Small Wars Journal

The Science of Resistance

Fri, 02/24/2017 - 2:18am

The Science of Resistance

Paul Tompkins and Robert R. Leonhard

“The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious.”

--Marcus Aurelius

The post-Cold War, post-modern world has challenged the paradigm of Western great powers that has dominated world affairs since the Peace of Westphalia (1648).[i]  Resistance movements targeting established governmental authority have existed since antiquity, but the prominence of internal conflict in world affairs has grown in the 21st century.  Conventional warfare, though still relevant, demonstrated its limits in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and the prevalence of insurgencies, coups, popular uprisings, and revolutions has made it clear that future threats are likely to include a complex brew of irregular conflict that is centered on resistance movements[ii].  Preparing to meet such a challenge requires a disciplined approach to understanding resistance movements.  Studying the nature, evolution, and dynamics of resistance through the lens of science is an effective approach.

The purpose of this white paper is to discuss the next steps in developing a science of resistance.  The National Security Analysis Department of The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory has conducted a sustained research project entitled “Assessing Revolutionary and Insurgent Strategies” (ARIS) for the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC).  The project has examined numerous case studies and topical analyses related to irregular warfare.  Most recently, we have begun to develop a detailed typology of resistance.  This effort is an important step in shaping a scientific examination of resistance movements.  As a recent paper on the subject observed:

ARIS has since its inception explored past and current revolutions and insurgencies to identify emerging trends, an effort that has revealed two major takeaways: (1) that resistance, which encompasses a broad spectrum of disruptive movement types and manifestations, is an observable phenomenon with complex and dynamic characteristics and concepts, and (2) the study of this phenomenon is spread out across numerous disciplines with little to no structure or common terminology through which one can apply research results outside their disciplinary context... This revealed a need in the research of resistance for the development of a typology of the phenomenon; a structured conceptual organization of the fundamental attributes of resistance, further detailing typologies of the related concepts within each attribute.[iii]

The science of resistance examines the entire phenomenon of popular opposition to governments and/or occupying powers.  The spectrum of activity reaches from peaceful, legal activities on the one hand, to violent, mass upheavals and civil wars on the other.  Consequently, there is an important distinction between resistance movements that are peaceful and those that are militarized on one or both sides.[iv]  Typically, a movement begins as latent—perhaps even clandestine—dissatisfaction.  Indeed, at its root, resistance is born in the human heart.  What makes it a phenomenon that attracts scientific scrutiny rather than simply philosophical consideration is when resisters band together and act. 

Resistance science is interested in the embryonic stages of such movements—how resisters organize, plan, recruit, train, and administer themselves.  Equally important is how and when they decide to employ violence.  Military theory and doctrine focus on resistance movements that have grown—through militarization—into insurgencies, terrorism, civil wars, etc., but resistance science is equally interested in what happens before militarization as well as after.  Special Forces and Special Operations Forces become involved with resistance movements both before and after the resisters resort to violence.  Once a resistance movement takes up arms, it steps into the world of military doctrine and practice.

The United States Armed Forces recognize the bifurcation between what doctrine calls “traditional warfare” and “irregular warfare”.  The former is characterized as a violent struggle for domination between nation-states or coalitions and alliances of nation-states.  The assumption that underlies traditional warfare is a sort of social pact:  that the states involved, along with the populations over which they exercise sovereignty, will acquiesce in the military outcome and accept the resultant political decisions.  Indeed, this form of warfare attempts to keep noncombatants out of the fight and instead focuses on defeating enemy armed forces, destroying the opposing state’s ability to generate and deploy armed force, and seizing terrain.  Traditional warfare can be of relatively short duration, and the effects of the war are usually obvious and explicit in the diplomatic agreements that end the conflict.[v]

Irregular warfare, on the other hand, is characterized as a violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant population(s). In irregular warfare, a less powerful adversary seeks to disrupt or negate the military capabilities and advantages of a more powerful military force, which usually serves that nation’s established government.  This type of warfare features adversaries who may be less powerful than their enemies in terms of conventional military force, but they compensate by employing asymmetric approaches, including terror, sabotage, and guerrilla operations to erode the enemy’s power and will to continue the conflict.  Both state and non-state actors can prosecute irregular warfare and can employ these methods at the same time that they use traditional warfare as well. Irregular warfare also typically features the use of diplomacy, politics, information warfare, cyber warfare, and economic conflict.  .The weaker opponent could avoid engaging the superior military forces entirely by attacking nonmilitary targets in order to influence or control the local populace.  Irregular warfare can include spontaneous uprisings against an unpopular government (with or without the support of foreign states or groups), resistance against a foreign occupying power, or a globally-connected, ideologically-based insurgency.[vi]

The most common forms of conflict in the 21st century include both traditional and irregular warfare—an amalgamation referred to as “hybrid warfare”.  Hybrid threats employ both conventional and irregular forces and tactics to prosecute a full-spectrum campaign against an adversary.  A resistance movement might present a hybrid threat by itself, or it might be part of a larger hybrid threat.  In either case, the scientific pursuit to understand both the non-militarized and militarized resistance movement is a critical component to successful policymaking. 

Tangential to the question of militarization is the issue of how the United States and her allies relate to a given resistance movement.  Historically, the US has both supported and opposed resistance movements as a part of its foreign policy.  The country’s growth westward pitted the US against indigenous Native American resistance.  The American government supported Filipino revolt against Spain during the Spanish-American War and subsequently opposed that same resistance movement when the United States was awarded possession of the Philippines.  Americans provided support to French and Chinese resistance movements who were fighting occupation by Axis powers during World War II. 

During the Cold War, the US became embroiled in Vietnam fighting against Vietcong resistance and their sponsors, the North Vietnamese government.  The Central Intelligence Agency later provided support to Afghan resisters who were fighting Soviet occupation.  After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Americans returned to Afghanistan to replace the offending Taliban regime and soon faced an Afghan resistance movement against the new government.  The decision to support or oppose a resistance movement is not only a momentous political decision for the United States, but it also changes the course of the resistance itself for good or ill.

These methods of categorizing resistance—before and after militarization, before and after US intervention—can be useful for shaping a study of a given conflict.  But the scientific approach to resistance does not “back into the subject matter” by starting with the norm of traditional warfare and then considering resistance and resulting irregular warfare as something exceptional—a deviation from the supposed norm.  Instead, it looks at the phenomenon of resistance as a whole on its own terms.  For intelligence agents or Special Forces soldiers who must operate with or against resistance movements, it is important to understand resistance holistically.  A good doctor, before he operates or prescribes medicine, wants to know the entire medical history of his patient, not simply the latest symptoms that brought the person to his attention.  In a similar way, the science of resistance informs the academic, the policymaker, the practitioner, and the general public concerning the essential anatomy of opposition, and it examines a resistance movement from the cradle to the grave.

Is There a Science of Resistance?

