverty and a relentless cycle of hunger…taking over an enormous territory which they are using to stock arms, train forces and prepare for global jihad.

The catalyst for the Islamic fighters was a military coup nine months ago that transformed Mali from a once-stable nation to the failed state it is today.

With no clear instructions from their higher-ups, the humiliated soldiers left to defend those towns tore off their uniforms, piled into trucks and beat a retreat …They abandoned everything north of this town to the advancing rebels, handing them an area that stretches over more than 620,000 square kilometers (240,000 square miles). It’s a territory larger than Texas or France — and it’s almost exactly the size of Afghanistan.

Turbaned fighters now control all the major towns in the north, carrying out amputations in public squares like the Taliban did.

The area under their rule is mostly desert and sparsely populated, but analysts say that due to its size and the hostile nature of the terrain, rooting out the extremists here could prove even more difficult than it did in Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, known as AQIM, operates not just in Mali, but in a corridor along much of the northern Sahel. This 7,000-kilometer (4,300-mile) long ribbon of land runs across the widest part of Africa, and includes sections of Mauritania, Niger, Algeria, Libya, Burkina Faso and Chad.

Earlier this year, the 15 nations in West Africa, including Mali, agreed on a proposal for the military to take back the north, and sought backing from the United Nations. Earlier this month, the Security Council authorized the intervention but imposed certain conditions, including training Mali’s military, which is accused of serious human rights abuses since the coup. Diplomats say the intervention will likely not happen before September of 2013.

The al Qaeda affiliate, which became part of the terror network in 2006, is one of three Islamist groups in northern Mali. The others are the Movement for the Unity and Jihad in West Africa, or MUJAO, based in Gao, and Ansar Dine, based in Kidal.

The Islamic fighters have stolen equipment from construction companies, including more than $11 million worth from a French company called SOGEA-SATOM, according to Elie Arama, who works with the European Development Fund. The company had been contracted to build a European Union-financed highway in the north between Timbuktu and the village of Goma Coura. An employee of SOGEA-SATOM in Bamako declined to comment.

The first base is occupied by al Qaeda’s local fighters in the hills of Teghergharte, a region the official compared to Afghanistan’s Tora Bora.
Still further north, near Boghassa, is the second base, created by fighters from Ansar Dine. They too have used seized explosives, bulldozers and sledgehammers to make passages in the hills, he said.

In addition to creating defenses, the fighters are amassing supplies, experts said. A local who was taken by Islamists into a cave in the region of Kidal described an enormous room, where several cars were parked. Along the walls, he counted up to 100 barrels of gasoline…

In Timbuktu, the fighters are becoming more entrenched with each passing day, warned Mayor Ousmane Halle. Earlier in the year, he said, the Islamists left his city in a hurry after France called for an imminent military intervention. They returned when the U.N. released a report arguing for a more cautious approach.

In the regional capital of Gao, a young man told The Associated Press that he and several others were offered 10,000 francs a day by al Qaeda’s local commanders (around $20), a rate several times the normal wage, to clear rocks and debris, and dig trenches. The youth said he saw Caterpillars and earth movers inside an Islamist camp at a former Malian military base 7 kilometers (4 miles) from Gao.

…Islamists have inherited stores of Russian-made arms from former Malian army bases, as well as from the arsenal of toppled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, a claim that military experts have confirmed.

Those weapons include the SA-7 and SA-2 surface-to-air missiles, according to Hamaha, which can shoot down aircrafts. His claim could not be verified, but Rudolph Atallah, the former counterterrorism director for Africa in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, said it makes sense.

“Gadhafi bought everything under the sun,” said Atallah, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, who was a defense attache at the U.S. Embassy in Mali. “His weapons depots were packed with all kinds of stuff, so it’s plausible that AQIM now has surface-to-air missiles.”

Depending on the model, these missiles can range far enough to bring down planes used by ill-equipped African air forces, although not those used by U.S. and other Western forces, he said. There is significant disagreement in the international community on whether Western countries will carry out the planned bombardments.

The Islamists’ recent advances draw on al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s near decade of experience in Mali’s northern desert,…

Originally from Algeria, the fighters fled across the border into Mali in 2003, after kidnapping 32 European tourists. Over the next decade, they used the country’s vast northern desert to hold French, Spanish, Swiss, German, British, Austrian, Italian and Canadian hostages, raising an estimated $89 million in ransom payments, according to Stratfor, a global intelligence company.

During this time, they also established relationships with local clans, nurturing the ties that now protect them. Several commanders have taken local wives, and Hamaha, whose family is from Kidal, confirmed that Belmoktar is married to his niece.


