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A take on Guerilla warfare - admired by Lenin and adopted by Mao

This is a discussion on A take on Guerilla warfare - admired by Lenin and adopted by Mao within the Military Strategy and Tactics forum, part of the Global Defense & Military category; I recently studied Clausewitz more closely, especially the chapters which are not very well known. Here is the chapter on ...


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Old April 20th, 2009   #1
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A take on Guerilla warfare - admired by Lenin and adopted by Mao

I recently studied Clausewitz more closely, especially the chapters which are not very well known. Here is the chapter on "Volksbewaffnung" or "Arming the Nation". This chapter has to been seen as part of the strategic defence integrated in his overall concept of war. Given that the Prussian court and a great part of the establishment feared that arming the people could result in anti-royalist revolutions and Clauswitz pressed for such a strategy one should not be surprise that this influences the way he presents this topic. It didn't certainly prevent Lenin and Mao from learning.

The chapter is here


Given the political background, now wonder he starts like that.

Quote:
A PEOPLE'S war in civilised Europe is a phenomenon of the nineteenth century. It has its advocates and its opponents: the latter either considering it in a political sense as a revolutionary means, a state of anarchy declared lawful, which is as dangerous as a foreign enemy to social order at home; or on military grounds, conceiving that the result is not commensurate with the expenditure of the nation's strength.

He continues:

Quote:
The first point does not concern us here, for we look upon a people's war merely as a means of fighting, therefore, in its connection with the enemy; but with regard to the latter point, we must observe that a people's war in general is to be regarded as a consequence of the outburst which the military element in our day has made through its old formal limits; as an expansion and strengthening of the whole fermentation-process which we call war.

The requisition system, the immense increase in the size of armies by means of that system, and the general liability to military service, the utilizing militia, are all things which lie in the same direction, if we make the limited military system of former days our starting point; and the levée en masse, or arming of the people, now lies also in the same direction.

If the first named of these new aids to war are the natural and necessary consequences of barriers thrown down; and if they have so enormously increased the power of those who first used them, that the enemy has been carried along in the current, and obliged to adopt them likewise, this will be the case also with people-wars

Then

Quote:
In the generality of cases, the people who make judicious use of this means, will gain a proportionate superiority over those who despise its use. If this be so, then the only question is whether this modern intensification of the military element is, upon the whole, salutary for the interests of humanity or otherwise,—a question which it would be about as easy to answer as the question of war itself—we leave both to philosophers.

But the opinion may be advanced, that the resources swallowed up in people's wars might be more profitably employed, if used in providing other military means; no very deep investigation, however, is necessary to be convinced that these resources are for the most part not disposable, and cannot be utilized in an arbitrary manner at pleasure. One essential part that is the moral element, is not called into existence until this kind of employment for it arises.

Sic, keep in mind the various guerilla wars as in Spain, Napoleonic Russia, the Sovietunion in WWII, China during and after the WWII and Afghanistan.

Quote:
We therefore do not ask again: how much does the resistance which the whole nation in arms is capable of making, cost that nation? but we ask: what is the effect which such a resistance can produce? What are its conditions, and how is it to be used?

It follows from the very nature of the thing that defensive means thus widely dispersed, are not suited to great blows requiring concentrated action in time and space. Its operation, like the process of evaporation in physical nature, is according to the surface. The greater that surface and the greater the contact with the enemy's army, consequently the more that army spreads itself out, so much the greater will be the effects of arming the nation.

Like a slow gradual heat, it destroys the foundations of the enemy's army. As it requires time to produce its effects, therefore whilst the hostile elements are working on each other, there is a state of tension which either gradually wears out if the people's war is extinguished at some points, and burns slowly away at others, or leads to a crisis, if the flames of this general conflagration envelop the enemy's army, and compel it to evacuate the country to save itself from utter destruction

A very important part comes than:

Quote:
In order that this result should be produced by a national war alone, we must suppose either a surface-extent of the dominions invaded, exceeding that of any country in Europe, except Russia, or suppose a disproportion between the strength of the invading army and the extent of the country, such as never occurs in reality.

Therefore, to avoid following a phantom, we must imagine a people-war always in combination, with a war carried on by a regular army, and both carried on according to a plan embracing the operations of the whole.