This paper proposes to elevate the study of resistance movements from a scholarly field of interest to a science.  Science is defined variously as “a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws” and “systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.”[vii]  Alternately, a science can be distinguished from its reliance on the “scientific method”, as in this definition of science:  “The investigation of natural phenomena through observation, theoretical explanation, and experimentation, or the knowledge produced by such investigation. Science makes use of the scientific method, which includes the careful observation of natural phenomena, the formulation of a hypothesis, the conducting of one or more experiments to test the hypothesis, and the drawing of a conclusion that confirms or modifies the hypothesis.”[viii]

The central characteristic of science is the systematic observation of facts.  Depending on what type of science is in view, the definition can include the development of hypotheses, experimentation to verify or falsify hypotheses, and the formulation of general principles or laws.  But in a more general sense, science is all about organized, disciplined thinking and observation.  The etymology of the term “science” leads back to the Latin term scientia, meaning ‘knowledge’.  Following the roots back further, we find that the word grew from a more basic cognate that described ‘cutting’.  (“Science” is linguistically related to “scissors”, “scythe”, etc.)  The original sense of the word envisioned a scholar cutting something into its component parts for study.  In the modern world, science examines a phenomenon in detail to understand its parts and how they relate to each other and the environment.  In that sense, there is unquestionably a science of resistance. 

What about the more procedural definition of science, relating a given science to the use of scientific method? In order for a phenomenon to be studied in the strictest view of the scientific method, it must be observable, controllable, and repeatable.  Likewise, the hypotheses being tested must be falsifiable—i.e., it must be possible, through experimentation, to prove a hypothesis wrong.[ix]  From this more exacting perspective, it is more difficult to develop a science of resistance.  A resistance movement could be observable (at least in some of its aspects), and hypotheses concerning the dynamics and causality of resistance might thus be proved false.  But since the phenomenon of resistance is human and societal rather than strictly physical, it is difficult to control or repeat the process.  We can partially compensate for this, however, through the use of behavioral psychology experiments, statistical analysis, simulation and comparative historical analysis.  Simulation—through the use of war games, computer models, etc.—can seek to replicate resistance movements, allowing researchers to test various hypotheses.  Likewise, we have at our disposal thousands of years of recorded history from which we can draw out examples of resistance movements for study.  But there are limitations to both simulation and historical study that can threaten the viability of hypothesizing. 

Defining a Science of Resistance

Modern sciences are divided into “natural sciences” that study the physical world, and “social sciences” that study people and societies.  The former include physics, cosmology, chemistry, and geology, for example—sciences that lend themselves to direct empirical observation and exacting mathematical analysis.  Social sciences include economics, political science, and sociology.  They also overlap academic studies in the humanities, including anthropology, history, archaeology, and linguistics, for example.  The science of resistance falls into the category of a social science, and it dips into all the other social sciences in its special study.  Prominent examples of social sciences' contributions are: social movement theory from sociology, conflict and civil war scholarship from political science and studies of ethnic and cultural drivers of conflict from anthropology.

The sciences are also divided by purpose.  “Pure” science aims at simply understanding phenomena in the world around us.  “Applied” science seeks to solve problems and develop solutions.  The science of resistance includes both pure and applied science.  It is pure science in that we study history and observe resistance movements so as to understand them.  It is applied science in the sense that we use our observations and conclusions to assist in the development of policy, strategy, operational art, and tactics.  But a key distinction must be made clear:  the science of resistance studies the phenomenon of non-state agents opposing state structures. In the future this conflict will likely include groups as diverse as drug-lords, religious leaders, nationalist activists, popular revolutionaries, environmental activists, and others exerting themselves for “competitive control” over sprawling urban centers and clashing with government forces.[x] But the science of resistance does not directly address the strategic choice of third party actors to intervene.  That is, the science of resistance may examine the decision of some portion of the population to resist, but it does not directly study the business of counterinsurgency or support to resistance from third party actors.  On the other hand, the science of resistance does contemplate the effects of third party involvement in intrastate conflict, whether supportive or counter to the resistance. 

Resistance can be characterized as a purposeful, dynamic combination of social and political processes that obtains various outcomes.  The science of resistance seeks to explain the variation in resistance outcomes, whether win, lose or draw.  In this sense again, the science of resistance is analogous to medicine.  Analysis of resistance, as in medicine, must be built on an exceptional understanding of the resistance organization, or anatomy.  Just as anatomical studies examine the organs and systems that compose a human body, resistance studies examine the components of a resistance movement and their functions.    Likewise, the science of resistance will incorporate external actions and events in order to understand their effect on the outcome of the resistance.

In understanding the place of a science of resistance, we must relate it to another proximate field:  military science.  The latter is already an established science that underlies military training, doctrine, education, and materiel development.  Colleges and universities, including the service academies, teach military science, and it is a discipline that military officers continue to attend to throughout their careers.  (One of the authors of this paper has a Master’s of Military Arts and Sciences degree, for example.)  But the science of resistance is distinguishable from military science in that (1) it looks specifically at the phenomenon of agents opposing structures; and (2) it draws heavily from other social sciences.  Military science deals with the overlapping fields of strategy, operational art, and tactics—i.e., it concerns itself with what to do on the battlefield, theater of operations, or theater of war.  The science of resistance analyses the dynamics of people opposing an authoritative structure—violently or nonviolently—but does not directly contemplate the strategic choice of third parties to intervene.  Likewise, military science will occasionally wander into related fields such as history and economics (particularly when looking at strategy), but the science of resistance is rooted in the social sciences.  Matters of political ideology, religion, economics, finance, and sociology are central to resistance.

In developing the science of resistance, scholars and practitioners must reinforce their efforts by considering both the history and historiography of resistance.  History can provide a rich source of facts, chronology, biographies of key players, and detailed understanding of how a conflict unfolded.  Historiography complements that effort by studying how the history of a given conflict was written.  It examines the background, ideology, allegiance, and bias of authors, enabling the researcher to gain a nuanced and critical understanding of the history.  Additionally, the comparative historical analysis method from sociology and political science can illuminate those characteristics of resistance that are generalizable to other conflicts and those characteristics which are unique to specific cases.  Additionally, this method can provide insight into the causal processes at work in resistance in order to inform the theory of resistance.

One conspicuous characteristic of a well-developed scientific field is a typology—i.e., an organized method of classification and definition that provides exacting descriptions of categories and terminology.  The United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) partnered with The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL) in 2014 to develop a typology of resistance.  To create the typology, USASOC brought together representatives from the fields of sociology, history, law, and other social sciences, as well as experts in military doctrine and concepts, special operations, and related fields.  Through several intense cycles of analysis and discussion, the team developed a living typology (i.e., one that will continue to evolve through use, criticism, and study).  The typology features five distinct attributes:  actors, causes, organizations, actions, and environment. 

Who is the Community of Interest?