August 13, 2011

AP on August 12, 2011 reported that tens of thousands of Syrian protesters shouted for President Bashar Assad’s death in a dramatic escalation of their rage and frustration, defying bullets and rooftop snipers after more than a week of intensified military assault Syrias on rebellious cities, activists and witnesses said.

Security forces killed at least 14 protesters, according to human rights groups.

The calls for Assad’s execution were a stark sign of how much the protest movement has changed since it erupted in March seeking minor reforms but making no calls for regime change. The protests grew dramatically over the five months that followed, driven in part by anger over the government’s bloody crackdown in which rights groups say at least 1,700 civilians have been killed.

But with the regime shrugging off even the most blistering condemnation, the uprising has become a test of endurance as both sides draw on a deep well of energy and conviction. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday urged countries to stop buying Syrian oil and gas or selling the regime weapons, saying those who still do so must “get on the right side of history.”

In cities around Syria, protesters chanted, “The people want to execute the president!” during the now-familiar cycle of weekly demonstrations followed by a swift crackdown by the military, security forces and pro-government gunmen who operate on the regime’s behalf.

Security forces broke up protests quickly around the capital Damascus, in the central city of Homs and elsewhere, firing bullets and tear gas. Some areas saw only limited demonstrations because soldiers deployed heavily in restive areas.

In a significant show of defiance, some of the largest protests Friday were on the outskirts of the central city of Hama and in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour, where government forces seized control in major military offensives during the past week. The fact that protesters still turned out was a signal that Assad’s forces cannot terrify protesters into staying home.

However, within Hama, protesters struggled to turn out in great numbers after soldiers clamped down heavily in the streets, witnesses said. Snipers were stationed on rooftops, and troops surrounded mosques and set up checkpoints to head off any marches.

“There are security checkpoints every 200 meters (655 feet), they have lists and they’re searching people … the mosques are surrounded by soldiers,” a Hama-based activist told The Associated Press by telephone, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Dozens of soldiers deployed in Hama’s Assi Square, which had been the main converging point for hundreds of thousands of protesters in previous weeks, the activist said.

In the central city of Homs, more than a 1,000 soldiers, security agents and plainclothes policemen were deployed in the city’s main square.

At least 14 protesters were killed across the country: Five outside the capital, Damascus; one in Homs and two in Hama; Four in the major northern city Aleppo; one in Deir el-Zour; and one in eastern Idlib province, according to multiple activist groups. Military raids earlier in the day killed at least two people.

“Where are the prisoners, Bashar? Free the prisoners, Bashar!” shouted protesters in the Mediterranean coastal city of Latakia, shown in amateur video posted by activists. Another video showed a crowd outside a mosque in the southern city of Daraa hit by clouds of tear gas after they chanted for the downfall of the regime.

The Associated Press could not verify the videos. Syria has banned most foreign media and restricted local coverage, making it impossible to get independent confirmation of the events on the ground.

The military offensive reflects Assad’s determination to crush the uprising against his rule despite mounting international condemnation, including U.S. and European sanctions.

A flurry of foreign diplomats have rolled through Damascus urging Assad to end a campaign of killing that rights groups say has killed more than 1,700 civilians and several hundred members of the security forces since mid-March.

“We believe that President Assad’s opportunity to lead the transition has passed,” Jay Carney, spokesman for President Barak Obama, told reporters traveling on Air Force One on Thursday.

But the U.S. and other nations have little power to threaten further isolation or economic punishment of Assad’s pro-Iranian regime — unlike in Egypt, where Obama was able to help usher longtime ally Hosni Mubarak out of power.

On Friday, the Dutch Foreign Ministry said the European Union may decide in the next week or two to broaden its sanctions against the Syrian regime and state-run businesses.

Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal has been lobbying his colleagues to expand the EU travel ban on Syrian officials — which now covers 35 people, including Assad — and to target Syria’s telecommunications, banking and energy sectors. Syria gets about 28 percent of its revenue from the oil trade.

“We need to cut off the oxygen from the regime through its profitable public enterprises,” Rosenthal said on the ministry’s Web site.

But the bloody crackdown has continued, along with a nationwide campaign of arrests.

Security forces on Thursday detained Abdul-Karim Rihawi, the Damascus-based head of the Syrian Human Rights League, activists said. A longtime rights activist, Rihawi had been tracking government violations and documenting deaths in Syria.

He was picked up from a cafe in central Damascus along with a journalist who had been interviewing him, according to rights activist Ammar Qurabi.

Italy and France on Friday condemned the arrest and called for his immediate release.