To which the politcal context - fear of popular revolution, similar the French one - influenced the last sentence is unknown. It is a very interesting statement and especially interesting when used to analyse the situation in Afghanistan. To which extent the safe tribal areas in Pakistan and the flow of ressources and money substitute the "regular army" is quite a question. Note also that Allies play a very important part in the strategic defense according to other Chapters.

Interestingly Mao warned the guerilla leaders in Latinamerica to accept his specific strategy, which relied to a great deal on the huge and difficult terrain of china and the support of the large rural majority as dogma.

While he limits the power of the unsupported "guerilla war" he then up with this.


Quote:
The conditions under which alone the people's war can become effective are the following—

1. That the war is carried on in the heart of the country.

2. That it cannot be decided by a single catastrophe.

3. That the theatre of war embraces a considerable extent of country.

4. That the national character is favourable to the measure.

5. That the country is of a broken and difficult nature, either from being mountainous, or by reason of woods and marshes, or from the peculiar mode of cultivation in use.

Whether the population is dense or otherwise, is of little consequence, as there is less likelihood of a want of men than of anything else. Whether the inhabitants are rich or poor is also a point by no means decisive, at least it should not be; but it must be admitted that a poor population accustomed to hard work and privations usually shows itself more vigorous and better suited for war.
Very hard not to think about Afghanistan, or China in WWII, isn't it?


Quote:
One peculiarity of country which greatly favors the action of war carried on by the people, is the scattered sites of the dwellings of the country people, such as is to be found in many parts of Germany. The country is thus more intersected and covered; the roads are worse, although more numerous; the lodgement of troops is attended with endless difficulties, but especially that peculiarity repeats itself on a small scale, which a people-war possesses on a great scale, namely that the principle of resistance exists everywhere, but is nowhere tangible.

If the inhabitants are collected in villages, the most troublesome have troops quartered on them, or they are plundered as a punishment, and their houses burnt, etc, a system which could not be very easily carried out with a peasant community of Westphalia.
... or Afghanistan

What follows shows that the writer has experienced and studied guerilla war very carefully.

Quote:
National levies and armed peasantry cannot and should not be employed against the main body of the enemy's army, or even against any considerable corps of the same, they must not attempt to crack the nut, they must only gnaw on the surface and the borders. They should rise in the provinces situated at one of the sides of the theatre of war, and in which the assailant does not appear in force, in order to withdraw these provinces entirely from his influence.

Where no enemy is to be found, there is no want of courage to oppose him, and at the example thus given, the mass of the neighboring population gradually takes fire. Thus the fire spreads as it does in heather, and reaching at last that part of the surface of the soil on which the aggressor is based, it seizes his lines of communication and preys upon the vital thread by which his existence is supported.
Surly on of the best descriptions written on the topic. Take away "National Levies and armed peasantry" and use "Insurgency" and you could post it easily in the COIN field manual.

Quote:
For although we entertain no exaggerated ideas of the omnipotence of a people's war, such as that it is an inexhaustible, unconquerable element, over which the mere force of an army has as little control as the human will has over the wind or the rain; in short, although our opinion is not founded on flowery ephemeral literature, still we must admit that armed peasants are not to be driven before us in the same way as a body of soldiers who keep together like a herd of cattle, and usually follow their noses
then one thinks of the Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan

Quote:
Armed peasants, on the contrary, when broken, disperse in all directions, for which no formal plan is required; through this circumstance, the march of every small body of troops in a mountainous, thickly wooded, or even broken country, becomes a service of a very dangerous character, for at any moment a combat may arise on the march; if in point of fact no armed bodies have even been seen for some time, yet the same peasants already driven off by the head of a column, may at any hour make their appearance in its rear.

If it is an object to destroy roads or to block up a defile; the means which outposts or detachments from an army can apply to that purpose, bear about the same relation to those furnished by a body of insurgent peasants, as the action of an automaton does to that of a human being. The enemy has no other means to oppose to the action of national levies except that of detaching numerous parties to furnish escorts for convoys to occupy military stations, defiles, bridges, etc.

In proportion as the first efforts of the national levies are small, so the detachments sent out will be weak in numbers, from the repugnance to a great dispersion of forces; it is on these weak bodies that the fire of the national war usually first properly kindles itself, they are overpowered by numbers at some points, courage rises, the love of fighting gains strength, and the intensity of this struggle increases until the crisis approaches which is to decide the issue.
Very hard not to think about Spain back than and Afghanistan today

Quote:
According to our idea of a people's war, it should, like a kind of nebulous vapoury essence, never condense into a solid body; otherwise the enemy sends an adequate force against this core, crushes it, and makes a great many prisoners; their courage sinks; every one thinks the main question is decided, any further effort useless, and the arms fall from the hands of the people.