Resistance science is a science for everyone, because it addresses issues that shape and define modern life.  As a science, it will attract and benefit from academic attention.  Historians, sociologists, anthropologists, economists, and many others will both draw from and contribute to the science of resistance.  Because it offers better understanding of how the world works, with an emphasis on existing or potential conflicts, it will serve to educate, inform, and advise policymakers.  It will be an essential tool for agencies, including the military, that must operate with or against a given resistance movement.  Finally, it will be one of the most used tools in the Special Forces soldier’s kitbag.         

Benefits of the Science of Resistance

What can we hope for from a science of resistance? A systematic and comprehensive effort to study resistance movements can (1) explain the phenomenon; (2) identify both similarities and differences among various resistance movements; (3) assist the researcher, student, military and civilian official in anticipating the potential course of a resistance movement; (4) inform the development of policy and strategy; and (5) inform the effort to deter or create a resistance movement. 

Scientific analysis and critical thinking will grow in importance as the processes of conflict and resistance movements continue to increase in complexity and interconnectedness.  Before a student can master the study of a given movement, or before a military commander can plan an operation related to it, they must understand its fundamental processes and relationships.  In this regard, looks may be deceiving.   A conflict may appear on the surface to be religiously motivated at the state or “macro” level, but may have only superficial ties to matters of faith at the local “micro” level, where the actual locus of conflict is political.  A drug war in an under-governed area of the world may appear to be about market share competition, but the real dynamics may have more to do with inter-tribal conflict.  The science of resistance can strengthen the analysis of both students and officials by in-depth, incisive study that reveals the variation in causation and the determinants of variation in outcomes in resistance.

A science of resistance can assist in the understanding of both similarities and differences among movements and conflicts.  Several influential writers on conflict have commented on the essential differences among conflicts in his writings on guerrilla warfare.  Mao Tse-Tung wrote:

National guerrilla warfare…has employed varying implements as times, peoples, and conditions differ… These differences express the characteristics of different peoples in different periods. Although there is a general similarity in the quality of all these struggles, there are dissimilarities in form[xi]

Clausewitz wrote, in On War:

'Wars in every period have independent forms and independent conditions, and, therefore, every period must have its independent theory of war.'[xii]

Lenin, in Guerrilla Warfare said:

Under no circumstances does Marxism confine itself to the forms of struggle possible and in existence at the given moment only, recognizing as it does that new forms of struggle, unknown to the participants of the given period, inevitably arise as the given social situation, changes.[xiii]

Thus, the scientific approach would include a disciplined analysis that highlights how various resistance movements are similar, and how they differ.  This effort protects researchers and analysis from intellectual bias and the misapplication of history.

A comprehensive science of resistance can assist practitioners to anticipate how a resistance movement might develop over time.  Scientific analysis is not going to result in prognostication, prophecy, or certain prediction.  But it can alert the student, strategist, or Special Forces commander to potential branches and sequels as an insurgency, coup, non-violent populist movement or other form of resistance unfolds.  For example, analysis of past insurgencies suggests that as a resistance movement succeeds, grows, and progresses toward its initial goals, its radical and exclusive ideology often changes to become more inclusive, more politically flexible, and more oriented toward achieving legitimacy in the eyes of the international community.  This is a pattern that an observer of a modern, embryonic insurgency might anticipate.  Likewise, the history of insurgent movements has led to a general observation that the transition from revolutionary insurgency to governing authority is problematic, often leading to factionalism within the movement.  Again, a contemporary student of a present-day resistance movement can inform his or her studies with this historical insight.

The science of resistance will progress as both a pure and applied science.  In the latter form, we anticipate the resulting analyses and conclusions to inform policy makers, strategists, planners, commanders, interagency officials, special operations and conventional forces, and even nongovernmental organizations and private volunteer organizations operating within a theater that includes a resistance movement.  Sun Tzu observed that the first and most important step in developing a strategy is to understand the enemy and one’s own forces.  The science of resistance seeks to understand, analyze, and educate concerning how a resistance movement is born, grows, evolves, and succeeds or fails.  A broad understanding of the science of resistance frees the commander, planner, or Special Forces soldier  from merely reacting to events and allows them to  plan and execute wise and effective courses of action that address the resistance according to its real dynamics.

One of the recent themes in US special operations is to focus on identifying and addressing problems well in advance of armed conflict or military intervention.  This focus is sometimes called “left of phase zero”[xiv]—activities and planning that occurs well in advance of any potential conflict.  The science of resistance can be of incalculable benefit in this regard as policy makers and commanders seek to deter, redirect, or encourage a resistance movement.  Modern science laid to rest the medieval notion that rats spontaneously generated from within piles of garbage, and so contributed to the business of cleaning up cities and preventing the spread of disease.  In a similar way, a scientific approach to studying resistance can get beyond propaganda, cultural bias, and staid assumptions in an effort determine causality and the attendant forces that impel and direct agents of resistance.

Another benefit of a scientific approach to any subject is the resulting ability to transcend from the obvious to the non-obvious.  Close analysis of living cells led to biologists’ realization that the cell was not simply a tiny piece of protoplasm, but rather a complex, highly organized unit comprised of separate and diverse sub-elements.  Likewise, resistance science gets beyond generalizations and looks to understanding the details.  For example, popular media and governmental officials may refer to the jihadist insurgency that some call the “Islamic State in Syria and Iraq” (ISIS) as if it is a monolithic, centrally organized unit.  In reality, it is composed of many sub-groups and factions whose leadership, objectives, and methods are sometimes in conflict.  Thus, the science of resistance offers the ability to dissect a given phenomenon into its component parts and examines each one in detail.

What the Science of Resistance Does Not Do

The science of resistance, like all social sciences, is probabilistic and refrains from the promulgation of inflexible prescriptions for action.  It’s about understanding patterns of behavior and their root causes, not presuming to derive infallible laws.  We recognize that social sciences do not follow Newtonian formulas or lend themselves to exacting or unchanging conclusions.  Statistical analysis informs but does not replace the science of resistance.  It is a science that is multidisciplinary by its very nature, and it calls for a spectrum of effort that ranges from detailed mathematical analysis to thoughtful theoretical development to philosophical reflection.

Likewise, the science of resistance seeks to generalize resistance for analytical clarity, but not to over-simplify.  In this regard, there is both an art and science, and they are related to each other.  Just as the ancient etymology of “science” has to do with cutting something into its fundamental parts, so also the word “art” derived from the idea of putting things together.  Thus, when we think about the art and science of resistance, we can conceptualize an iterative process of integrating the complementary functions of each:  science cutting the phenomenon into its component pieces for analysis, and art simplifying observations into usable conclusions—all in an ongoing cycle of research and reflection.

The challenge in studying any phenomenon is to balance the art and science.  Endlessly granular analysis that is not applicable to other resistance movements can perhaps inform the researcher concerning the immediate subject, but fail to contribute to the cumulative body of knowledge about resistance.  Eventually the researcher must simplify and generalize conclusions so that others can benefit from the work.  But over-simplifying is also a serious danger.  In his haste to come to conclusions, a student of resistance might fail to analyze properly and thoroughly, and thus come to erroneous conclusions.  The key is for researchers and practitioners to employ both methods in balance.

