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4.3 out of 5 stars
On Guerrilla Warfare
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56 of 60 people found the following review helpful
I read this in high school in the late 1980s and asked myself, "Why wasn't this mandatory reading at West Point in the late 1950s and 1960s?"
This book, in conjunction with Ho Chi Min's writings on the use of guerrilla warfare, is the absolute basic understanding of the Viet Nam War from back BEFORE the French Foreign Legion were fighting for their colony. EVERYTHING, and I do mean EVERYTHING, in this book is used in the fight against the French right up to Dien Bien Phue, and continued up until the fall of Saigon in 1975. EVERYTHING. Why did America lose the Viet Nam War? Read this. How could America have been so wrong to back Ho Chi Min, Chaing Chi Chek, and Kim Il Song, in the Second World War? Read this.
You will say, "Wow" many times throughout the book, and in the end you will ask, "When was this first printed? How the bleep could we have been so wrong?"
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60 of 67 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2004
I think Mao intended this essay to be another one of his theoretical Marxist works (Mao thought of himself as a first-class Marxist theoretician). But without question it also served as an instruction manual for his ragtag Red Army while fighting among the tortuous terrain in northwestern China, in part against Japan, in part against Chiang. Considering his success as a practitioner of guerrilla warfare, one would have to be insane to ignore this work.

I'm struck how short that chapter is on guerrilla wars in history. Mao was widely read in Chinese and world history and it would have been his style to display this knowledge in a work like this had he chosen to do so.

Perhaps Americans should not think of themselves as only at the receiving end of guerrillas. Washington learned this kind of fighting during the French and Indian Wars, and he put some of this experience to good use against a British army better armed, better trained, and greater in numbers than the Continentals. He exploited geography, made surprise raids, used mobility and patience to wear out the red coats - all hallmarks of guerrillas. The all-important Battle of Trenton was such kind of unconventional warfare: an Indian raid, essentially. But it sure got results. Regular or conventional battles like Yorktown only came later, when British impatience was at the breaking point. As Franklin had predicted, the British could and did occupy all the towns - including Philadelphia, New York, and Charleston - up and down the eastern coast but they could not hold onto them. (The comparison with Iraq is irresistible. The redcoats never numbered more than 30,000 or so men, fighting among 2.5 million American civilians. Now America has 5 times as many troops in Iraq (about 150,000) as there were redcoats in the 13 colonies. But Iraq's population is 25 million! And that's not counting foreign fighters from Iraq's neighbors. American guerrillas probably had better geography than Iraqi insurgents but the Iraqis seem more eager to commit suicide missions.)

Mao really could have done better than just cite Russian resistance to Napoleon as an example. (Never mind his other Chinese examples. for the moment.) Apart from Washington, the Spaniards also tore the Grand Armee to pieces with guerrillas - in fact, Spain's where the word came from. Lawrence of Arabia sabotaged Turkish railways in northwestern Arabia (rather like insurgents blowing up Iraq's pipelines) - to great effect. Of course, another great example of guerrilla warfare was the block-by-block, street-to-street fighting at Stalingrad. But always, to my mind, the Teutoberg forest was where guerrillas first made their greatest name in Western history. (I know little Greek history to comment further.) Octavian lost three Roman legions thanks to the German barbarians, and Rome hadn't suffered a panic quite like this since Spartacus.

Believe it or not, Mao got his inspiration not from Lenin (though he paid much lip service to him), not even from Sun Tsu (whom he read only when his military career was over), but from the classic historical novels of ancient China, especially The Water Margins and Three Kingdoms. That he didn't cite these is understandable enough: he always insisted on learning truths from facts, and novels don't provide facts though they do generate interest in the motivated reader. And Mao was nothing if not motivated.

Griffith's extraordinary credentials are not worth repeating here. His intro is excellent. He is dead right that guerrillas thrive anywhere: from the dense jungle of Vietnam to the flat deserts of Iraq. Where there are clear political objectives (knowing the difference between long- and short-term goals), men willing to fight (and die), a will to win, and lots of patience, all it takes is a little hard thinking to make the worst-equipped great guerrilla warriors. Let us learn from the master, not by regurgitating his rules, which he would never have done himself, but by thinking critically and philosophically through his logic.
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42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
"On Guerrilla Warfare," by Mao Tse-Tung, has been translated into English by Samuel B. Griffith II. Griffith also provides a substantial introduction to the text. The book is written in the context of China's guerrilla war against Japanese occupiers; this conflict is mentioned often by Mao. In this book Mao discusses the differences between guerrilla and "orthodox" military forces, as well as how such forces can work together for a common goal. Other topics covered include propaganda and political concerns, the formation of guerrilla units, the qualities of a good guerrilla officer, discipline in a guerrilla army, and guerrilla bases.

