Guerilla Warfare History: The Ties That Bind… Chairman Mao, Che Guevera and Al-Qaeda


Mao Tse-tung borrowed the revolutionary vanguard from Vladimir Lenin, Ernesto “Che” Guevara liked Mao’s ideas about sanctuaries, and Al Qaeda valued Guevara’s focoist approach to global insurgency.  At first glance, the revolutionary strategies of Mao, Guevara, and the intellectuals who devised Al Qaeda’s doctrine for jihad have much in common.  They integrated violence into the greater political struggle, viewed the support of the people as essential to the revolution, and stressed the importance of an intellectual vanguard to lead the revolt and ensure military ways and means aligned with political ends.  A closer look, however, reveals differences in how Mao, Guevara, and Al Qaeda tailored their approaches to suit the unique needs of the rebellions they led and the strategic environments in which they fought.  A deeper assessment also develops a fuller understanding of revolutions and insurgencies, and inform an approach to fighting the Islamic State, or Daesh.

Mao, Guevara, and Al Qaeda revealed their beliefs about revolutionary warfare in their writings.  Mao outlined his thoughts in two seminal documents, On Guerrilla Warfare and On Protracted War, both of which detailed his strategy to unite China and defeat Japan in the 1930s and 1940s.  Guevara wroteGuerrilla Warfare: A Method to guide his post-Cuba revolutionary efforts in Bolivia and the Congo in the 1960s.  Three authors – Abu ‘Ubeid Al-Qurashi, Abu Mu’sab al-Suri, and Abu Bakr Naji – provided the backbone to Al Qaeda’s approach to global jihad in essays published in the early to mid-2000s.

Mao, Guevara, and Al Qaeda agreed that violence should support the revolutionary struggle, but they disagreed about whether it should be the most important factor fueling the rebellion.  In the initial stage of the revolt, Mao viewed political agitation as being the main effort, with military action in a supporting role.[i]  The movement needed to first build the infrastructure by organizing, consolidating, and securing base areas before guerrillas could launch attacks against regime forces as part of a counteroffensive.[ii] Coherent political action needed to be a precondition for the armed struggle, according to Mao.  “Without a political goal, guerrilla warfare must fail, as it must if its political objectives do not coincide with the aspirations of the people and their sympathy, cooperation, and assistance cannot be gained,” he wrote.[iii]  Mao argued that a revolutionary war could not be constrained into military action alone – the rebellion also required complementary economic, social, and psychological elements that allowed the revolutionaries to establish a new state structure.[iv]

Like Mao, Guevara and Al Qaeda viewed violence as essential to the revolution.  Unlike Mao, they saw violence as the primary effort in the early part of the revolt, setting the conditions to provoke a wider rebellion.[v]  Guevara used military action as a form of “armed propaganda,” in the words of Regis Debray, that triggered a reaction from the regime, with the backlash providing a sharp contrast between the regime’s repressive, abusive power and the guerrillas fighting for the people’s freedom.  The foco, the small guerrilla center or base, would spark the revolution.[vi]  “Violence is not only for the use of the exploiters; the exploited can use it too, and what is more, ought to use it at the opportune moment,” Guevara wrote.[vii]  Similarly, Al Qaeda saw military action as a tool to foment its political movement.  InThe Management of Savagery, Naji devoted a chapter to the primacy and characteristics of violence in the jihad.  “If we are not violent in our jihad and if softness seizes us, that will be a major factor in the loss of the element of strength, which is one of the pillars of the Umma of the Message,” he wrote.[viii]  Naji also justified brutal tactics such as burning to death captured enemy forces, apostates, and infidels because the subsequent shock value deterred opponents and attracted new fighters to the cause.[ix] Through the use of small, dispersed bands of focoist guerrillas, Al Qaeda fought a global insurgency that used violence to control territory and radicalize the people.[x]  “Every military battle,” Qurashi concluded, “is a speech that aims at increasing revolutionary awareness.”[xi]