Finally, the aim of the science of resistance is not the production of inflexible aphorisms, principles, or laws.  Instead, it contributes to the discipline of critical thinking—i.e., examining a problem from all possible angles.  Because the science is multidisciplinary, it considers insurgencies, revolutions, coups, guerrilla warfare, and nonviolent or non-kinetic movements from the perspectives of history, anthropology, sociology, psychology, economics, and so on.  This approach brings the benefit of different—in some cases, radically different—points of view on causality and dynamics.  The ideal resistance scholar is an observer who is able to think critically about the phenomenon.

Conclusion - A Way Ahead

This effort aims to foster the science of resistance as a means to increasing our effectiveness in a number of areas. These include the services and agencies of the government, our international partners as they deal with resistance movements, and the study of the phenomenon as a pure science.  How does the observation and study of a phenomenon grow into a disciplined, recognized science? Such evolution is in some sense spontaneous—the need compels the growth.  But scientific development can also benefit from deliberate organization.  In this regard, how can we best advance the science of resistance?

The most productive sciences have proponent institutions that serve to develop and promulgate scientific inquiry.  Universities, laboratories, and research centers serve to solicit funding and organize studies in productive directions.  Likewise, they serve to popularize interest in the subject matter and attract talented scientists to relevant fields of study.  Finally, institutions can seek to connect scientists and their studies to the rest of the world, giving rise to career fields, advanced degrees, periodicals and books, and useful products for policymakers and others.

Embryonic sciences also benefit from champions—i.e., influential individual proponents who act as visionary leaders to inspire interest and action.  Military and even scientific doctrines and dogma can become confining and intractable.  Government bureaucracy, though useful in the administration of a state, often prove an immovable obstacle to cognitive growth.  Gifted proponents with the requisite political power and influence can propel a critically important subject onto center stage and help to secure real progress in its development.

A glimpse of the optimal outcome can be useful.  What do we want the science of resistance to look like? The most effective expression of it would find colleges within universities that offer it as a major discipline of study.  Both civilian and military universities would offer advanced, post-graduate degrees in the study of resistance.  A wide, multidisciplinary literature would result that observes and seeks to systematize the myriad factors that bear on how a resistance movement begins, grows, operates, and culminates in either success or failure.  Resistance scientists would contribute directly to developments in diplomatic, military, economic, and cultural affairs.  They would fill the role of subject matter experts in Congress and on the National Security Council, on joint military staffs, and in agencies that administer foreign affairs.  Resistance science would be taught at all levels of military training—from entry through advanced schools.

The science of resistance will grow, and as it grows, it will slowly distinguish itself from related fields into a discipline of its own.  The United States government, academic community, intelligence services, and military should take part in that development.  As an expression and logical outgrowth of American ideology and policymaking, the United States should lead the way in founding the science of resistance—the careful study of what is arguably the most urgent and important national security issue of our day.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the U.S. Government, U.S. Department of Defense, or U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

End Notes

[i] The Peace of Westphalia refers to a set of treaties that ended the Thirty Years War and the Eighty Years War.  The principles of the agreement included (1) establishment of peace through diplomatic congress; (2) the right of states of self-determination; (3) stability through balance-of-power among states.  Implied in the Peace was that states alone have the legitimate right to employ armed force.

[ii] Max Boot, Invisible Armies, An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present, (New York, NY: Liverlight Publishing Corporation), 2013, 569.

[iii] NSAD/JHUAPL, “Conceptual Typology of Resistance” (Draft) (2015), 10.

[iv] Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works, The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, (New York: Columbia University Press), 2013.

[v] Joint Publication 1, Doctrine for the Armed Forces of the United States (Washington DC: Department of Defense, 2013), I-6.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Accessed 07/23/15.

[viii] The American Heritage Science Dictionary, as quoted in <>.  Accessed 07/23/15.

[ix] LiveScience, “Science and the Scientific Method” Accessed 07/23/15.

[x] David Kircullen, Out of the Mountains: the coming age of the urban guerrilla (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

[xi] Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Vol. IX (1937) <> Accessed 07/23/15.

[xii] Carl von Clausewitz, On War, 1St Edition ed., trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989), 593.

[xiii] V. I. Lenin, Guerrilla Warfare <> Accessed 7 March 2016.

[xiv] This refers to the six phases of joint operational planning (JP 5-0), the first of which is concerning with “shaping” the developing conflict. Phase Zero is sometimes referred to as steady state operations.


About the Author(s)

Paul Tompkins is a retired Special Forces Chief Warrant Officer. He is the project lead for the USASOC Assessing Revolutionary and Insurgency Strategies project being conducted in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University.

Robert R. Leonhard, Ph.D. is a retired Army officer and is a research analyst at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. He is the author of The Art of Maneuver: maneuver warfare theory and AirLand Battle (1991); Fighting by Minutes: time and the art of war (1993); and The Principles of War for the Information Age (1998).


Bill C.

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 10:15am

Misplaced thought -- see my response to "dfil" below:

Bill C.

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 10:56am

In reply to by dfil

"Insurgency is the most common form of warfare in human history. You are cherry picking which insurgencies you want to present for the sake of your worldview. There are ethnic insurgencies, separatist insurgencies, criminal insurgencies, and others that can have nothing to do with great power politics or clash of civilizations." What all insurgencies have in common is that they happen in governance vacuums where the state is weak, and this can happen for reasons that have nothing to do with western philosophies of civilization."

That may, indeed, be the case --

UNLESS one finds the U.S./the West (a) using such "weak, failed and/or failing" states arguments as (b) the basis for intervening significantly throughout the world so as to (c) transform these "outlying" states and societies more along modern western political, economic, social and value lines.

When THAT such activity occurs -- as indeed it is occurring throughout the world today -- then, without a doubt, you DO, in fact, have a dramatic and across-the-board example of (a) great power politics, (b) a clash of civilizations and (c) an instance of "western philosophies of civilization" (as being superior to all others and as being needed by all the world's populations so as to eliminate such ills as insurgencies, etc., etc., etc.) being presented to you -- and in glaringly obvious fashion.


Herein, the work of our state department -- and indeed of our "whole of government" -- being, in fact, consistent with this such "westernizing" thesis, and related strategic approach, to dealing with "weak, failed and/or failing" states and the ills that emanate from same?


Mon, 03/06/2017 - 5:06pm

In reply to by Bill C.

"Confirmed, thus, is the fact that the U.S./the West is a revolutionary power; one bent on spreading its ideology around the world. This, so as to (a) undermine and destroy the current status quo and to (b) establish a new status quo based solely on our way of life, our way of governance and our values, attitudes and beliefs. This, quite obviously, puts us "at odds" with the entire Rest of the World -- who often determine that they must "resist" the U.S./the West's such warm embrace. In this exact light, to understand how many/most of the world's resistance movements -- in one way or another -- are likely to be related to exactly these such, dominant, international affairs dynamics of our day."

