Population Control and Small Wars

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Roy, Richard
Population Control , Counterinsurgency , Guerrilla Warfare , Small Wars
This thesis argues that while there are various contending notions of how a government can improve its chances of success in a small war, few strategies will be effective without the application of a comprehensive program of population control measures. For this study, small wars are conflicts in which a government uses limited means to secure national objectives against an adversary who uses primarily the tactics of guerrilla warfare. Population control measures are defined as those restrictions imposed on movement, on choice of residence, and on the availability of food that protect the population from the insurgents while simultaneously denying the insurgents access to critical resources. This work examines the vital importance of population control measures in overcoming guerrilla forces lacking external sponsors in small wars during the period 1870 to 1960. Five examples are used to determine their importance: the treatment of prairie Amerindians in the Canadian West (1870 – 1890); the guerrilla phase of the Philippine-American War (1898 – 1902); the guerrilla phase of the South African War (1899 – 1902); the Malayan Emergency (1948 – 1960); and the Kenyan Emergency (1952 – 1960). Within the broad strategies used to prosecute these campaigns, population control measures were a consistent feature and were instrumental in contributing to the termination of the conflicts. Despite their importance, these measures are typically overlooked or only treated superficially when discussed by historians. Therefore, to understand more fully the outcome of small wars, greater attention needs to be applied to the study of these measures. In small wars the primary contest between the belligerents is for control of the people. For the government, the strategic value of population control measures is in how they separate the population from the guerrillas. This denies a wide range of critical resources to the guerrillas and additionally allows the government to both prosecute its campaign more effectively and protect the population better. Population control measures need to be a key component of a government’s strategy in a small war as their proper application may be the tipping-point between success and failure.
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