Mao stresses the importance of speed, surprise, and initiative in guerrilla war. Among the most interesting sections of the book is a code of conduct for guerrilla fighters. Most of the book is fairly dry and matter-of-fact, but there are welcome flashes of passion, poetic imagery, and global vision that make this more than just a textbook. Translator Griffith notes that Mao's text was first published in 1937. Despite the passage of time, I believe that this is still a relevant text, and I recommend it in particular to all professional military personnel.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 1997
Mao Tse Tung's Book on Guerilla Warfare is basically a condensed version of Sun Tzu's Art of war. Most of the text and even layout follow that of Samual Griffith's translation of Sun Tzu's Art of war.

For those not familar with Sun Tzu's Art of war it is a treatise on warfare and the things that effect it. Considered a classic along with Jomini and Clauswitz, With that said, Is Mao Tse Tung's Book on Guerilla Warfare worth getting? In my opinion, yes. Why? Both Sun Tzu's and Mao Tse Tung's book on warfare are directly translated into from the original Chinese. As a result the translator often take some liberties with the translation. As such it is good to have a few different copies to compare so that your own interpretation can come about
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2003
Translated in 1940 and reprinted in 1961, Stanley B. Griffiths work is timeless, relevant, and is a must read for those seriously exploring the Western use of joint, interagency, and multinational force to counter guerrilla activities in Afghanistan, Iraq, Indonesia, Colombia, etc.. Griffith's 1961 introduction alone is worth the price of the book. His recommendation to study guerrilla warfare in 1940 and again in 1961 was on the mark. He cites examples of successful guerrilla operations (Frances Marion; the Spanish against Napoleon; the Russians against Napoleon; the Russians against Hitler; the Vietnamese against the French, Castro in Cuba) and the value of these historical examples to further study. He cites ten key factors worth comparing to determine which side has the advantage in a guerrilla war. His discussion of the three phases of guerrilla war, and the warning to stop them before they they advance beyond phase one is sage advice. His recommendation to locate, isolate, and eradicate is a simple pattern for developing an effective counterguerrilla strategy. He does warn that countering guerrilla operations is not solely a military activity--the political arm is the key. Perhaps it is his conclusion that historically, there has not been a counter to revolutionary guerrilla warfare which gives one pause when addressing world events in 2003. Griffith comes to these conclusions by laying out Mao's thought in simple, clear writing. Essentially, Mao recognized the fundamental disparity between agrarian and urban societies, he advocated unorthodox strategies that converted deficits into advantages: using intelligence provided by the sympathetic peasant population; substituting deception, mobility, and surprise for superior firepower; using retreat as an offensive move; and educating the inhabitants as an offensive move; and educating the inhabitants on the ideological basis of the struggle. This radical approach to warfare, waged in the mountains by mobile guerrilla bands closely supported by local inhabitants, has been adopted by other revolutionary leaders throughout the world. The challenge for those studying guerrilla warfare is still on the table: what do you do about it? A start, is reading Mao's writings which provide the first documented, systematic study of the subject.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2012
This Kindle edition is not the "On Guerrilla Warfare" that Samuel Griffith translated. It is a compliation of Mao's writings. If you are looking for the specific title you need to purchase the hard copy. Otherwise, it is a nice collection of Mao's thoughts and writings.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2004
Stanley B. Griffiths work is timeless, relevant, and is a must read for those seriously exploring the Western use of joint, interagency, and multinational force to counter guerrilla activities in Afghanistan, Iraq, Indonesia, Colombia, etc.. Griffith's 1961 introduction alone is worth the price of the book. His recommendation to study guerrilla warfare in 1940 and again in 1961 was on the mark. He cites examples of successful guerrilla operations (Frances Marion; the Spanish against Napoleon; the Russians against Napoleon; the Russians against Hitler; the Vietnamese against the French, Castro in Cuba) and the value of these historical examples to further study. He cites ten key factors worth comparing to determine which side has the advantage in a guerrilla war. His discussion of the three phases of guerrilla war, and the warning to stop them before they they advance beyond phase one is sage advice. His recommendation to locate, isolate, and eradicate is a simple pattern for developing an effective counterguerrilla strategy. He does warn that countering guerrilla operations is not solely a military activity--the political arm is the key. Perhaps it is his conclusion that historically, there has not been a counter to revolutionary guerrilla warfare which gives one pause when addressing world events in 2003. Griffith comes to these conclusions by laying out Mao's thought in simple, clear writing. Essentially, Mao recognized the fundamental disparity between agrarian and urban societies, he advocated unorthodox strategies that converted deficits into advantages: using intelligence provided by the sympathetic peasant population; substituting deception, mobility, and surprise for superior firepower; using retreat as an offensive move; and educating the inhabitants as an offensive move; and educating the inhabitants on the ideological basis of the struggle. This radical approach to warfare, waged in the mountains by mobile guerrilla bands closely supported by local inhabitants, has been adopted by other revolutionary leaders throughout the world. The challenge for those studying guerrilla warfare is still on the table: what do you do about it? A start, is reading Mao's writings which provide the first documented, systematic study of the subject.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2009
There are very few books written by guerrillas on actually how to prosecute a guerrilla war, so this work must be given credit for originality alone. Mao's work has become a classic as a general overview of how to conduct irregular warfare against a traditionally organized army. Many of Mao's one-liners have become guerrilla warfare maxims like the guerrilla being a fish swimming in an ocean of people. Today, Mao's ideas of being polite to the populace, using indirect means to fight the enemy, and incorporating propaganda into every combat operation are accepted as basic tenets of guerrilla warfare.

