David and Goliath

 On Grammar of Guerrilla Warfare

 A Supplement to „On War“.

© 2007 Gustav Adolf Pourroy


                                              With this book I hope to iron out many

                                                                                                                           a wrinkle in the heads of strategists

                                                                                                                           and statesmen and at least to show

                                                                                                                           everywhere what it is all about and

                                                                                                                           what has to be taken into account in case of war.

                                                                                                                           Carl von Clausewitz in his book "On war" (issued 1832)

 Preliminary Remark                                             German Version                                                                                      

Waging war by means of terror has become the main form of violent conflict in the 21st century. This takes the form of many small or guerrillas wars, but mainly it generates the impression of one single big war of Islam against the West. President Bush’s concept of a “War on Terror” to fend off the multiple terrorist acts does not appear to be successful. It is mere defence, as Francis Yukuhama points out in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung of August 19, 2006.

 Heribert Muenkler states in his book “Der Wandel des Krieges” (The Changes of War) that there are three possible defences against terror, but even the third line described in the book cannot facilitate peace. Here we have to refer to Clausewitz who emphasised the priority of politics in warfare. Because of the rigid attitude of the West neither the concept of “War on Terror”, consisting merely of aggressive defence, nor the vague claims of the Muslim groups waging Jihad can promise any prospect of a successful resolution.

Muenkler and other created for these wars the term asymmetrical wars.  This term finds its correspondence with quasi-war in Samuel P Huntington's book The Clashes of Civilisations.

 The growth of the world population distributed in 190 states comprising about 1000 ethnic groups generates further conflicts, while the military strength of the Goliath states provokes the Davids of the world to try to win with the help of guerrilla stratagems.


 History of Guerrilla or Small Wars (extract)




Spartacus about 73 b.C

uprising of slaves

suppressed by





50 b.C            


Leader of the Gauls   

submitted to Caesar

strangled in Roman jail after triumphal


Robin Hood        



fighting the Sheriff   

of Nottingham, legendary guerrillero

Idol of rebels  

British hero from

the time

of Richard the


Thomas Münzer      


Leader in the

Peasant’s War,

about 1500


beheaded 1525

Wilhelm Tell                           



insurgency against                       authorities

about 1300

Legendary Swiss  National hero


Andreas Hofer      



Insurgent against                          French and Bavarians  

Executed (shot)

Mantua, 1810

Sitting Bull        




Chief of the Sioux fighting the Whites

Shot in 1890 in his

camp in North

Dakota after

submitting to

the Whites



Chief of Apaches fighting the Whites  

Died in exile in Fort Sill,

his grave was


Sir Roger Casement  


Irish resistance against the British,

ally of Germany

Hanged in 1917


Menachem Begin

Took part in the bombing of Hotel King

David Jerusalem 

Israeli PM


Yitzhak Rabin                             



Leader of prisoners

in the British prison camp of Rafah

promoter of

Oslo talks

with the


Israeli PM,


Yitzhak Shamir   



Terrorist, imprisoned in


Israeli PM

Ching Peng

And others

War of Running Dogs and others “Emergency” in Malaya until 1960                           

No success of their own,

As consequence:

Founding of

Malaysia and


Ho Chi Min

Led Viet-Cong to victory against France and later the USA

Venerated as national

hero in a




Fidel Castro

clever guerrilla warfare against the Cuban dictator Batista

Dictator in Cuba


Ben Gurion        



almost non-violent rebellion against Great Britain Leader of the

Israeli fight for independence   

Father of Israel


Nelson Mandela    

Leader of the Black Resistance in the RSA        

After 25 years in


President of the RSA


Josef Stalin



As opponent of regime of the Tsar exiled to Siberia


Dictator of

the Soviet Union


Mao Zedong

Leader of the fight against the Guo Min Dang


Chinese Dictator


Che Guevara


Comrade-in-arms of Castro  

Killed in action in


Osama bin Laden

Organizer of Jihad against United States

and the West



Killed in Pakistan 1.5.2011

Yasser Arafat


Leader of PLO

Palestinian President

Ahmed Sukarno


Liberation from the colonial power of the Netherlands

1st President of Indonesia





Urban guerrilleros in Germany

All of them

sentenced to

prison terms

Brigate Rosso


Urban guerrilleros Italy

All of them

sentenced to

prison terms



liberated Algeria from France

Algeria is free

PLO, Hamas                  

and others                 


Fight against the Israeli occupation

continuous, festering




Fight against British dominance in Northern Ireland

Search for





Fight of the Basques for independence from Spain


party is illegal, bloody terror,

ceasefire since

March 24, 2006


Stratagems of Guerrilla Warfare

In a guerrilla war the weak party is the aggressor. The guerrillero resorts to surprise, cunning, and audacity in order to overcome the strength of his big adversary. A guerrilla with such strategies is the war of the weak party against the strong one. It is the fight of David against Goliath (Samuel 1, chapter 16 and 17). Clausewitz has given a comprehensive description of all the stratagems of guerrilla warfare known in his time, but he didn’t say much about the guerrilla itself (Chapter 17: “On the Character of modern Wars” Means of Insurrection). The recent stratagems of terror were not mentioned by Clausewitz.