“By its brutal and symbolic character, the arrest of Abdul-Karim Rihawi constitutes a new unacceptable decision by the authorities of Damascus,” a French Foreign Ministry statement said.

The Syrian uprising was inspired by the revolts and calls for reform sweeping the Arab world, and activists and rights groups say most of those killed have been unarmed civilians. An aggressive new military offensive that began with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan at the start of August has killed several hundred people in just one week.


November 22, 2010

Open source warfare is spreading. According to author John Robb it has now been adopted by al Qaeda. Open source warfare is a theory of modern warfare that would make it possible for a large number of small autonomous groups to defeat much larger enemies.

His claim is based on the new al Qaeda magazine “Inspire” which is filled with tools (software, etc.), techniques, and philosophy (on how to carry out open source jihad). Al Qaeda now wants to change from closed leadership operations to coaching small groups to act on their own. It also led al Qaeda to make a demonstration (an attack) that could provide a plausible promise for its open source collaborators/partners.

Al Qaeda now thinks that to bring down America there is no need for big strikes. It would be more useful to stage smaller attacks involving less “players” and less time to launch.

To provide a plausible promise (proof that open source warfare can be successful against the enemy), al Qaeda has turned to systems disruption. Systems disruption is a major part of open source warfare theory. It is a method of attack that uses a knowledge of networks to amplify the damage of the attack. With systems disruption, even small attacks (that cost little and generate little risk to the group) can have national or global impact. As such it’s useful for the type of attack made by the small autonomous groups within an open source insurgency. System disruption has been used from Mexico to Nigeria.

In Al Qaeda’s demonstration parcel bombs were used in what was called Operation Hemorrhage. These low cost parcel bombs were inserted into the international air mail system to generate a security response by western governments. The global security response to this new threat was massive.

The focus is on ROI (return on investment) calculations. Little money is used in these new operations and a few months of work. The following costs of the operation was according to al Qaeda:

Printers: $300 each
Nokia mobile phones: $150 each
Shipping and transportation: short $$

TOTAL COST: $4,200

The security costs inflicted as a result of this operation could probably be counted in the millions of dollars, making for an impressive return on investment for the operation

Given this successful demonstration attack, we should expect to se many more attacks that employ systems disruption in the future as open source jihadis adopt the method.

Author John Robb in 2004 developed his open source warfare theory based on British strategist JFC Fuller new armored warfare concept in the early 1930’s: to develop a truly modern theory of warfare that reflected trends already in motion. Years ago he warned the American military of this theory being used as basis for modern partisan warfare.

The editors of al Qaeda’s magazine said the group is working to disseminate their bomb-making abilities to other branches of the organization, and they frequently repeated the threat that the U.S. could expect more bombs.

In his 2004 book Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization American counterterrorism expert John Robb described how the same technology that has enabled globalization also allows terrorists and criminals to join forces against larger adversaries with relative ease and to carry out small, inexpensive actions—like sabotaging an oil pipeline—that generate a huge return. He shows how combating the shutdown of the world’s oil, high-tech, and financial markets could cost us the thing we’ve come to value the most—worldwide economic and cultural integration—and what we must do now to safeguard against this new method of warfare.


April 8, 2010

John Robb has reported on his blog Global Guerrillas that he is working on his new book about networked resilient communities and that it should be out soon. He may bypass the traditional publishing route for this book and self-publish.

Meanwhile he is considering plots for follow on books of near term future fiction dealing with warfare. One book is a story about open source warfare in the US tentatively entitled, “The DIY War.” Another is the idea of a solo protagonist that launches a systems disruption campaign against the US, finding and destroying systempunkts across a variety of critical infrastructures. The tentative title for that book is, “The Trillion Dollar Man.”

In a post (April 7, 2010) offers a perspective on system collapse based on the anthropologist Joseph Tainter’s book, The Collapse of Complex Societies. In the book Tainter makes the compelling case that complex societies are, at root, very successful problem solving systems. If they weren’t, they would never have become complex in the first place. Societies solve challenges by creating new rules and processes (new complexity) that are then added on to the existing system ad infinitum. More successful outcomes = more complexity.

Robb comments:

Solving, however, comes at a cost. Each solution leaves a residue, a layer of complexity that never goes away (laws, taxes, monopolies, treaties, etc.). It builds up over time and saps the social system’s flexibility and efficiency. Eventually, ever new layer of complexity extracts more in costs than it provides in benefit (solution). At that point, according to Tainter’s analysis of ancient civilizations, the complex society collapses.
So, the question always is, why don’t these societies simplify themselves? The problem is they can’t.