Mao, Guevara, and Al Qaeda recognized the importance of popular support, but their differing conceptions of what constitutes a people’s war are notable.  Mao and Guevara customized their revolutionary narratives to the agrarian realities of China and Cuba, respectively, reframing a Marxist-Leninist proletariat revolt into a rural uprising to capitalize on the grievances and additional manpower the latter could provide.  Guevara even deemphasized the plight of the urban proletariat.  “No matter how hard the living conditions of the urban workers are, the rural population lives under even more horrible conditions of oppression and exploitation,” Guevara wrote.[xii]  After continuous attacks by rural guerrillas diminished the ranks of regime forces, the working class and urban masses could eventually join the revolution and participate in a decisive battle, according to Guevara.  Al Qaeda also subscribed to Mao’s conception of a people’s war, attempting to leverage social, political, and economic grievances to recruit more fighters to the jihad.  Qurashi wrote that the mujahidin could not be defeated “because they are part of the people and they hid among the masses.  This strategy is enough to end the superiority of advanced weapons, which are primarily designed for use in open areas with well-defined features.”  As a result, “stateless nations” have the ability to defeat nation-states, Qurashi concluded.[xiii]  Writing about the mujahidin fight against Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, Naji stressed the need to revive “dogma and jihad in the hearts of the Muslim masses,” particularly after witnessing “the example and model of these poor, Afghani people – their neighbors – in jihad.  They were able to remain steadfast in the face of the strongest military arsenal and the most vicious army (in the world) with respect to the nature of its members at that time.”[xiv]


Guevara and Al Qaeda agreed that people living within the foco do not necessarily need to be on the side of the rebellion at the beginning of the struggle, and that it might be necessary to build the revolution externally, using foreign fighters, to spark the revolution and spur neutral locals to the cause.  Guerrilla violence – and the oppressive regime’s response to the violence – could radicalize neutrals living in rebel sanctuaries.  “We should not be afraid of violence, the midwife of new societies; only such violence should be unleashed precisely at the moment when the people’s leaders find circumstances most favourable,” Guevara wrote.[xv]

Yet both Guevara and Al Qaeda encountered significant problems trying to harness local grievances to their focoist approach.  Guevara and his Cuban vanguard failed to inspire a larger revolt in the Congo in 1964 and struggled to gain local support from the local populace in Bolivia in 1965 – the latter campaign ending with Che’s capture and execution at the hands of government forces.[xvi]  Similarly, Al Qaeda has had difficulty aligning myriad local grievances into a global jihad.[xvii] “Political, economic, social and geographic conditions differ radically across the Muslim world,” wrote Mark Stout.  “Hence, it is difficult to imagine that a generic blueprint for revolution will work in all countries.”[xviii]

Mao, Guevara, and Al Qaeda all stressed the need for an intellectual vanguard to lead the revolution, educate the masses, and ensure military actions aligned with political objectives. Both Mao and Guevara discussed the importance of synchronization of military and political objectives.  Without any irony, they prescribed the use of political elites to lead revolts with the ultimate goal of a dictatorship of the proletariat and equality among all people.  “The war that we are fighting today for the emancipation of the Chinese is a part of the war for the freedom of all human beings, and the independent, happy, and liberal China that we are fighting to establish fighting today will be a part of that new world order,” Mao wrote.  “A conception like this is difficult for the simple-minded militarist to grasp and it must therefore be carefully explained to him.”[xix]  Guevara also defined the relationship between the political elites leading the revolution and the rural guerrillas who provide the bulk of the manpower and support from the foco.  “The peasantry is a class which, because of the ignorance in which it has been kept and the isolation in which it lives, requires the revolutionary and political leadership of the working class and the revolutionary intellectuals,” Guevara wrote.  “Without that it cannot alone launch the struggle and achieve victory.”  The vanguard bears a special responsibility to ensure the people are aware of the political objectives for which they are fighting, according to Suri.  “It is necessary that an elite bears the costs of reviving the jihad in people’s reality after it has been completely forgotten,” he wrote.[xx]  Al Qaeda’s vanguard would design a military campaign that exhausted enemy forces and drained regime coffers, as well as a media strategy that recruited new jihadists and marginalized those who refused to join, according to Naji.[xxi]  “The people will be patient with us as long as we are in the vanguard of those who are patient,” he wrote.  “But if we begin to complain, lament, and worry from now on, then the people have the right to be worried (about us).”[xxii]