Clausewitz was the first to describe that all kinds of war, be it world wars, total wars, nuclear wars, cold wars, or guerrillas are subject to the same inherent correlations between politics and warfare.

The list of some leading protagonists of guerrilla warfare (above) shows that some guerrilla wars resulted in the formation of big states. By means of guerrillas in their various forms, suppressed people try to get rid of a dominant, stronger power.

The mostly hidden David does not declare that he is going to wage guerrilla war. In some cases he has made usually fruitless efforts to work openly on solutions to the conflict. In other cases he is discouraged from the beginning to fight openly for his goals, because his assessment of his adversary’s power is high and he cannot expect any success in an open struggle (like the Palestinians in their fight against Israel).

Given these facts, how can a guerrilla war be the continuation of the politics of a state by other means? The ruling state, the Goliath, cannot declare guerrilla war. It is forced upon him. The state identifies the adversary by his guerrilla actions, as usually there is no declaration of war. The guerrillero is hidden, but the state cannot hide. Under The Hague Land Warfare Convention guerrilla fighters are no combatants because they do not show their arms openly.

The guerrillero starts war either when peaceful means fail or have never been tried. Even in a marriage, or family, or a group, or company office there may be guerrilla warfare when petty quarrels occur. Recently even advertising agencies are using guerrilla strategies, deliberately violating the rules of politeness of their trade without any consideration of others. In such cases every means, including intrigue, is used in order to secure some advantage. The natural, conventional restrictions concerning actions in a conflict are ignored and replaced by recklessness. The tactics of cunning, surprise, deception, and audacity are used and play an important role, but without the use of violence. This can be called “civil guerrilla warfare”. Much can be said about this, but I shall not elaborate further.

Here I am interested only in violent guerrilla warfare, a term that includes all forms of partisan war, gang warfare, and underground fighting. Recently in the USA the term insurgency has also been used, though mostly as a euphemism.

The list of protagonists includes some of the most outstanding names. But in most cases they stand for an entire ethnic group. Exceptions to this are RAF and Brigate Rosso.


Some Examples of Guerrillas

In the case of Osama bin Laden the guerillero defines his mission: the Holy War, the Jihad against the Western world with its allegedly rotten moral stance which is manifested mainly by the Western nation’s support for Israel and the oppression of the Palestinians. The goals of the Jihad are so vague that an agreement between the opponents is next to impossible.

But the list also shows that the most important guerrilla wars in recent times have been won by the insurgents. This may encourage the guerrilleros of today to continue their struggle. In the case of the underground war for the liberation of Malaya from British rule (“Emergency”) Great Britain defeated the CTs (Communist Terrorists), but the people of Malaya founded the states Malaysia and Singapore and got rid of British rule and the CTs.

Many guerrillas – like the war in North Ireland – continued, albeit with interruptions, for centuries. In the end the ruling party started thinking of how to end the agony of guerrilla and to find a settlement. This was usually preceded by heavy conflicts within the Goliath states, until ultimately reason and the yearning for peace prevailed.


Terror – a New Stratagem of Guerrilla Warfare

In a guerrilla war the Davids make extensive use of the tactics mentioned by Clausewitz, namely cunning, surprise, and audacity. In fact those three tactics have been developed in many ways, facilitated by technical innovations. They all aim at putting pressure on the powerful party, for example by surprise (the high jacking of planes) or acting from a hidden place (like the Viet Kong in the jungle) in order to force it to give in, while the political goal is often not openly declared. Recently a fourth tool has turned up, the strategy of terror. Terrorist acts aim at forcing the leaders of the Goliath states to give in by putting pressure on them with cruel actions which gain tremendous attention in the media.

