Guerrilla Warfare

America and Europe are only now learning in the hard way the elementary facts of modern political struggle. It is above all a battle of ideas and, as I pointed out long ago, it is impossible to enter that struggle effectively without an idea.

I contended in The European Situation (1950) that these issues in the future would be decided not by regular military forces but by political guerrillas fighting for an idea. The man who won the battle would be half soldier and half politician because his primary objective must be winning the support of the civilian population. He would emerge from the dark to strike and then retire to the protecting shadows; the sympathy and sustenance of the civilian population would ensure his victory. It was what happened in elementary form during my experience of the Irish guerilla fighting, and the memory remained with me as a useful lesson years later in considering larger spheres.

The resistance of guerillas to the strength of America in Vietnam has proved the ability of such a method to baffle regular armies even when supported by a completely dominant air force. This American tragedy proves to the hilt the case I have urged since 1950; it will now remain for united Europe to repair the damage, and in the meantime to do what it can to extricate a friend with the minimum possible loss from a situation he should never have entered.

Nuclear paralysis The new guerrilla technique, baffling even the overwhelming power of America, was easily foreseeable, and was described in detail in my European Situation (1950). It can and will be applied with far more effect in ever wider regions if we continue simply to rely on the orthodox military tradition. The soldier alone is insufficient, he must be preceded and accompanied by a political idea and those skilled in its use. The day of the man who is half soldier and half politician has arrived. This fact begins to be understood in jungle warfare as a result of the American experience in Vietnam, but the further and more important fact does not yet appear to be grasped: urbanised guerrilla warfare can be decisive in future war between great or lesser powers.

The political soldier who wins the support of the civilian population, and who is armed with the new light weapons science will provide, can defeat even great powers armed with nuclear weapons which cannot be used against an enemy interwoven with normal city life. It will then certainly be found that to win a war which is basically a war of ideas it is necessary first to have an idea. This main thesis of The European Situation was developed within the ambience of a general situation which I described as the age of the paralysed giants, meaning that the deterrent of nuclear weapons would be so great that it would inhibit full-scale war.

I wrote: ‘It has often been said that wars would end because they would become too dangerous. That prophecy has never yet proved true. It would be a delusion of optimism to believe that it is now true. But it is possible, and even probable, that wars in the old style will now end for this reason. What state will declare war, or attack and destroy another state, if it also is certain to be destroyed? A fight in which both participants are certain to be killed is unlikely to take place. Has the world reached this point? From the evidence it appears to be so. It seems that any concentration of industry or life itself can now be destroyed by any state which has the technical means to produce sufficient hydrogen bombs and to ensure their delivery. The protection even of space and the power of dispersal begins to disappear in face of such weapons. The life of any modern state, or even of a substantial community, becomes impossible under this attack.

‘Do these weapons, therefore, encourage such attack? On the contrary, a weapon which can destroy everything may be a deterrent, but it is not a winner of wars. The attacker may destroy his opponent, but the counter-blow can still be delivered, and he himself will be destroyed. At present this is the only answer, but it is effective. The Soviets cannot impose communism on the rest of the world with this weapon, even if they can obtain it. They can only make the rest of the world a desert. That is why wars between states in the old style may come to an end. Neither of the great power groups will dare to move because that would mean death to both. We are reaching the period of the paralysed giants.’

Three and a half years after I published this view Sir Winston Churchill said in the House of Commons on November 3, 1953: ‘It may be that the annihilating character of new weapons may bring an utterly unforeseeable security to mankind. When the advance of destructive weapons enables everyone to kill everyone else, no one will want to kill anyone at all.’ Three years later, on May 21, 1956, Mr. Walter Lippmann wrote in the NewYork Herald Tribune: ‘Thanks to Churchill’s genius, the West was ahead of the Soviets in realising the political consequences of the second military revolution, that of the hydrogen bomb. This second revolution has led us to the acknowledgment at the summit meeting in Geneva that the great nuclear powers themselves are in military stalemate and that they cannot contemplate war as an instrument of their policies.’ How much can be saved if facts are recognised sooner?

Britain should not tour the Far East with nuclear guarantees or equivocal evasions, but give a clear definition of its own position and suggest constructive policies designed to secure a new equilibrium. China is a fact in the Far East and its natural sphere of influence is among related peoples in south-east Asia. What matters is to prevent it going any further by force of arms; the idea of communism we should always be ready to match with a better and a stronger idea. Once spheres of influence are established and maintained, if necessary by the power of arms, the future can be decided by a battle of ideas reinforced by the success or weakened by the failure of political systems within the respective spheres of influence, and rightly so.

The balance to China—non-proliferation Where force is necessary to prevent aggression it should be effective action natural to the region, not a remote intervention from alien power. Asian affairs should be settled by Asians, and European or American influence should be confined to assisting such developments by wise and helpful policy. A natural balance to Chinese influence in Asia would be a combination between India and Japan. The energy and executive ability of Japan would be a support to India, and the Indian potential market would be a challenge and an outlet to the constructive capacities of Japan. All the influence of Western diplomacy should be devoted to promoting such developments. Instead of tramping around with much trumpeting of Western morality, which usually ends in the pathetic squeak of precipitate retreat, we should strive for some practical solution on a sound and durable regional basis, maintained and inspired by Asian ideas.

A sphere of mutual economy and defence could peaceably, but in the event of danger effectively, encircle China and south-east Asia from Japan to India, and could include in its circumference many of the Pacific islands and intermediate lands, without any intervention in the legitimate interests of China on the mainland of Asia and without any clash, unless that country strove to pass beyond its natural sphere by force of arms. A combination of Japan with the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia could provide a market with a population almost as large as the European Common Market, and the further connection for these purposes with India would bring together a population as large as that of China.

If the emergence of an Indian-Japanese combination proved possible, the attraction of that vast economic and power potential might induce Pakistan to overcome differences with India and to join it as an alternative to an alignment with the Moslem world. Until we can secure universal disarmament the Western powers should certainly consider assisting a combination of India and Japan to acquire nuclear weapons. The non-proliferation of nuclear weapons might move from abortive discussion to a practical achievement if, on the basis of a general settlement of spheres of influence, the possession of these weapons could be confined to a five-power bloc: America, Europe, Russia, China, India-Japan. This is in my view a preferable arrangement to guarantees by Western powers which the East may suspect will not be honoured, and can bring world war if they are implemented. There are many fascinating possibilities for a dynamic diplomacy which seeks a realistic peace in place of a moral posturing which masks the imposition of alien systems.

Having established the principle that intervention in Asia by force of arms is not our business and ends inevitably in a frustration costly of both blood and treasure, we should use our influence to secure peace—but not hand out guarantees which can involve us in war. Asians must assume their own responsibilities, and this will be the making of their civilisation.