While Mao's work is a must read for understanding the evolution of resistance methodology, Mao gets low marks for being focused on the narrow problem-set which was his personal war against the invading Japanese and Chiang Kai-shek. The single biggest error by Mao is his assertion that guerrilla warfare is only useful as an adjunct to conventional warfare. The FLN in Algeria would disagree with this after ejecting colonial France from North Africa through guerrilla warfare. And Hezbollah would also disagree, after waging their successful 18-year guerrilla war against Israeli occupation forces. In this case, Mao is wrong - guerrilla warfare can stand alone as a style of warfare that can successfully defeat conventionally organized armies.

Mao's work has been given much credence because of his own success. Other movements have tried to copy his revolutionary design and have fallen flat, like El Slavador's FMLN, Peru's Shining Path, and Colombia's FARC. While Mao's tenet's are sound, he was successful largely due to the unique situation that was China. Mao's work should be taken for what it is, a treatise on how to conduct revolutionary warfare in mid-twentieth century China - not the bible of guerrilla warfare. However, any student of guerrilla warfare must have this work in their collection.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
On Guerrilla Warfare by Mao Tse-tung was originally written in 1937 after ten years of battling the Nationalist army of Chiang Kai-shek. It provides the reader with an overview of strategic guerrilla warfare but lacks on the nuances of tactical details. On Guerrilla Warfare was translated into English by Samuel B. Griffith who provides an excellent and beneficial introduction to the text giving the reader a foundation for the rest of the book.

The specific context of this book is China's guerrilla war against Japanese occupiers so the focus is narrow in this respect. Mao discuss the principles of: guerrilla vs. "orthodox" military forces, how such forces can work together to achieve a common goal, intelligence, deception, mobility, surprise, propaganda, political concerns, formation of guerrilla units, qualities of a guerrilla officer, discipline, and guerrilla bases.

On Guerrilla Warfare is a valuable book although not near as good as the Art of War by Sun Tzu. You will receive insight into Mao's thoughts when dealing with the Japanese through his strategic perspective although you will not gain much in specific tactical intricacies. If you are interested in Chinese history this book will give you great insight into the political climate of that time period. Another good reason for reading this book is because many of the conflicts taking place in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world is insurgent/guerrilla warfare. In the future it appears that insurgent/guerrilla warfare will be a more common form of fighting making On Guerrilla Warfare a relevant topic for years to come.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2013
I imagine that the intended target audience of this book was two-fold; firstly to be read and understood by Mao's many followers in the Chinese Red Army ranks, and secondly to perhaps be read by those non-Chinese communist revolutionaries in Vietnam, Korea, and elsewhere. This is entirely my own thinking and I do not know if there is any truth to this. However, the reason why I believe this is so is the format of the book. By this I mean that the book is short and presents ideas and concepts which are basic and easy to understand. This allows the communist-inspired guerrilla commander in Manchuria circa late 1930s to pick this book up, read it quickly, and implement the basic core concepts and thus provide for Mao a more unified front with which to fight the Japanese.

And so it is that this book does not necessarily present revolutionary or groundbreaking concepts about guerrilla warfare. While I found myself having many of those "ahhh, I get it" moments, there is no big secret formula hidden in the pages, but again, I do not believe that this was the intention of Mao Zedong when he wrote the book. And as many reviewers have said before me, much of the core concepts can be seen when studying the Vietnam War and countless other modern guerrilla wars.

Overall I highly recommend this book to be read by all those interested in military history, or those who wish to gain a better understanding of contemporary conflicts. The shortness of this book adds to it's strength, making it hard to argue against reading it (you can read it in a few short sittings).

This publication did suffer from a handful or errors, such as missing '.'s, typos such as "o" in place of "of", etc. But hardly did this render the book unreadable. I also believe that if this book was priced lower, at say $6-7.00, it would be a must-own. The sum of these things, however, do not add up to anything less then a full 5 stars. Enjoy!
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