Mao, Guevara, and Al Qaeda each developed a framework for revolution and guerrilla warfare shaped by their respective experiences in China, Cuba, and parts of the world where totalitarian Islamism thrived.  Although Mao himself never tried to export revolution beyond Asia, his ideas found receptive audiences among rebellions around the world.  Guevara borrowed the chairman’s ideas about political action, violence, popular support, and an intellectual vanguard to fit the conditions of his revolts in Cuba, Latin America, and Africa.  Both Mao and Guevara influenced Al Qaeda’s leading thinkers, who stressed the primacy of violence in setting the conditions for the revolution and the value of brutal tactics that shocked opponents into obedience and radicalized new members.  Although Mao, Guevara, and many of Al Qaeda’s leaders and thinkers are dead, their ideas have lived on to shape Daesh the next generation of revolutionaries.

Read the Original Article at Small Wars Journal

Socialism Sucks: The Political Rehabilitation of Che’ Guevera


It might surprise some of you to hear that I can be completely unreasonable and even aggressive about certain issues; the rest of you already know me well enough to expect it. I left all my social skills someplace in Eastern Europe.

I’ve even been known to make an ass out of myself in public when faced with certain issues… but I do have a reasonable side – I just try never to show it unless I’m about to be arrested and I think it will help.

I made a rare foray out to civilization last week and I found myself standing in line at Wal-Mart;  in front of a man in his late 20’s, with his wife and what appeared to be 3 adolescent  boys.

He was wearing a Lenin lapel pin on his hat, the kind that every idiot western tourist bought at the Moscow Olympics in the 80’s, and a brand new Che’ tee-shirt. The kind you can get from Amazon for 19.99 any day of the week.

By the time I regained control, I had poked the little SOB in the chest and asked him what the F*** was wrong with him. I asked his wife if it made her proud to mother children to someone with less common sense than a syphilitic baboon, then I asked the boys how it felt to have a traitor POS  for a father.

Needless to say I caused a scene but I did realize I was out of line in offering to beat him to a puddle of pink puss in public, so I turned back to my purchases and kind of hoped he would  jump me from behind.

He and his family changed lines and I made my purchases and left, but I caught myself cruising the parking lot as I left – almost hoping to catch him and beat his ass in front of his kids.

I apologize if that offends any of you but it is the most honest window into what happens inside of me when I am faced with anyone who is idiot enough to accept Democratic Socialism, or promote it… I’ve been there, done that – I have the scars to prove it.    But I also came to a realization – the look in this clown’s face told me he really had no clue why some  guy old enough to be his grandfather was accosting him in public.

I think I hurt his feelings. It would still have made me feel good to mash his face but in reality he was a victim of his own upbringing and ignorance – he didn’t  mean it to be an insult – he just didn’t know any better.

 That guy in Wal-Mart had an excuse – President Obama  does NOT.


The President should have enough sense or have advisors who have enough sense to keep him from exhibiting the same level of stupidity as the man in Wal-Mart.


This isn’t like when Nixon dealt with Mao or when Bush puked in Japan, both of them kept distance from anything that would honor tyrants.  It appears we are experiencing the official rehabilitation of Che’ Guevara.

The worst ass beating I ever took as a kid was when I was about 14. I cut school and hitch-hiked to San Francisco to go to a Jefferson Starship concert.  When I came  home the next day,  I was wearing a Che’ Guevara tee-shirt, much like the one I saw in Wal-Mart.

I think the entire neighborhood came out to watch as my father educated me on Che’ Guevara . Today someone would have called the police and called it child abuse.  It was just good sense correction in my mind – I never got a beating I didn’t need and I’m relatively stable as an adult.

