Is Guirrella Warfare A Viable Option?

I think this idea is interesting and dangerous at the same time, but worth a discussion, because it is possible. 

Can Taiwan use guerrilla warfare?  I think the answer is yes.  But unfortunately it cannot be the principle strategy IMO, because:

  • Taiwan’s territory is small, which makes guerrilla warfare much more difficult.
  • Taiwan is an island, unlike Vietnam and Afghanistan, where smuggling operation is easier.  Vietnam use the neighboring countries territory, underground and jungle as cover, while Afghanistan has complex mountain terrain as cover.  Taiwan does not have those for continuing importing supply.
  •  The only similar and successful scenario is the guerrilla war of Cuba.  But that one is overthrowing a domestic government, who cannot keep reinforcing the troops like what the US is doing now in Afghanistan.  China, on the other hand, can continuously throw in troops if they have the air and sea superiority, and by the way, they have a lot of troops.
  • guerrilla warfare always means extremely higher casualties for the guerrilla “winner.”  Yes, Afgan won over Soviet Union, and the Taliban seems to have a chance of winning now, and Vietnam won as well.  However, all those guerrilla winners suffer much higher casualties. 
  • guerrilla war does not automatically result in winning, contrarily to what a lot of guerrilla war supporters think.  There are a lot of guerrilla war failures.  Recent one being the Tamil Tigers.

However, guerrilla war does have its merits.  Special forces etc a lot of times perform extremely well.  One can imagine a Taiwan filled with well equiped special forces and guerrilla militia who are more familiar with Taiwan’s terrain and streets giving Chinese army major headache.  However, I would oppose relying on guerrilla war as a principle strategy, because I think that will divert too much resources onto something that simply cannot win the war.  Remember, Chinese army is not the same as the US army or some 3rd rated police army of some small island.  Their army has superior quantity, unlike the US, and they are not afraid to sacrifice massive amount of their troops (ex. Korean War).  Furthermore, one can argue their soldiers could be more brutal and following less rule of engagement than the US soldiers.  Could guerrilla war win against such enemies?

Also, considering how Afghanistan won their war against Soviet Union.  guerrilla war?  or Stinger Missiles courtesy of the USA?  Probably both.  But it’s obvious that Afghan probably could not have won without the US support.  Similarly, who is to say the Taliban now does not have foreign supports of weapons etc?  Maybe it’s even Chinese who supply them those.  Therefore, I think guerrilla war is a good option in making Chinese invasion more difficult, but it alone cannot safe guard Taiwan.  Other conventional weapons such as helicopters and SAM cannot be discarded.

Another interesting idea related to this is the guerrilla war on the sea, written by some guy.  Although the idea is more of a concept, and its possibility requires more study and planning, the idea is fresh and interesting as well.  The pirates of Somalia certainly demonstrated the possibility of such idea.  However, again, this cannot be the principle strategy and main forces of Taiwanese military (even the author said this is more for a supporting role of the regular navy, if I read him correctly).

UPDATE: Forgot one point.  Even if Taiwan is to establish some form of guerrilla war units, they should probably not be modelled after the ones from Afghan and else where due to Taiwan’s unique environment:

  • High urbanization: while Taiwan has a lot of forest and high mountains, it also has large numbers of cities and towns.  Some of the cities are highly developed.  This makes the environment very different from say Vietnam and Afghanistan.
  • High Tech industries: Taiwan has one advantage over Vietnam and Afghanistan, and that is its high tech industries.  Taiwan manufactures or design computers components, cell phones, scooters, high quality cabin cruisers, fishing boats and countless other commercial products.  It has to utilize this advantage somehow to gain an edge, because guerrilla war means asymmetrical warfare: using your advantages to exploit enemies’ weaknesses.

2 comments so far

  1. Carlos on

    I don’t think the will exists for a protracted campaign in which so many civilians are left vulnerable. And they would be, due to the Taiwan’s population density and the fragility of its infrastructure (especially electrical). And even though the numbers aren’t high, the invaders would receive enough support to function and to undermine resistance movements. You know how little support “troublemakers” get in Taiwan anyway.

    • dixteel on

      Right…I forgot about those red armies that might have already been in Taiwan. So Taiwan actually requires a counter guirrella contingency ready.

      As for support of troublemakers though, the book on maritime guirrella indicated that if there are certain percentage of population support (does not have to be close to 100%), then guirrella war might succeed, even if those supporters do not actively participate. Given that the actually support of Taiwan indepedence is roughly above 50% (probably 60%), the support could be there. However, it is indeed difficult to say how much support would be left once Chinese army took control over the whole island (could be very high or very low). That is actually also one of the reason why the author of the book have the idea of pushing the guirrela warfare outside of Taiwan.

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