Daniel Moran traverses the geostrategic landscape of the twentieth century Cold War era by keenly analyzing the Soviet policy of enabling wars of national liberation across the globe. Moran examines all of the major conflicts on every continent, and pieces together the root causes, political spectrum, as well as the tactical methodologies employed. Considering the scope of the narrative involved the book successfully blends brevity with wisdom.
“Like ‘People’s Republic’, ‘National Liberation’ is a revolutionary slogan, designed to conceal sordid truths. It served to hurl back into the face of the oppressor the idea of the nation, which Europe invented, and the ideal of liberty, which the West cherishes above all others in politics, while deflecting attention from the methods and interests of the liberators themselves.
“Free societies have proved to be among the least common outcome of wars of national liberation; while such conflicts remain among the most worrisome in the eyes of professional soldiers called upon to fight them.
“The first theorist to note the historical preponderance of limited war, Carl von Clausewitz, did so at a time when most experts were convinced that the all-in conflagration of the Napoleonic era represented the perfection of earlier forms of fighting, from which there was no going back. Clausewitz, on the other hand, thought that wars fought to achieve the total defeat of an enemy would always be rare, for reasons arising from war’s character as a political instrument, and from the ‘friction’ that attended its use. War for limited objectives – a province, a concession, an apology, prestige – was the norm, and any strategic posture that failed to take this into account was likely to be discredited in the long run.
“The persistent complaint that Western armies since 1945 have fought for poorly defined goals is misleading if it is taken to mean that military and political objectives should automatically cohere, or that conditions in which they do not are always fraught with disaster. It is rather the case that war and politics, having briefly learned to speak something like the same language in the course of an all-encompassing global conflict, thereafter ceased to do so once the political stakes had shrunk to more normal proportions.
“Wars of national liberation are frequently represented as episodes of spontaneous combustion produced by pervasive misery and injustice: war as the product of revolution. Yet the opposite dynamic is equally apparent: revolution as a product of war, waged by a committed vanguard whose outlook does not command widespread support at the start, and who may obtain only grudging acquiescence even at the end… The line between political action and banditry, as Mao might have said, is one that mere persistence cannot erase.
*All excerpts have been taken from Wars of National Liberation, HarperCollins Publishers LLC.