Che’ Guevara was arguably one of the most heinous individuals who ever walked the earth. He ranks right up there with Mengele, Trotsky and Ali Hassan al-Majid.

Born better off than most and steeped in left wing Socialist ideology, Ernesto “Che’ ” Guevara wasn’t much different than some we see today. The ones who have become so enamored with either the extreme right or the extreme left.

Armed with a pie-in-the-sky outlook on all things social and political, they follow blindly. All that matters is that pie-in-the-sky perception, regardless of what else is involved.

The biggest difference between Che’ in the beginning and the Sandersites and Teabaggers, Trumpites and Hillabites of today is they  just don’t know any better.

Che’, On the other hand, figured it out and decided he liked it. Che’ found himself between a hypothetical ideology (Jesus style Socialism) and the reality of Soviet style Democratic Socialism.

A man of his stature, educated and politically  ignorant, is always a prize for any tyrant. Che’ was recruited and welcomed by the Castro brothers. He participated in the Cuban revolution and is consistently reported to have been a true coward under fire.

His connection to Castro was his only leadership qualification, but Che’ saw himself as Castro’s successor.

After the Revolution, Che’ served as one of Castro’s closest advisors, Cuban Ambassador to the USSR, and eventually Castro put him in charge of the infamous La Cabaña prison.

At La Cabaña, Che’ not only gave the orders to torture, rape and kill enemies of the state; he took great pleasure in doing it himself.   Enemies of the state like, Christian pastors, Nuns, homosexuals, Jews, Russellites, Pentecostals and anyone else that opposed Democratic Socialism and refused collectivism.

LA Cabana

By 1964 Cuba’s economy was a shambles and became directly tied to the Soviet Union. It was time to spread the cancer.

Che’ went to Congo first, where he helped start a disastrous and failed revolution; then on to Bolivia to further spread Democratic Socialism by force.

By this time the CIA was hunting him in an effort to get our hands on him and turn him. Che’ was a man void of integrity and honor, he could have easily been turned and used for a while before we let him be executed.

The Bolivians in conjunction with the CIA caught Che’ in 1966 and in spite of U.S. protests and requests to give him to us, they put him down like the rabid dog he was.

I only tell you that story to point out that there is something seriously wrong when the President of the United States doesn’t have enough common sense or competent advisors to NOT allow him to be put in a position where he can be used as a propaganda tool.

Some things are simply not forgivable. It might be Diplomatic common sense to reopen relationships with Cuba and might even be ok to show respect to their office of president – even if it’s held by one of the Castro bros – But…

Che’ cannot be rehabilitated any more than Stalin or Mao can. The record of his deeds cannot be softened enough to make anything about him acceptable.

If you think my reaction to the Che’ tee-shirt was bad, you should see how Cuban Americans reacted to the image. For a Cuban American to see President Obama posing in front of a mural that honors Che’ Guevara must have been like a Jew seeing a President honoring Joseph Mengele.

I’ve been on advanced party for VIPs – I know for a fact that someone was assigned to reconnoiter every venue the President would be appearing in – what idiot let him take a stage in front of Che’s wall without a backdrop?

All he had to say was “No”; we don’t honor scum like Che’.


Would it have angered the Castro Regime? – damn strait it would have… but that would have been a good move.

They need us much more than we need them, showing weakness is never a good negotiation tool

Before you get a tee-shirt with a face you don’t really know or get a SPQR tattoo, at least educate yourself to who it is and what it means.


If you are either swearing loyalty to the city of Rome or your politics are so extreme right wing that you are a Fascist or hard core  NAZI, then an SPQR tattoo might be appropriate .

If you are so far left that you embrace Democratic Socialism ; then a Che’ Guevara or Lenin t-shirt will fit you just fine…but at least know what it means and embrace it.

Understand that even if you were told it means something else – When you sport an image of an enemy figure or a NAZI or Communist slogan, you are telling the world you are an enemy of the United States and that you embrace Tyranny.