Insurgency is the most common form of warfare in human history. You are cherry picking which insurgencies you want to present for the sake of your worldview. There are ethnic insurgencies, separatist insurgencies, criminal insurgencies, and others that can have nothing to do with great power politics or clash of civilizations. What all insurgencies have in common is that they happen in governance vacuums where the state is weak, and this can happen for reasons that have nothing to do with western philosophies of civilization. The vast majority of violent insurgency today is jiahdism, and the countries they are active in rank very low in governance and civil society metrics. Jihadism itself is not just anti-western, it is anti-modern, which is why they identify most of the world's muslims as enemies, too, and have killed them by the tens of thousands for many years. Everything in this paragraph is a clearly provable fact.

The other fatal flaw in your plan is not recognizing that the U.S. has sought to transform the world through multilateral institutions and partnerships in order to promote liberal order (which includes emphasis on things like human rights, norms of behavior, and the things that, irrefutably, make for a stronger community). Look how many countries the U.S. is allied with, how many conferences and summits American diplomats facilitate that bring together dozens of nations to work on common problems, or the numerous multinational institutions that the U.S. contributes to constructively. The vast majority of the nations of the world host some U.S. military presence, do you think they would sign status of forces agreements if they felt threatened? They can kick the U.S. out whenever they please, even if they are allies, even in the midst or on the eve of combat operations. You clearly need to spend more time familiarizing yourself with the work of the State Department, and recognize that there are healthy, constructive interactions that happen between many U.S. government agencies and that of other nations literally every single day. I have a very hard time taking people seriously who argue the U.S. is a force of evil in the world because they clearly can't understand the status quo in terms that are not extremely cynical, and they always know practically nothing about the daily work of diplomats.

Bill C.

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 5:06pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Edited and added to a bit from my earlier offering:

Bill M:

You said: "If you want to discuss China, then migrate this discussion to the forum under one of the numerous China threads. I'll be happy do discuss it with you. ... Therefore, other than the author of the article claiming we're a revisionist state, which I agree with, there is little of relevance here to the article and discussion above."

Bill: I think you miss the point here.

The Foreign Affairs article I referenced, as its title suggests, significantly addresses U.S. grand strategy. (The title of the Foreign Affairs article, after all, is "Asia's Other Revisionist Power: Why U.S. Grand Strategy Unnerves China.")

And, given my "root cause" of resistance movements suggestion above -- which got our recent conversation started -- a discussion of U.S. grand strategy, thus, and especially as relates to "resistance movements" (both internal and external to states); this would seem to be an excellent -- and, indeed, pretty much mandatory, necessary and required -- idea.

On this, would you not agree?

Thus, it is as per this logic -- and indeed as per this requirement -- that the Foreign Affairs article was offered. Makes sense to me.

As to some of your other thoughts, you might wish to -- now in consideration of the U.S/the West's clearly-cut "universalist" grand strategy -- consider the following:


The west won the cold war, but cannot and should not impose its distinct values on other world civilizations. Samuel Huntington, in an elaboration of his "Clash of Civilizations" essay published in 1993, argues that the west can only flourish in a more hostile world by abandoning its universal aspirations.


As we both know, the U.S./the West would ignore this advice and "drive on."

Back in Old Cold War days, when the -- equally alien and profane -- universalist aspirations of the Soviets/the communists were on the march; at that time, I do not think we would have been wrong to suggest that many/most of the "resistance movements" (whether we are talking inside states or between states) were, in one way or another, related to the Soviets/the communists such "universalist" grand strategy. (Thus, the war in Vietnam, for example, could be seen both as a civil war and a war between great powers; in both instances, the effort being made stemming from "internal" and "external" "resistance movements;" wherein, the local populations, and indeed friendly elements from other populations and other nation-states -- acting sometimes together -- and sometimes independently -- sought to prevent themselves from being "transformed" along alien and profane "communist" political, economic, social and value lines.)

My argument: The same thing, quite obviously (and as author Dr. Lind re: China points out in her Foreign Affairs article above) applies today; in this case, re: the clear threat now posed by the U.S./the West's similar "universalist" ambitions and related grand strategy. (This causes, I suggest, a similar phenomenon, and a similar proliferation, of both population and nation-state "resistance movements" -- such as we saw in the Old Cold War -- and such as we are seeing again today. SUCH THINGS AS THE NEED FOR OUR NEW SECURITY FORCE ASSISTANCE BRIGADES TO SEEN IN THIS EXACT LIGHT?)

(Note: If, post-the Old Cold War, such things as "universal western values" HAD obtained throughout the world -- much as we had hoped -- then obviously this such, worldwide and across-the-board "resistance movement" problem -- re: our "universalist" ambitions; these would not have become manifest. The fact that such things as "universal western values," in fact, DID NOT obtain post-the Old Cold War; this places us in the position that we are in today, to wit: with "resistance movements" -- as per Prof Huntington above -- being our "order of the day.")

Bottom Line:

Thus, as to the "big picture" -- both in the Old Cold War of yesterday and, indeed, in our similar "conflict environment" of today -- should we not view (a) the "root cause" of "resistance movements," and indeed their rise, from the perspective of (b) the terrifying threat posed by the grand strategy of the ambitious, determined and "universalist-oriented" great powers; yesterday and today? (As Dr. Lind notes, only the U.S./the West fits this bill today.)

P.S. As to the "status quo" that Dr. Lind and I are referring to, this, obviously, relates to the many and diverse political, economic, social and value orientations of states, societies and civilizations of the world today. The U.S./the West, as a "universalist" entity, wishes to (a) end this such "diverse orientation" status quo and to (b) replace it with a world in which the political, economic, social and value orientations of all states, societies and civilizations run only along modern western lines (to wit: with a new status quo).

"When historians write about U.S. foreign policy at the end of the 20th century, they will identify the growth of democracy--from 30 countries in 1974 to 117 today--as one of the United States' greatest legacies. The United States remains committed to expanding upon this legacy until ALL the citizens of the world have the fundamental right to choose those who govern them through an ongoing civil process that includes free, fair, and transparent elections."

Bill M.

Sun, 03/05/2017 - 10:13pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C.

To be frank, you're simply confirming my view that you read with a biased eye. However, I thank you for the hat tip on the article in Foreign Affairs. Fortunately it was available for free on their website. If you want to discuss China, then migrate this discussion to the forum under one of the numerous China threads. I'll be happy do discuss it with you. However, what you're doing is tossing out a red herring. The article isn't focused on states resisting states, rather people resisting their governments or occupiers. Therefore, other than the author of the article claiming we're a revisionist state, which I agree with, there is little of relevance here to the article and discussion above.

Interestingly enough, what you didn't quote that validates my bias claim:

"Chinese officials argue that U.S. interference has caused its neighbors to respond with alarm, but China’s own revisionism is to blame. Today, Japan is responding not to U.S. pressure but to Chinese assertiveness."