Still, however, on the other hand, it is necessary that this mist should collect at some points into denser masses, and form threatening clouds from which now and again a formidable flash of lightning may burst forth.

These points are chiefly on the flanks of the enemy's theatre of war, as already observed. There the armament of the people should be organised into greater and more systematic bodies, supported by a small force of regular troops, so as to give it the appearance of a regular force and fit it to venture upon enterprises on a larger scale.

From these points, the irregular character in the organisation of these bodies should diminish in proportion as they are to be employed more in the direction of the rear of the enemy, where he is exposed to their hardest blows. These better organised masses, are for the purpose of falling upon the larger garrisons which the enemy leaves behind him.

Besides, they serve to create a feeling of uneasiness and dread, and increase the moral impression of the whole, without them the total action would be wanting in force, and the situation of the enemy upon the whole would not be made sufficiently uncomfortable.
Mao seems to have take the whole last page out and slightly modified it when he described his three phases of the revolution Not unlikely, given that he read Lenin's take on it and the (badly) translated work.

Turning tables and a A blast, an Ambush.. both provided by the NY Times reflect things well from the soldier's point. Listen about the suffered ambush.

I will follow it up with the second part of the chapter in which he also talks about the paradox that rapid tactical attacks are the mainstay of the people's war in the strategic defence.
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Old April 20th, 2009   #2
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The concept did prevail in some European nations as well; in German-speaking countries under the moniker "Raumverteidigung" (area defense) as realized in some countries in the 60s.

The Austrian Spannocchi Doctrine of strict area defense focused on avoiding regular troop concentrations, instead creating literally thousands of "flash zones", defended primarily by local "peasant militias" (the use of the word "Landwehr" in that context actually emphasizes this somewhat) in addition to regular troops. The "denser masses of mist" mentioned are also present in this doctrine in the form of "key areas" with stricter organization and more regular troop components.
The entire doctrine was laid out not to stop a hostile intrusion, but to convolute it - needle strikes at the supply lines, drawing force components apart, delaying enemy thrusts, drawing the enemy in and flanking him with irregular forces to eat away at the fringes. Aimed against both NATO and WarPac btw, and considered next to impossible to overcome.
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Old April 20th, 2009   #3
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Actually I read further about the connections between Clausewitz and Lenin. According to this book Mao was mightly impressed by Clausewitz and spoke also with Helmuth Schmidt, the old German Chancellor about it. He was intimately informed about the finer discussions about his theories, so he critized Luddendorf for his take on the primacy of the military after the political actors decided for war, siding with Clausewitz. The heavy influence on Lenin is far better know. The book is in german, although there seems to be an english version. (I'm btw a native german/italian speaker and can converse also in spanish, french and a little hindi - my latin is very rusty)

Thanks Kato for the very interesting Austrian doctrine. I will study it.

Part 2 of the chapter "Arming the people"

Quote:
The easiest way for a general to produce this more effective form of a national armament, is to support the movement by small detachments sent from the army. Without the support of a few regular troops as an encouragement, the inhabitants generally want an impulse, and the confidence to take up arms. The stronger these detachments are, the greater will be their power of attraction, the greater will be the avalanche which is to fall down.


But this has its limits; partly, first, because it would be detrimental to the army to cut it up into detachments, for this secondary object to dissolve it, as it were, into a body of irregulars, and form with it in all directions a weak defensive line, by which we may be sure both the regular army and national levies alike would become completely ruined; partly, secondly, because experience seems to tell us that when there are too many regular troops in a district, the people-war loses in vigour and efficacy; the causes of this are in the first place, that too many of the enemy's troops are thus drawn into the district, and, in the second place, that the inhabitants then rely on their own regular troops, and, thirdly, because the presence of such large bodies of troops makes too great demands on the powers of the people in other ways, that is, in providing quarters, transport, contributions, etc., etc.

Evaded soldiers played a big part in the Partisan War in the Sovietunion in WWII, but perhaps the best example are the SF who trained ethnic minorities in Vietnam - the Mike Force.