If the attacked rulers, the terrorized side, refuse to change their positions – as Israel, as Great Britain in North Ireland, – the guerrilla is prolonged indefinitely (as in the case of Vietnam or South Africa). Competing ideologies can also play a role in a guerrilla. Religious incentives hide the actual goals and develop independently – as Niklas Luhmann put it - as autonomous elements in the population. Ideologies obscure the actual conflicts and can have the effect of social poison. Today the opponents do not talk to each other. The acts of terror and revenge become more and more cruel. A big war is either ended by victory and a political peace agreement or by complete defeat of the opponent, a debellatio, as it occurred in Cartago or in the case of the Nazi Regime. But the guerrilla goes on for a long time. As in an intrigue ridden social body a way out can only be found when reason and a true desire for peace prevail and the rulers actually try to find a solution to the conflict. The desire for peace will grow when both sides finally realize that a continuation of guerrilla and retaliations cannot yield success. The long fight in North Ireland is a good example of this. In such a case it is important that both sides are encouraged or even converted to peace by a third party of reasonable men.

Probably the U.S. declaration of “War on Terror” is just a propaganda tool serving to convince the public “that something is being done, that the state is not defenceless”. In fact this declaration is depressing proof that politicians do not understand the character of the guerrilla. Terror is a strategy of guerrilleros. You cannot wage war against a stratagem. You can only answer with a counter stratagem. The use of the arms of the Goliath like aircraft carriers, planes, tanks, and masses of troops is futile. The use of such means, cleverly covered in the media, serves to calm down the public and to create the impression that something is done against terror. On the other hand it provokes the Davids to further attacks in order to demonstrate the helplessness of the Goliath. For the Goliath’s weapons to be effective, clear frontlines are indispensable. But in a guerrilla war there are no clear frontlines. 


Inherent Laws: No Solution without a Political Concept

The war slips into a vicious circle: The Goliaths develop a high degree of perseverance, especially when the goals of the Davids are not clearly identified. This provokes the Davids to intensify their extortive pressure with even more cruel actions. These cruelties are reported by the media, which increases the public pressure on the Goliaths. The position of the Goliaths becomes rigid. “After so many victims” they do not want to give in.

Thus the Goliaths are forced to increase their efforts for their defence; because of the uncertainty where David will strike next they have to put a broad spectrum of possibilities into account. This can sometimes lead to strange effects (like the exchange of information on the eating habits of air passengers and snooping everywhere).

In the modern form of guerrilla the situation is often further worsened by the fact that there isn’t sufficient evidence for the aims/policy of David to pursue some concrete policy, so that even a considerate moderator cannot find a way back to reason.

The Goliaths can defend themselves more effectively by adopting David’s own tactics by disguising themselves as David. Undercover agents and collaborators can be more useful than aircraft carriers.

The history of the guerrillas shows that a third party, trusted by both sides, is needed to mediate in a conflict. In this case the pliability of the Goliath is important, as it was for the termination of the war in Vietnam and in South Africa.

In the Middle East the explosive situation in Palestine continues to be the fuel for a permanent fire. The vague goals of militant Muslim organisations – as represented by the hatred of Osama bin Laden – make the efforts of moderators futile. It has to be clear that the West in all its complexity does not want to suppress the nations of the East. All our vows “We do not want that” are confuted by the inconsistency of the actions of the West. See also for this Samuel P. Huntington The Clashes of Civilisations.

If the Western nations can overcome the deficiencies of their policies, at least their position will become clear. Between war and politics there exists a correlation with its own special inherent rules: If the structure of the political goals is not clearly defined in both the heads of the Goliaths as well as the Davids, then all the wars – be it guerrilla, world, total, cold, or a war of nations – will take an unhappy course, that is, it won’t serve any political aim. This is true for both sides of the conflict. This is above all very important for Afghanistan. Obama's Cairo address  (June 4th 2009) to the Islamic World  can only lead to peace, if the Western World solved  the contradictions with the civilian population.

There is undoubtedly some frustration in the Third World against the “so-called developed countries”. They believe they are merely being used as a source of raw material rather than as important partners in the world economy. The developed countries in their international corporations currently rule the global economy and seem to withhold the participation of the developing countries. As a first step, the major oil producing countries - mainly Islamic - could be invited to such gatherings as the G8 summit and similar institutions. This would signal an effective landmark towards peaceful co-operation progress.

The measures now being taken as part of the “War on Terror” are mere defence. The only identifiable political aim is the conservation of the status quo. But the inherent laws of war call for a creative will to reorganize the political relations. Otherwise every measure is mere reaction and the guerrillero David will continue his efforts to force the Goliath to accept his political goals. If on the other hand the aims of David are not clear or only achievable in his dreams while the Goliaths do not accept the help of a moderator and remain immovable for a long time, both sides are in a no win situation. This leads to permanent, chaotic warfare.

 © 2007 Gustav Adolf Pourroy

German Version David und Goliath