This statement is true, but it inter state diplomacy, not a resistance issue:

"A country is one of three colors: blue, red, or gray,” the Japanese journalist Hiroyuki Akita said in 2014 at a talk at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, in Tokyo. “China wants to turn the gray countries red. The Americans and Japanese want to turn the gray countries blue.” No one, in other words, is trying to preserve the status quo."

To your comments, revisionism is different than destroying, so the U.S. doesn't seek to destroy the current order.

You wrote, we (the west) seek to "(a) undermine and destroy the current status quo and to (b) establish a new status quo based solely on our way of life, our way of governance and our values, attitudes and beliefs".

Undermine and "destroy" the status quo? We seek to shape the world via diplomacy, aid, education, serving as role model (increasingly difficult to do with the last four administrations), and only in extreme cases use hard power (sanctions or military force). Since most of the world already embraces the international order in their foreign affairs to include trade, we hardly seek to destroy that order. How they manage their internal affairs is another matter, we haven't gone to war with Russia or China or a whole of bunch of other countries that don't treat their citizens like we prefer. Again taking it back to where this conversation should be, resistance against governments/governance (not states versus states), the reason people resist varies by location and time. Resistance also doesn't automatically equate to failure of governance, it often times represents an extremist minority, that the majority of people want their government to wipe out.

Then you made this factually incorrect statement,

"This, quite obviously, puts us "at odds" with the entire Rest of the World -- who often determine that they must "resist" the U.S./the West's such warm embrace."

What population group in the rest of the world is resisting the U.S. and West? With the exception of Islamic Extremists, you'll be hard pressed to find a group of people resisting their government because they respect human rights, freedom of speech, etc. I see no indication the rest of the world is resisting us, as though that would even be possible. I guess if your view of the world is shaped by the media, one can generate that view, because if it bleeds it leads; however, most people and most states still desire U.S. leadership and the revisionism we're promoting. Those who resist it are for the most part dictators who see their power base threatened.

Moving beyond ideology, most insurgents/resistance movements in many parts of the world are fighting to obtain political power and the control of resources. Some groups simply want independence (separatist movements), others want to be the dominant race and oppress the other races, etc. Many resistance movements have nothing to do with support for or opposition to the West. The ones that do, most of them have little to do with U.S. or Western Europe. You're simply promoting a conspiracy theory based on media hype, without looking at the bigger picture.

Bill C.

Sun, 03/05/2017 - 4:00pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M:

Do you have access to the most-recent, and current, edition of Foreign Affairs magazine -- to wit: the March/April 2017 edition?

If so, inside is an article entitled "Asia's Other Revisionist Power: Why U.S. Grand Strategy Unnerves China" by Dr. Jennifer Lind.

If not, here are a few seemingly pertinent excerpts -- re: U.S. grand strategy -- from same:

"Since the end of World War II, the United States has pursued a strategy aimed at overturning the status quo by spreading liberalism, free markets, and U.S. influence around the globe. ... the United States' posture stokes fear in Beijing and beyond."

"But at its heart, U.S. grand strategy seeks to spread liberalism and U.S. influence. The goal, in other words, is not preservation but transformation."

"The United States has pursued this transformational grand strategy all over the world."

"In each of these regions (Europe, the Middle East, East Asia), U.S. diplomatic, economic, and military policies are aimed not at preserving but at transforming the status quo. (Items in parenthesis here are mine.)

"China, unlike the Soviet Union, does not have a revolutionary ideology. Beijing has not tried to export an ideology around the world. Washington (however) has. In attempting to transform anarchy into liberal order, the United States has pursued an idealistic, visionary, and in many way laudable goal. Yet its audacity terrifies those on the outside. The United States and its partners need not necessarily defer to that fear -- but they must understand it." (Again, the items in parenthesis here are mine.)

Conclusion -- Based on the Above:

Confirmed, thus, is the fact that the U.S./the West is a revolutionary power; one bent on spreading its ideology around the world. This, so as to (a) undermine and destroy the current status quo and to (b) establish a new status quo based solely on our way of life, our way of governance and our values, attitudes and beliefs. This, quite obviously, puts us "at odds" with the entire Rest of the World -- who often determine that they must "resist" the U.S./the West's such warm embrace. In this exact light, to understand how many/most of the world's resistance movements -- in one way or another -- are likely to be related to exactly these such, dominant, international affairs dynamics of our day.

For example:

a. The numerous resistance movements that have been, and continue to be, driven by various populations' desire to overthrow their anti-Westernizing rulers, and to adopt, in the place of their current arrangements, modern western political, economic, social and value institutions and norms. (Shall we call these the "pro-Westernizing" resistance movements?) And

b. The numerous resistance movements that have been, and continue to be, driven by various other populations' desire to overthrow, for their part, pro-Westernizing governments; governments bent on transforming their states and societies more along our -- generally alien and profane -- political, economic, social and value lines. (Shall we call these the "anti-Westernizing" resistance movements?)

(As to this latter item, add to this entire nation-states, such as Russia, China and Iran, that are clearly resisting the U.S./the West's such warm embrace, and one can begin to see just how large, in size and scope, these "anti-westernizing" resistance movements actually are.)

Taken together, if these do not, in one way or another, make up the vast majority of the resistance movements of the world today, then might they, instead -- and specifically given the U.S./the West's clear-cut "transformative" grand strategic design and "new status quo" imperative -- make up the vast majority of resistance movements that the U.S./the West has been, and indeed will continue to be, concerned with?

Bill M: Do the above explanations help support my argument/help make my point/allow for a better understanding, and appreciation, of what I am trying to put across?

Bill M.

Sun, 03/05/2017 - 1:52pm

In reply to by Bill C.


I find your arguments deeply flawed at many levels. We realize you are wedded to your flawed concept that the U.S. is to blame for all resistance movements, and divorce from this belief is nowhere in your future. However, your argument above, contains substantial hubris in your American centric view of the world.

To your first point, and I realize you are quoting the authors, but there is not an increase in resistance movements, nor is there a singular underlying root cause for resistance. Second, the so called Peace of Westphalia was a European construct for Europe, not the world. It failed long before 1948, WW1 would be one example of a prior failure. Research the number of states that existed prior to WWI to the number that exist today. That is largely representative of the number of successful resistance movements, but doesn't capture the number of failed ones.

Moving forward,we only fooled ourselves if we thought we were the only ones left standing after the Cold War ended. Arguably our foreign policy barely made a dent on global trends and recent history. Our policies and their implementation have largely been feckless on the world stage, despite some minor successes as the global sheriff. The point is 90 percent or more of the world's resistance movements have little to do with the U.S. A number of resistance movements would enjoy our assistance, because they actually would prefer that their government embrace a western model with western values. You have an uninformed view of the world if you think the majority of Muslims embrace radical ideology, and reject all western values.

Bill C.