Quote:
Another means of preventing any serious reaction on the part of the enemy against this popular movement constitutes, at the same time, a leading principle in the method of using such levies; this is, that as a rule, with this great strategic means of defence, a tactical defence should seldom or ever take place. The character of a combat with national levies is the same as that of all combats of masses of troops of an inferior quality, great impetuosity and fiery ardour at the commencement, but little coolness or tenacity if the combat is prolonged. Further, the defeat and dispersion of a body of national levies is of no material consequence, as they lay their account with that, but a body of this description must not be broken up by losses in killed, wounded, and prisoners; a defeat of that kind would soon cool their ardour. But both these peculiarities are entirely opposed to the nature of a tactical defensive.

In the defensive combat a persistent slow systematic action is required, and great risks must be run; a mere attempt, from which we can desist as soon as we please, can never lead to results in the defensive. If, therefore, the national levies are entrusted with the defence of any particular portion of territory, care must be taken that the measure does not lead to a regular great defensive combat; for if the circumstances were ever so favourable to them, they would be sure to be defeated.

They may, and should, therefore, defend the approaches to mountains, dykes, over marshes, river-passages, as long as possible; but when once they are broken, they should rather disperse, and continue their defence by sudden attacks, than concentrate and allow themselves to be shut up in some narrow last refuge in a regular defensive position.—However brave a nation may be, however warlike its habits, however intense its hatred of the enemy, however favourable the nature of the country, it is an undeniable fact that a people's war cannot be kept up in an atmosphere too full of danger. If, therefore, its combustible material is to be fanned by any means into a considerable flame it must be at remote points where there is more air, and where it cannot be extinguished by one great blow.
A very important dictum in a people's war sustained locally only by irregulars. In the strategic defence never put up a prolonged and fixed defence - the trasformation into more regular forces can only occur in areas not controlled by the enemy. Modern warfare has even reinforced this dictum, just look at the combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Quote:
After these reflections, which are more of the nature of subjective impressions than an objective analysis, because the subject is one as yet of rare occurrence generally, and has been but imperfectly treated of by those who have had actual experience for any length of time, we have only to add that the strategic plan of defence can include in itself the cooperation of a general arming of the people in two different ways, that is, either as a last resource after a lost battle, or as a natural assistance before a decisive battle has been fought. The latter case supposes a retreat into the interior of the country, and that indirect kind of reaction of which we have treated in the eighth and twenty-fourth chapters of this book. We have, therefore, here only to say a few words on the mission of the national levies after a battle has been lost.

Certainly quite interesting "subjective impressions"

Quote:
No State should believe its fate, that is, its entire existence, to be dependent upon one battle, let it be even the most decisive. If it is beaten, the calling forth fresh power, and the natural weakening which every offensive undergoes with time, may bring about a turn of fortune, or assistance may come from abroad. No such urgent haste to die is needed yet; and as by instinct the drowning man catches at a straw, so in the natural course of the moral world a people should try the last means of deliverance when it sees itself hurried along to the brink of an abyss.

However small and weak a State may be in comparison to its enemy, if it foregoes a last supreme effort, we must say there is no longer any soul left in it. This does not exclude the possibility of saving itself from complete destruction by the purchase of peace at a sacrifice; but neither does such an aim on its part do away with the utility of fresh measures for defence; they will neither make peace more difficult nor more onerous, but easier and better. They are still more necessary if there is an expectation of assistance from those who are interested in maintaining our political existence.

Any government, therefore, which, after the loss of a great battle, only thinks how it may speedily place the nation in the lap of peace, and unmanned by the feeling of great hopes disappointed, no longer feels in itself the courage or the desire to stimulate to the utmost every element of force, completely stultifies itself in such case through weakness, and shows itself unworthy of victory, and, perhaps, just on that account, was incapable of gaining one.
This reflects the experience of the terrible defeats of the Prussian army at the twinbattles of Jena and Auerstedt which ended in an Carthagian peace and the Russian campaign where he both served.

Quote:
However decisive, therefore, the overthrow may be which is experienced by a State, still by a retreat of the army into the interior, the efficacy of its fortresses and an arming of the people may be brought into use. In connection with this it is advantageous if the flank of the principal theatre of war is fenced in by mountains, or otherwise very difficult tracts of country, which stand forth as bastions, the strategic enfilade of which is to check the enemy's progress.
This is certainly intersting to read for somebody who knows something about Mao's campaigns and the struggle of the Soviet partisans in the context of WWII.