The Sheeple routine is unbecoming of free men.

Movie’s on Guerilla Warfare


Since my last post on Guerilla Warfare, I thought I would gather up for you guys some movies on Netflix about Guerilla Warfare you could peruse this summer that are both entertaining, educational and provide some context for  your study.


The Liberator

This movie documents the life and exploits of Simon Bolivar, quite possibly, one of the most influential figures in the history of the South American continents struggle to be free of the Spanish Empire in the 19th Century. Although this movie is not so much about Guerilla Warfare per se, I included it because I feel it is important for the student of Military History and GW to understand how the struggle to be free of COLONIAL powers all across the globe was the “spark” that often ignited Guerilla insurgencies, such as The Boer War, The Malaysian Emergency and the Algerian Civil War. I was actually surprised at how good this movie was overall.. although most of it is in Spanish or French and is sub-titled, the scenery, historic detail and action scenes are top notch. Plus it stars two big name actors, Edgar Ramirez (Zero Dark Thirty)  and Danny Huston (X Men Origins: Wolverine).



No matter your feelings on the Communist Revolutionary, Guevara represents an integral part of the history of the evolution of Guerilla Warfare. His manual, Guerilla Warfare, published in 1969 and mostly drawing from his experiences during the Cuban Revolution, was one of the first published manuals on the subject. The movie goes into detail into the actual ground work (by showing the early years of the Cuban Revolution) that had to be laid for a Guerilla insurgency to function, not with standing the military and tactical aspect, the Guerilla army first had to be disciplined so as to be able to sway the local populace to their side. They did this by not putting any hardship on the peasant families (such as stealing food or supplies) and offering any services they could easily provide (Guevara was a trained Physician, so they offered free medical care to all the peasant villages). Very well made and financed movie. Directed by Steven Soderbergh and Starring Benicio Del Toro.


The Wind that Shakes the Barley

This is a MUST SEE for the student of Guerilla Warfare; not just because it is an awesome movie, but it is also very accurate in it’s historical detail. An early study of the beginnings of the IRA in the 1920’s, it shows in graphic detail the brutality the Irish faced at the hands of their British taskmasters and attempts to validate why, the Irish, were in turn, often so harsh in their retaliations against the British. It tracks the evolution of the formation of early IRA “brigades” which conducted raids, ambushes and political assassinations and eventually ends up going into the Irish Civil War which broke out over disagreements over the eventual “Peace” treaty with England, which continued to rage on for another 70 years. This movie is considered a classic in Ireland, kind of the way we view Saving Private Ryan; it is a piece of their vital history. It stars Cillian Murphy, who you might know from Peaky Blinders and 28 Days Later.


Intimate Enemies

A French Film with sub-titles, this movie tracks the Algerian War of Independence, which in terms of studying Guerilla Warfare is a red letter date event. When studying how Guerilla Warfare has changed over the centuries, one of the re-occurring themes you will come across again and again is the REBELLION AGAINST COLONIAL POWERS , namely, Spain, England and France. Besides the study of the Boer War, The French Algerian War offers some of the best hindsight in WHAT NOT TO DO when fighting a counter-insurgency, namely:

  • The torture of prisoners and mistreatment of the indigenous populace.
  •  Not educating your military force on the local religion and culture (islam) can be a severe detriment in knowing how to earn peoples respect and trust.

While on this subject, one needs to also study how France, before Algeria, fought an uphill and eventual losing battle in French Indochina, a pre-cursor (and harbinger as it were) to America’s long and bloody struggle in Vietnam.



Although this movie is not a direct study of GW, it offers an informative if not disturbing look at Middle Eastern and European Political Terrorism in the 1970’s, and one of the most ruthless and notorious terrorist and hired killers of that time, Carlos the Jackal. This is a foreign made film with some sub-titles, but don’t let that discourage you. It is very well made with an excellent story and acting. Again, it stars Edgar Ramirez, from the Liberator, as Carlos.

