More myths and fantasies seem to have arisen in regard to guerrilla warfare than about any other aspect of contemporary history. For many revolutionaries it has assumed a positively romantic aura, particularly since the bearded ones of the 26th of July Movement swept with dash and verve out of the Sierra Maestra and into the avenues of Havana. The sort of mythology that is created from the glories of guerrilla heroism (and that takes little account of the indescribable extremes of physical and moral endurance that it involves) is less harmful, however, than the fantasies that have been disseminated by the equally ardent advocates of counter-guerrilla warfare.

The late President John F. Kennedy reportedly had an obsession against guerrilla warfare, and the trickle of alarmed studies on the subject that had begun to appear in imperialist circles after Dienbienphu became a veritable flood during his administration. Subsidized by the Pentagon and the State Department, this literature has sought to provide both ideology and drum-beating for a suppressionist and interventionist American Foreign policy. Unlike conventional military studies, which at least deal in the ponderables of a science, this series of treatises on the arts of suppression bog themselves down in the myths of propaganda rather than base themselves on objective fact.

James Eliot Cross is one of the myth-makers of the Pentagon’s complex of ‘research’, ‘development’, and ‘analysis’ agencies, and he is reportedly ‘a leading authority on unconventional warfare’. For a real understanding of guerrilla strategy and tactics one must go to Vo Nguyen Giap, Truong Chinh, Che Guevara or to Mao Tse-Tung. Cross has other things on his mind.

Conflict In The Shadowsfootnote1 is subtitled ‘The nature and politics of guerrilla war’. Politics, to Cross, means only one thing: Communist subversion. In the American military mind, the problem of guerrilla warfare is a Communist problem:

‘There is no denying that the small but disciplined cadres of the national Communist parties are extremely adaptable and effective tools of politics, and this is proving particularly true in the under-developed areas where shifts of attitude toward political authority and traditional ways are likely to be the most sudden and explosive. These groups are well suited to identify with, and act on, popular grievances and to stir up considerable unrest even where the grievances are not pressing or serious. In most of the under-developed regions there have been plenty of ready-made grievances with which they have worked. These rebellious minorities have demonstrated that by exacerbating and exploiting tensions, they can, over time and with adequate assistance and support, build an aggressive military opposition that may finally destroy the government’s ability to govern and thus reduce the country to a welter of confusion and civil war.’

Now this business about ‘rebellious minorities’ and ‘unrest . . . where grievances are not pressing or serious’ is sheer fantasy, as anyone who has witnessed an armed struggle with a mass base could tell Cross. So obsessed is he with this fantasy that he dismisses with a single sentence the fact that the majority of guerrilla struggles in the contemporary period have been non-Communist in nature: in Algeria, in Cuba, in Kenya, in Angola, in Cyprus, in the Congo. The great, broad political factor of anti-imperialism, of mass determination to put an end to colonialism wherever it exists today, is brushed aside here. Cross prefers to impose this type of reasoning on his subject:

‘. . . even the most cursory look at the appalling consequences of an all-out thermonuclear conflict makes it clear that there can be no ultimate winner, and this conclusion is just as evident in Moscow as Peiping (sic) as in the West. The forward momentum called for by Communism’s creed must therefore be assured by some lesser form of conflict, preferably by the form least likely to lead to escalation into an unprofitable, and almost certainly disastrous holocaust.’