Quote:
If the victorious enemy is engaged in siege works, if he has left strong garrisons behind him everywhere to secure his communications, or detached corps to make himself elbow-room, and to keep the adjacent provinces in subjection, if he is already weakened by his various losses in active means and material of war, then the moment is arrived when the defensive army should again enter the lists, and by a well-directed blow make the assailant stagger in his disadvantageous position.
To quote another part of Clausewitz "the fast and forceful change to the attack - the flashing sword of vengeance - is the most brilliant point in the defense". Note that this holds true for all levels of war. The strategic, operational and tactical. The Russian counterattack in the Napoleonic campaign, Wellington in Spain are good examples on the strategic level. Manstein's counterthrust with the backhand at Kursk is a brilliant and wellknown example at the operational level. Hannibals counterattack against the Roman flanks and rear after the defense in the center might be the best example at a tactical level.

Further comments

Sadly the book "Attack" is only sketchy, so we don't know if he planned also to write how to deal as an invader with popular uprising.

All in all I was quite surprised to read such an brilliant synthesis on Guerilla warfare from an author how is often accused of ignoring "unconventional" warfare. Seems that for Mao and Lenin he was a good enough guide to it.


I might add a personal general critique. A rather weak one, with some glaring weak points is here.
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Old April 21st, 2009   #4
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An excellent site on Clausewitz is www.clausewitz.com/

Lots of food for thought here. I enjoyed this fine piece especially since it is among the ones with a fresh approach.

I found an brilliant article. Perhaps one of the best ever written on the topic of insurgency, COIN and terrorism, and closely aligned with my personal interpretation. In German.

I started to read now Mao myself and it is quite surprising. I always read about the deep influence of Sun Tzu on him and took it for granted, however it seems to me, even if I have "The Art of War" both in mind and right on my desk that he is also deeply influenced by Clausewitz.

Here is one of the few inner directives.
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"The first criterioun in war remains decisive action. Everyone, from the highest commander down to the youngest soldier, must constantly be aware that inaction and neglect incriminate him more severely than any error in the choice of means.

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Old April 21st, 2009   #5
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Mao - Problems Of Strategy In China's Revolutionary War

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"The first criterioun in war remains decisive action. Everyone, from the highest commander down to the youngest soldier, must constantly be aware that inaction and neglect incriminate him more severely than any error in the choice of means.

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Old April 22nd, 2009   #6
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Originally Posted by Firn View Post
Lots of food for thought here. I enjoyed this fine piece especially since it is among the ones with a fresh approach.
Amongst your food for thought on Clausewitz is an article by the then LTC Goh Teck Seng called 'Clausewitz and His Impact on Strategy'. He has since been promoted to colonel and has left service. Nonetheless, COL(NS) Goh has since written a new article called 'War As an Instrument of Politics' and I recommend it as further reading.

IMHO, the piece on non-linearity is interesting and valid from a historian's point of view but of limited utility to a small unit commander at the battalion and brigade command levels. The lessons of non-linearity should serve to serve as a guide to the civilian ministers/presidents who commit their soldiers to a military solution at theater levels. At theater levels war is an instrument of politics and we need to see it as such.

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Originally Posted by Firn View Post
I started to read now Mao myself and it is quite surprising. I always read about the deep influence of Sun Tzu on him and took it for granted, however it seems to me, even if I have "The Art of War" both in mind and right on my desk that he is also deeply influenced by Clausewitz.

Here is one of the few inner directives.
I am amazed that you took the trouble to read Mao but reading him requires a little bit of background in Chinese military thinking. I would like to recommend an article by COL Ong Yu Lin that deals with in part on the Chinese military thinking on the process of "inferior defeating the superior". COL Ong, in his quest to seek applicability has written in a style that can be easily seen as linear in thinking. The linear mode of thinking is implicitly criticized by Alan D. Beyerchen in 'Clausewitz, Nonlinearity and the Unpredictability of War', a link of which was previously provided in your post. However, I would suggest that pushing COL Ong's conceptual clarifications into a linear mode is to misrepresent the points made. In his article cited above, COL Ong says that:
"The concept of "using the inferior to overcome the superior" has its roots in ancient Chinese military history which emphasises stealth, deception and indirect approaches. It is an integral part of the Chinese culture to present oneself as weak and humble before seeking to exploit opportunities and demonstrating strength. This deceptive and stealthy approach is designed to lower the opponent's defences. In contrast, the Western approach seeks to project strengths as a way to gain advantages and opportunities with the intent to frighten one's opponent to yield. In more recent history, the experiences of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) in the Revolutionary War, the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the War of Liberation have reinforced the belief that the inferior can overcome the superior by relying on superior military art and strategy rather than power to achieve victory."
This article is a useful supplement to help you understand and read in context Mao's writing (as he is Chinese and would have been schooled in Chinese military thinking, as epitomized by the writings of Sun Tzu).