Stay Alert, Stay Informed, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!


Netflix Flicks Worth your Time

Even with the recent Announcement that Netflix is yet again raising it’s monthly rate of $7.99 to $8.99 for new members, (current members get their current rate of $7.99 locked for 2 years) I still feel that a lot of you out there (me included) will continue their subscription.

In that case, here are a few movies the CO should check out if they have not already:


  • Flame and Citron

No, this is not some weird foreign documentary on cross-dressing midgets. This is the astounding TRUE story of two actual members of the Danish Resistance (the Holger Danske) in World War 2. Read a short, informative history HERE.  A word of caution: It is sub-titled, but I assure you the realism and action throughout the film will more than make up for it; Lots of cool WW2 era weapons too. If you are like me, when you watch this movie, you will find something really gratifying about watching people grow a set of balls and take up for their homeland and their beliefs, no matter the cost. Something ALL Americans can learn from at this time in our History….

  • Che 

As in Che Guevera, the marxist guerilla who helped Fidel Castro in the Cuban Revolution. Yeah, I know, I hate the guy too, and like all of you got really tired and pissed off seeing teenagers wearing shirts idolizing the asshole like he was some kind of rockstar.

The Director, Steven Soderbergh, who did films like Contagion, Oceans 11 and Traffic, does not seek to glamorize the life of Guevera in this film however, but rather show the rough and hard life of a Marxist Guerilla Insurgent during the throws of the Cold War. The show has relevancy for the CO to study also because it shows the in’s and out’s of Guerilla Warfare and Counter-Insurgency at the same time. You get a real feel for the tactics and the politics from both sides. It also parallels really well that what worked for Castro and Guevera in Cuba failed miserably in Bolivia where Che was ultimately cornered and killed with the help of the CIA. Word of warning: Most of the film is sub-titled, as Spanish is spoken throughout.

  • Carlos

Yeah, I know what you are thinking..”Wow, this guy really likes foreign history films!” since all of my picks so far have been obviously made across the pond, deal with subject that happened decades ago and involve people other than Americans! The key is though, and I have discovered this over the years: Don’t knock them until you have really tried them! Take this movie: Carlos, about the notorious terrorist, Carlos the Jackal. This movie is awesome if you want to learn about the european and middle eastern state sponsored terrorism of the 70’s. Plus, along the way, learn how the Urban Guerilla movement of the 70’s evolved. It is spot on historically accurate and is packed with plenty of gun play and action throughout. The coolest thing about this movie to me was that again, it did not seek to glamorize Carlos, but show him for what he truly was: an egotistical, arrogant coward. OhYeah, almost the other two, most of the movie is sub-titled, so be warned!!!


  • The Wind that Shakes the Barley

The story of the early beginnings of the Irish Resistance against the British in 1919 Ireland. The story revolves around the County Cork Brothers, who both join the IRA early on and then later, wind up fighting each other in the Irish Civil War. This is a very interesting and in-depth story about not only the IRA but the history of Ireland as a whole. It is fascinating to see a group of men literally change the course of history by their actions. Good news on this one..No subtitles!!


  • The Man Nobody Knew: In Search of my Father, CIA Spymaster William Colby

I will warn you ahead of time, if biographical type documentaries are not your thing, you might not like this one. For me, it touches on two of my favorite subjects: The CIA and the Cold War. It is directed by Colby’s son, and the entire theme of the movie is him basically interviewing various people, including his mother, extensively trying to find out more about his dad, former CIA Director William Colby. It touches on Colby’s early time in the OSS, then on to his early career in the newly formed CIA. What I found most interesting, was Colby’s first assignment in Italy right after WW2, when the order of the day was stopping the Italian Communist Party from gaining power. Most people do not realize how close Italy came to becoming a full blown Communist state and by consequence, a Soviet pawn. You can thank Bill Colby for that little known early cold war victory. The latter part goes into the CIA “Witch-hunt” Senate Inquiries of the 70’s that would eventually run Colby out of the CIA. This one is worth your time!