Sat, 03/04/2017 - 10:42am

Edited just a bit from my offering of yesterday:

Here are the first two sentences of our article above:

"The post-Cold War, post-modern world has challenged the paradigm of Western great powers that has dominated world affairs since the Peace of Westphalia (1648). Resistance movements targeting established governmental authority have existed since antiquity, but the prominence of internal conflict in world affairs has grown in the 21st century. "


If we need to study this rise in resistance movements, then should we not attempt to find a "root case" for this such increase phenomenon?

In this regard, and only as a possible starting point, let us consider the following from Hans Morgenthau re: the Old Cold War:

"The United States and the Soviet Union face each other ... as the fountainheads of two hostile and incompatible ideologies, systems of government and ways of life, each trying to expand the reach of its respective political values and institutions and to prevent the expansion of the other. Thus the cold war has not only been a conflict between two world powers but also a contest between two secular religions. And like the religious wars of the seventeenth century, the war between communism and democracy does not respect national boundaries. It finds enemies and allies in all countries, opposing the one and supporting the other regardless of the niceties of international law. Here is the dynamic force which has led the two superpowers to intervene all over the globe, sometimes surreptitiously, sometimes openly, sometimes with the accepted methods of diplomatic pressure and propaganda, sometimes with the frowned-upon instruments of covert subversion and open force."… (See bottom of pg 427/94 and top of pg 428/96. This if from Morgenthau's "To Intervene or Not to Intervene.")

Essentially, what Morgenthau seems to saying here, is that the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), and the principles established therein (respecting the boundaries of sovereign states; non-interference in these sovereign state's domestic affairs); these are generally ignored, and/or become OBE (overcome by events), cir. 1948 -- i.e., with the beginning of the Old Cold War.

Thus cir. 1948 onward, we returned to "religious war" (albeit "secular" religious war); which recognizes no such restrictions, boundaries, limitations, barriers and/or laws -- which might tend to keep these such passionate secular religious great powers from reaching out to, and attempting to convert, as much of the Rest of the World as they could.

Post-the Old Cold War, only one of these determined, great evangelist powers (the U.S./the West) was left standing. And, as one might expect, this such great evangelist power determined that it must take full advantage of this "unipolar moment" -- to reach out to and "convert" -- as much the Rest of the World as was possible.

Now, I suggest, we may, indeed, have before us THE possible "root cause" of the rise/the dramatic increase in "resistance movements" post-the Old Cold War.

This, whether we are talking about resistance by great powers today (exs: Russia, China, Iran) or small (those of Latin America and elsewhere?), resistance by state and/or non-state entities (AQ, ISIS, etc., etc., etc.) and whether we are talking about today's "internal" and/or "external" conflicts.

Thus, our "Science of Resistance" needing to make sure that the above potential "root cause" of resistance movements today; that this such thesis is adequately identified, challenged, tested and addressed?

Bottom Line:

The author above rightfully begins his paper with the Peace of Westphalia (1648).

Morgenthau (above), however, tells us that exactly 300 years later (cir. 1948) -- and with the beginning of the Old Cold War -- the Peace of Westphalia was essentially overcome by events, to wit: by the new "recruiting" and "converting" passions of the world's two new, "secular" in this case, "religious" superpowers; both of whom generally ignore these Westphalian requirements.

Once the Old Cold War ended, only the U.S./the West was left standing -- to carry on its passionate "recruit and convert the Rest of the World" mission.

Thus, as to the possible "root cause" of the rise of/increase in resistance movements post-the Old Cold War, should we not give these seemingly well-connected matters careful consideration, to wit: (a) the rejection, after 1948, and with the beginning of the Old Cold War, of the requirements of the Treaty of Westphalia, (b) the U.S./the West as the "last man standing" post-the Old Cold War and (c) our clear determination, post-the Old Cold War, and minus any real competition, to (1) continue to ignore the requirements of the Treaty of Westphalia and to (2) use this "unipolar moment" to reach out to, recruit and try to convert as much of the Rest of the World as is possible? (Herein, and in certain instances, to indeed use "force of arms," if necessary, to do this?)

As stated below, I certainly applaud the effort to increase the rigor of our study of war and resistance; however, I agree that calling it a science, despite the case made is overreach. This over reach doesn't come without risk, because once a study that is confused with science becomes our paradigm for understanding resistance, it will take an avalanche of evidence (meanwhile, if we're relying on this study to inform our practice of resistance/UW or counter-UW, we'll be losing ground) to generate a classical paradigm shift and correct the effort, assuming it isn't too late.

Perhaps there is evidence indicating there are more resistance movements now than there were post WWI and post WWII, but it doesn't seem apparent to me. Of course the resistance movements today are in our face 24/7 in the media, previously only those who studied resistance, mostly in Special Forces, the CIA, Intelligence fields, and the State Department had situational awareness of these movements. Today COIN, terrorism, etc. is common American household vocabulary.

We would do ourselves a favor if purged Phase 0 from our lexicon, all it indicates is perceived phase where we fail to see the ongoing struggle or competition that exists in a steady-state condition. The false paradigm of the black and white divide between and peace and war. One commenter below noted we don't need studies on guerrilla warfare/resistance, because they already exist, referring mostly to Cold War era doctrines. That view fails to address that insurgents (whether local or global), also frequently fail to achieve their political objectives as often as militaries fail using traditional warfare. Tactics for disrupting and creating chaos are similar than traditional warfare; however, the strategy for employing these tactics to achieve a sustainable political end is very difficult, so these studies are much needed.

Finally, hybrid warfare has been the norm throughout history if it only means a combination of regular and irregular warfare, exceptions to this in the 20th Century have not been the norm. However, hybrid warfare takes on new dimensions in the 21st Century in the cyber and space domains, as well as the employment of automated systems. Hyper-globalization also changes the character of states and the underlying human domains in ways that the old doctrines couldn't appreciate. This certainly is not an argument for dismissing the study of old doctrines, I'm certainly glad a I studied them. They'll remain relevant, because the new is built on top of the old, but relying singularly on legacy doctrines is a path to ruin.

