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Posted December 19, 2003

A Brief History of the Resistance (exerts), as written by Jay Wink, author of "April 1865: The Mouth That Saved America," in the New York Times of December 16, 2003, Op-Ed page

  • The word "guerrilla" comes from the Spanish insurgency against France in the early 1800's - a campaign, seemingly without leaders or direction, that at one point tied up of Napoleon's armies.
  • At the turn of the 20th century, the heavily outnumbered Boers in South Africa staved off the mightiest force in the globe, the British empire, for four long years.
  • In the late 1950's and early 60's the Algerians used guerrilla tactics with devastating success against the far more powerful French.
  • The Khemer Rouge employed them to come to power in Cambodia almost 30 years ago.
  • The Palestinian forces have relied on these tactics for almost three decades against Israel.
  • Five hundred years before the coming of Jesus, the ceaseless harassment and lightening strikes of the nomadic Scythians blunted the best efforts by King Darius I if Persia to subdue them.
  • In Spain in the second century B.C., the Romans suffered humiliating defeats and required several decades to surmount the tactics of the Lusitanians and Celtiberians.
  • Later, in Wales, the conquering English endured some 200 years of acrimonious struggle before they prevailed.
  • And Napoleon, of course, was forced to give up on the Iberian Peninsula only a few years after he occupied it.
  • As a dispatch from north Africa to King Louis-Philippe of France in 1833 stated: "We have surpassed in barbarity the barbarians we came to civilize."
  • Missouri, an American slave state that did not secede, was deeply divided in the war. As a result it was consumed by a nearly unbreakable cycle of revenge and retaliation; houses and towns were torched, trains and stages were attacked, steamboats came under repeated sniper fire. Enemies were not just killed, they were often mutilated. In turn, federal troops took their own bloody revenge. And the true victims, of course, were innocent civilians squeezed between the warring parties.
  • As one of Abraham Lincoln's generals mourned, "No policy worked; every effort poured fuel on the fire." Another put it more fearfully:guerrilla war, he said, was "the external visitation of evil." In the end, Missouri was saved not by the forces that inhabited its borders, but by Robert E. Lee's surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox and a decision by Southern fighters, including Lee, to reject pleas to continue a guerrilla conflict.
  • In Russia in 1773 and 1774, Catherine the Great stamped out the Pugachev rebellion before dissent swept the nation by capturing and killing Emilian Pugachev himself.
  • In 1989, Khemer Rouge forces failed to return to power in Cambodia because after Vietnam's withdrawal they lacked widespread support and because the international community joined together to set in motion a more representative Cambodian government.
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