Techno expert Clay Shirky expresses this eloquently in a recent post on Tainter’s work called, “The Collapse of Complex Business Models”:

In such systems, there is no way to make things a little bit simpler – the whole edifice becomes a huge, interlocking system not readily amenable to change. Tainter doesn’t regard the sudden de-coherence of these societies as either a tragedy or a mistake—”[U]nder a situation of declining marginal returns collapse may be the most appropriate response”, to use his pitiless phrase. Furthermore, even when moderate adjustments could be made, they tend to be resisted, because any simplification discomfits elites. When the value of complexity turns negative, a society plagued by an inability to react remains as complex as ever, right up to the moment where it becomes suddenly and dramatically simpler, which is to say right up to the moment of collapse. Collapse is simply the last remaining method of simplification.

Robb is the author of the very successful book Brave New War (2008). In it he reveals how the same technology that has enabled globalization also allows terrorists and criminals to join forces against larger adversaries with relative ease and to carry out small, inexpensive actions—like sabotaging an oil pipeline—that generate a huge return. He shows how combating the shutdown of the world’s oil, high-tech, and financial markets could cost us the thing we’ve come to value the most—worldwide economic and cultural integration—and what we must do now to safeguard against this new method of warfare.


December 19, 2009


If one compares the three resistances in Scania, Blekinge and Halland, Vendée, Spain and Prussia which span over a period of over 150 years (1658 – 1814) there are a number of similarities. The occupying forces from Sweden and France used similar repression techniques.

The wars were brutal and punishments of the guerrillas severe. There are of course differences. The territory in what is now southern Sweden was recently acquired by Sweden from Denmark. The latter country supported the guerrilla war against the Swedes (by invasion and financing of partisan units in the area).

What was called eastern Denmark had been under Danish rule from around 1000 AD, so the cultural roots were solid. Thus the government in Stockholm believed Swedenization to be an important method to pacify the three provinces. First, however, the guerrilla (supported by Denmark) had to be utterly defeated.

In the case of Vendée it was a province that had long been French. The area was pro-Catholic-royalist and (like in the Swedish case) countryside population reacted against conscription of its young men into the revolutionary armies of the French Republic. The religious aspect was important in both areas.

In the case of Spain a foreign state (Napoleon’s France) attempted to conquer and invaded with large regular forces a foreign country. The king of Spain was replaced by one of Napoleon’s brothers on the throne. An external British expeditionary force supported the Spanish.

In the seventeenth century the guerrilla resisters in Scani, Halland and Blekinge had no internationally famous painters or writers to describe the horrors of the war. Also Scandinavia was a remote region in Europe while France and Spain are in the central and southern part of the continent. Sweden and Denmark were small countries in northern Europe (although Sweden aspired to create an empire).

Vendée was in the 1990s brought to international attention by Nobel Prize winner in literature, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who visited the area in 1993 and spoke (and wrote) of the horrors there in the eighteenth century. In Spain Goya experienced the Peninsular War first hand and there are a number of famous watercolors and paintings describing the horrors of the conflict. In all, however, much the same methods were used in southern Sweden as in Vendée and Spain. These three devastating partisan wars deserve closer international comparative study.


December 18, 2009

The Resistance in the Provinces of Scania, Halland and Blekinge in Sweden

The seventeenth century guerrilla resistance is internationally almost unknown: that of inhabitants of the Danish provinces of Scania, Blekinge and Halland in what was then eastern Denmark resisting Swedish occupation from 1658 to 1679. The three provinces had become Swedish in 1658. The year 2008 was thus the 350th anniversary of the Peace of Roskilde (Denmark), which transferred Scania and the other territories to Sweden from Denmark. Those guerrillas who resisted had no Goya to depict their often brutal treatment by the occupiers.

The comparative study of popular resistance against foreign occupiers in Europe makes a fascinating study but has so far not been undertaken in a systematic fashion. There is almost no literature in English on the seventeenth century case of Swedish occupation.

The Northern Wars 1611 to 1679

The historical background to the Northern Wars (1611 – 1679) can be found in the establishment of a Swedish empire in the Baltic Sea area. It started with the Swedish acquisition of Estonia in 1560. The decision of Gustavus II Adolphus to intervene on the side of the German Protestants in the Thirty Year’s War (1618 – 1648) in 1630 resulted in further expansion of the empire. The intervention was not only based on economic grounds but motivated also by a combination of reasons: political, religious and strategic factors. Sweden was at the time to a great extent financially dependent on France but was still able to pursue an independent German policy.