How does mass migration fit this paradigm?
The undeveloped nations resisting modernity, a term Anthropologists like to use to demonstrate how sensitive they are to humanity in general and "globalism" specifically, are part of the cause for mass migration not necessarily and simply victims.
The EU is facing huge upheavals not simply testing cultural and political tolerance they are literally being invaded.
Recently because of the bruhaha over President Trump's off hand comment about Sweden I came across the story, written a year ago, in which the Green Party deputy Minister claimed 9-11 was an "accident"?
To accommodate Radical Islamic and Ecological Global Warming advocates that vilify modernity, by making criticism of either Islamophobia and in the case of the sciences, a learned Doctor of the ecological science faces career suicide for standing by any opposing opinion.
I would argue that discipline in the sciences especially the social sciences has become license to write fiction, a good story fitting the "globalist vision of peace" being all that is necessary.
Anthropologists no longer seem to know what "going native" is or how to conduct participant observational study and distinguish those "arts" from a national interest. I am persistent if nothing else in suggesting this is just another broad swath of white wash to embrace accepting a narrow and anti-critical view to how to deal with Radical Islam.
I am less concerned with the numbers of terrorists slipping into this country to murder in the name of Allah than I am with the probability of radically altering our society by blindly accepting hundreds of thousands of Muslims who have no desire to assimilate and would undermine the values of pluralism and secular freedoms in this country.
Anyone who has spent any amount of time being polite and suffering the intolerance of Islam in a theocratic nation knows what I am talking about. It isn't so much an act of going native that results from long deployments in which one must always act in submission to Islam that is ignored unless it erupts into the not to be ignored behavior of Major Jim Gant that should be studied but the effect of our troops having lived submissive to Islam to serve our country and what effect tht has never seems to occur to anyone as being significant, why is that?
The USA will never convince the Islamic world it is in its own best interest to "modernize" there are still cracks in the Pentagon and a huge hole where the WTC used to be that is demonstrable proof that those nations do not welcome change and progress they do glorify conquest and today that may be achieved through mass migration and money.
I could be totally wrong.
LTG Flynn should have been canned because he believes Iran is our enemy and has stated so in his book or that radical Islam is an entity? LTG Flynn should be considered guilty of allegations because he would have worked with the Russians to destroy the Islamic State and remove Iranian influence and militias from Syria?
My question now is that Obama has left office can we at least have an open debate on those issues instead of coming up with more classical discipline or a media that will obfuscate these troubling matters?
Modernity requires tolerance, tolerance of criticism and ridicule are we studying cultures for the sake of "progress" that will have global benefits or to submit to counter "revolutionary" forces that seek to engulf the world disguised as globalist utopia and "peace", ugh?


Fri, 02/24/2017 - 5:21pm

I applaud any effort to bring rigor to the study of just about anything. If nothing else, military and security strategy suffer from a deficit of rigor. So, in general, I like the notion. I do want to take issue with one specific assumption that I think, if unaddressed, will doom this project to something akin to "homeland security studies" in some universities. The issue is this line and everything that stems from it:
<q>"Social sciences include economics, political science, and sociology. They also overlap academic studies in the humanities, including anthropology, history, archaeology, and linguistics, for example. "</q>

The Humanities study the human products - arts, literature, historiography (not history), languages (not linguistics), and such things. Anthro, and its two subfields of archaeology and linguistics (i know that last one is arguable, but I'm arguing it :) ), as well as history are not humanities, they are social sciences. They have established norms, they follow the scientific method, they use observation and falsifiable theory as the methods of discovery. To many they are more so social sciences than economics or political science (aka voodoo science :) ). Sociology, for its part, is primarily focused on modern/industrialized societies. Were it born in a different age, it would be a sub-field of anthropology. This is because Sociology evolved in Europe and America as a study of Euro-American society, while at the same time, Anthropology focused on non-Western societies, rooted as it was in Orientalism and study of tribal societies in the colonies. But they were both studying humans and in recent decades have grown close to one another in theoretical was inevitable.

Point being, studying Resistance movements will put the practitioners smack in the middle of Anthropology. To study a movement you will need to dissect its history, describe its social norms (ethnography), study its iconography, understand its codes (linguistics), and describe its relationships with its social environment (anthro/sociology). Which means, to study Resistance, the practitioner will be first and foremost trained in Anthropology or Sociology, and the tools, methods, theories thereof. So on the one hand I applaud the intent of making the study of resistance movements rigorous, but I contest the notion that it can evolve into its own discipline. It is studying human activity (vice human cultural product)...there is an entire field for that already, that is far more sophisticated and learned than a niche sub specialty ever likely to become.

J Harlan

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 12:56pm

In reply to by J Harlan

I forgot to applaud the authors for coming up with "Science of Resistance" from a marketing standpoint. It sounds much better than "Counter-Insurgency Studies" and thus more likely to get grants from people who haven't been paying attention since 1945, 1968 or 2001 (take your pick).

J Harlan

Fri, 02/24/2017 - 2:27pm

"The science of resistance, like all social sciences, is probabilistic and refrains from the promulgation of inflexible prescriptions for action.:

That of course is because they aren't really sciences they're "studies".

The authors talk of "resistance" but they really mean "counter-resistance". The "how to be a guerilla" has already been written. Of course the "how to fight guerillas" by notables such as Trinquier, Kilcullen, Petraeus and Galula were all found wanting and I fail to see where more (government funded) study will discover anything else.

We know if a government is corrupt enough resistance will start. We know resistance against foreign occupiers is almost certain. We know it is to the advantage of guerillas to have safe havens and outside support. We know a democratic occupier loses it's will fairly quickly and the resistance counts on this loss of endurance. Is there anything else that matters a great deal?

Bill C.

Fri, 02/24/2017 - 11:28am

From our article above:


The science of resistance examines the entire phenomenon of popular opposition to governments and/or occupying powers.


Most critical then, it would seem, would be to examine the unpopular policies that the local governments (on their own accord or at the behest of a foreign great power) -- and/or the occupying power itself -- sought to impose, to wit: the unpopular policies that gave/give rise to the resistance.

For example, unpopular "modernization" policies; which are designed to cause the state, and its societies, to be transformation more along unusual and unique (and thus often alien and profane) political, economic, social and/or value lines.

In this such resistance to unpopular -- alien and profane -- state and societal "modernization" light, to see, for example, both:

a. The contemporary resistance to unpopular "modernization" efforts in the Greater Middle East and elsewhere throughout the non-Western world today? And, indeed,

b. To see such contemporary resistance to unpopular "modernization" policies/efforts here in the U.S./the West as well?

(Thus, to see the rise of AQ and ISIS, and the Brexit and the election of President Trump here at home, BOTH in this such "resistance to unwanted modernization" light? Likewise to see, in this exact same light, various national leaders throughout the world [exs: Russia, China, Iran] -- foreign leaders who wish the U.S/the West ill -- now saying that they are, in stark contrast to the U.S./the West, the champions of "traditional" ways of life, "traditional" values. etc.?)

In both cases outlined above (both the West and much of the Rest), efforts by governments to transform states, societies and civilizations -- this, so as to better provide for the wants, needs and desires of their populations -- to see that these such "modernizing" efforts have now been met with:

a. Not uniform and across-the-board acceptance. But, indeed,

b. Uniform and across-the-board resistance/rejection.

And it is as per this -- now worldwide it would seem -- resistance movement (against the alien and profane political, economic, social and value changes demanded by "modernization") that, I suggest, the call for studying "resistance science" has now come forward/now seems to be required.

Accordingly, and as I have suggested above, we would do well to start this such analysis with a view of the unpopular "modernization" agenda, and related and equally unpopular policies, that governments (both foreign and domestic) seek/sought to impose on their populations.

Policies, thus, that have given rise -- throughout the world today -- to a global resistance movement?


Fri, 02/24/2017 - 7:31am

This paints quite an ambitious agenda. How can people help to further the work? Shoot me a note here if you'd like some assistance.