The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

Mao and Current Insurgencies

There are a wide variety of insurgent groups who have operated against U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. Very few, if any, have followed a Maoist strategy. Some analysists believe that this fact proves that Mao’s Revolutionary War theory is not relevant to the type of adversaries faced by the U.S. in the GWOT. Are these analysists correct?

March 21, 2014 - Posted by | H300, military history, Professional Military Education | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I believe those who think the US has not encountered or gone against Maoist revolutionary strategy focused insurgencies during GWOT may be overly focused on Iraq and Afghanistan and need to not only expand their aperture to a woldwide view but also accept that, as Mao did not focus on quick victory, are we confident that every insurgencies we’ve encountered isn’t capable drawing strength from their political efforts until they can rebuild guerrilla forces to continue? A specific example of what seems to at least closely follow the Mao’s philosophy is the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the Philippines.

    The US and US forces, through JTF and JSOTF structures, have had a constant presence in the Mindanao region of the Philippines since early in the GWOT. Since the 1970’s MILF has viewed itself as political focused revolution vice a criminal insurgency. MILF demonstrated flexibility and prepared for the long war rather than quick victory, building guerrilla forces to launch attacks and even forming much more of a conventional force. While there were tactical defeats of MILF, the group did not suffer a strategic defeat and was always able to rebuild guerrilla and conventional forces to continue to reach for their political aims.

    Despite MILF’s connection to and coordinated terrorist acts with Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), which originally formed inside MILF, the Government of the Philippines continued to recognize them politically and to broker/contract cease fires while working toward a peace accord; which many foreign nations helped broker or at least bring the stakeholders together at the table. While this may seem unconscionable based on the history, tactics and affiliations of MILF, the government of the Philippines just signed a peace treaty with MILF that creates a large autonomous state in Southern Mindanao.

    MILF’s basic adherence to Maoist principles resulted in regional autonomy after over forty years of violence. It will be very interesting to see official US and worldwide reaction to this peace treaty based on MILF’s history as well as how MILF operates from this point on, including affiliation or connection with other regional and worldwide insurgencies.

    I think the real question now becomes: how far do the ripples caused by success of long standing insurgencies reach? Will MILF success inspire and bolster other splinter groups in the Philippines? Will MILF inspire insurgency strategy and tactics outside the region in locations in South America, Africa and the Middle East?

    Comment by LCDR Matthew Krull | March 27, 2014

  2. An additional BBC reading on the recent MILF peace accord, as well as a great photo of MILF “conventional” forces, can be found at

    Comment by LCDR Matthew Krull | March 27, 2014

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