NEW YET OLD: MAOIST GUERILLAS START TO GO GLOBAL IN NEPAL
Curzon at Coming Anarchy has drawn attention to the increasingly vicious civil war in Nepal that pits the reactionary regime of an absolute monarch, King Gyanendra against the Maoist rebels who seek the King’s overthrow in order to establish a Communist dictatorship. Democratic and parliamentary parties have recently allied themselves with the rebels who make up the armed wing of Nepal’s Communist party in order to pressure the King into restoring democratic rule. The Maoist rebellion, however, long predates King Gyanendra’s “autogolpe” and was actually launched in 1996 by the Communist Party against Nepal’s previous democratic regime.
The Royal Government, something of an international pariah for the restoration of absolute monarchy, has made little headway against the rebels and has been much criticized -accurately- for suppression of political freedoms, human rights abuses and civilian casualties. The fighting spirit of the army is uneven and they lack the resources, external support and political competence to wage an effective counterinsurgency war. Curzon also excerpted from The Atlantic, reporting from Robert Kaplan, in an earlier post:
“This was all bad news for the Royal Nepalese Army, I thought, though Colonel Cross was careful not to make explicit political statements, given his circumstances: the Maoists are in the hills nearby, and government forces are down the street. The fact is that the Maoists come from the same sturdy hill tribes that Cross recruited for decades, while many of the RNA’s forces are softer plainsmen and can’t employ artillery, because even a handful of civilian casualties would ignite protests from the international community. Moreover, the Maoists are fortified by “the mystic dimension of service and the sanctity of an oath,” whereas RNA recruits—aside from some specialized units—join for a salary and a career.”
Brutal, hesitant and uncertain is a bad combination for any army. State forces in Nepal suffer a string of disadvantages and deficits whether you look at them from the perspective of Clausewitz or John Boyd. While losing the conflict to the rebels in the political and moral spheres they are not efficient or effective in the purely military operational or logistical aspects either.
The Maoist rebels have, overall, been far more astute combatants but they represent a fusion of old and new.
Despite a horrific human rights record of their own that includes atrocities, torture, use of children as soldiers and condemnation from international human rights organizations, major American news outlets continue to recycle Nepalese Communist Party propaganda about its leader Prachanda as a one-time “kind-hearted boy”, concerned for ” the poor of the village”. Rebels have skillfully enlisted parliamentary parties as allies to press political and media campaigns against the autocratic government which has drawn favorable attention in the Western media.
Ideologically disciplined, with throwback “human-wave” tactics, and hoary ” final offensive” rhetoric, the rebels have also recently tapped into ” the bazaar of violence” to begin evolving tactically, making use now of IED’s and swarming. The rebels are shifting from the classic three-stage Marxist insurgency of Mao and Giap toward becoming more like a modern 4GW or Global Guerilla movement.
Whether Communist Party discipline can hold the rebels together or if counterinsurgency efforts and natural battlefield evolution causes decentralization and reemergence of Maoist forces as a scale-free network structure, will effect the outcome for Nepal. In the latter case, you would have a scenario much like Iraq with military groups fracturing into competing blocs and ongoing, low intensity warfare and state failure lasting, probably, for decades.
In the former situation, if the Maoists succeed in overthrowing the King and establishing a state, then the historical track record of other Maoist movements like the Shining Path, Khmer Rouge and in China itself bodes poorly for the 27 million people of Nepal.