When the daughter of Gustavus Adolphus, Queen Christina, went into selfimposed exile in Rome her cousin Charles X Gustavus succeeded her on the throne. In 1655 he launched a war on Poland. From a military point of view the campaign was brilliant but threatened to end in an indefinite stalemate (due to much Polish guerrilla resistance). The Swedish king was more or less saved by Denmark’s declaration of war in 1657. The Swedish army could leave Poland and turn its attention to Denmark. The result of the war was that Denmark had to hand over three of its provinces on the southern end of the Scandinavian peninsula to Sweden: Scania (Skaane), Blekinge and Halland 1). What followed after the Peace of Roskilde in 1658 is given a short introductory description below.

Resisting in Former Eastern Denmark in 1658 – 1679

Sweden failed to completely defeat Denmark in 1658-1659. The Danes were unreconciled to Sweden’s permanent possession of the economically and strategically vital provinces, especially Scania. In the year 1676 Denmark declared war on Sweden to regain the lost provinces. Danish troops landed on the coast of Scania. The pro-Danish inhabitants rose up in revolt supporting the invading Danish forces.

The Danish crown formed detachments of partisans loyal to Denmark (free-shooters or friskyttar). These irregular Danish units joined with local guerrillas (although the term guerrilla is a modern term and was not introduced until the Peninsular War when Spaniards resisted French occupation). They were called ‘snapphanar’ by the Swedes (which means brigand in English). The large Danish invasion army was only with great difficulty and bloodshed defeated in the Battle of Lund in 1676.

One of the main reasons for the resistance in the three provinces was the forced enlistment of locals into the Swedish army. The conscripts were brought to military training centers, often in chains. Those who managed to avoid enlistment hid in the wooded areas on the old national border to Sweden or fled to Denmark.

Attacks were carried out against Swedish troop columns. Guerrillas in Loshult captured Swedish wagon train with money worth around 30,000 riksdaler (the Swedish currency) to be used as pay for the troops. The treasure was hidden and has fascinated historians until today. The value of the total catch is today estimated to have been between 70 to 80 million Swedish kronor or over 10 million U.S. dollars.

The guerrillas were also effective bridge destroyers (to be compared to ‘bridge burners’ in America during the war in 1861 – 1865.

In Scania the parish blacksmiths specialized in making long barrelled rifles used by the guerrillas. Bullets and gunpowder (made by salpeter, carbon and sulphur) were often locally produced.

The cruelty of the warfare was extensive. The Swedish occupants initiated both personal and collective punishments for guerrillas as a warning. Piercing on the stake was common.

Collective punishment was used by the Swedish army if a soldier was killed in a parish and the guerrillas responsible could not be captured. Farms were burned to the ground and farmers and their families, who could not escape, were killed.

By 1679 resistance came to an end. When Denmark once more invaded in the beginning of the eighteenth century during the Great Northern War few irregulars of the lost territories joined the Danish cause. Many Scanian guerrillas in 1679 fled to Denmark. They were not particularly well treated by the Danes.


December 17, 2009

Prussian Resistance Against Napoleon

Carl von Clausewitz in 1812 drew up a plan for Prussian partisans in which all male citizens between 18 and 60 would be armed with muskets, scythes and pitchforks. The only uniform would be a padded hat and provincial insignia. They were to hinder French occupying officials, capture detachments and attack convoys. This force was to conduct ambushes and lend support to the regular army.

In 1808 Gneisenau wrote that Prussia’s only hope lay in a national insurrection and three years later Scharnhorst submitted a plan to the Prussian king which recommended guerrilla resistance. By definition partisan or guerrilla resistance is supposed to be spontaneous. So the creation of the Landsturm in Prussia was unique in that it was organized by the government, guerrilla resistance enacted by law from above. The law of 21 April 1813, called for all able-bodied men who were not already in the army or the Landwehr, to join the Landsturm. No uniforms were to be used, to avoid recognition by the enemy. When the French approached inhabitants in that area the guerrillas were to abandon their villages and organize under already by the king nominated officers. From the woods they would then harass the enemy. As they retreated they were to take away corn and food, burn mills, bridges and boats and fill the wells.

But in reality the Landsturm was not effective because the ruling elite feared a popular struggle which could give the partisans ideas of rising against their Prussian masters. The operations of the Prussian guerrilla were thus hampered by many qualifications and regulations. The partisans were to be under command of the provincial and local authorities.

Gatherings of local units were to be sanctioned by army or corps commanders. Any assembly without authority of the Landsturm was to be regarded as mutiny. The result was that the defensive guerrilla war only lasted three months and was ineffective. It was a people’s war without the people.