Military analysts like Frank Hoffman and Michael Evans have suggested that future conflict will be multi-modal or multi-variant. Therefore greater attention is paid to the blurring and blending of war forms in combinations of increasing frequency and lethality. Often described as “hybrid warfare,” the modern adversary will most likely present hybrid threats specifically targeting the other party's vulnerabilities. Instead of separate challengers with fundamentally different approaches (conventional, irregular, or terrorist), we can expect to face competitors who will employ all forms of war and tactics, perhaps simultaneously. I previously posted in another thread an article by Robert Martinage on the future challenges for US special forces. Do you think he is misconceived about the US Special Operations strategy for the long haul and the future challenges posed by potential rise of the People’s Republic of China? Or he is spot on? Have a read and let me know what you think.

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Old April 23rd, 2009   #7
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Amongst your food for thought on Clausewitz is an article by the then LTC Goh Teck Seng called 'Clausewitz and His Impact on Strategy'. He has since been promoted to Col. and has left service. Nonetheless, COL(NS) Goh Teck Seng had a new article called 'War As an Instrument of Politics' and I recommend it as further reading.
I already have read the first one and will perhaps soon read the second.

Quote:
IMHO, the piece on non-linearity is interesting and valid from a historian's point of view but of limited utility to a small unit commander at the battalion and brigade command levels. The lessons of non-linearity should serve to serve as a guide to the civilian ministers/presidents who commit their soldiers to a military solution at theater levels. At theater levels war is an instrument of politics and we need to see it as such.
I agree broadly. The compression of space and time due to modern media and globalization has however led to an "strategic corporal", which means that the isolated actions of small unit commanders can have an immediate strategic effect. Think of incidents like this one. This is however mostly an issue of moral and soldierly conduct by the troops. Broad ROE and guidelines - limiting factors for a limited war - should be set forth by the civilian authorities with help and advice from the military ones.

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I am amazed that you took the trouble to read Mao but reading him requires a little bit of background in Chinese military thinking. I would like to recommend an article by COL Ong Yu Lin that deals with in part on the Chinese military thinking on the process of "inferior defeating the superior". COL Ong, in his quest to seek applicability has written in a style that can be easily seen as linear in thinking. The linear mode of thinking is implicitly criticized by Alan D. Beyerchen in 'Clausewitz, Nonlinearity and the Unpredictability of War', a link of which was previously provided in your post. However, I would suggest that pushing COL Ong's conceptual clarifications into a linear mode is to misrepresent the points made.
I have some background in philosophy and actually like daoist thought and read some poems. I have also read/studied some military classics of China and think I have acquired some understanding of Chinese military thinking.Thanks also for postig the article of the "inferior defeating the superior". I read it and will post my specific thoughts about it later.

Quote:
This article is a useful supplement to help you understand and read in context Mao's writing (as he is Chinese and would have been schooled in Chinese military thinking, as epitomized by the writings of Sun Tzu).

A peculiar assisting librarian - Mao

Personally I think that Mao's political and military thinking was broadly influenced by three streams of thought and his experience. Thanks to his reading - he was an librarian -he could acquire a wide perspective.

a) Chinese culture, living, language and social, political and military thought.

b) The Communist nexus of thought, among those Marx and Lenin.

c) Broadly "western" science and thought.


The three influences


Chinese thinking

a) The great influence of his own culture in all aspects of his life is selfevident. He also uses examples and phrases of some chinese works, especially Sun Tzu in his military-political treaties. See the Problems of Strategy in China's Revolutionary War , Problems of Strategy in Guerilla War Against Japan or Guerilla Warfare.


Communist thinking

b) The strong influence of communist ideas on his politial and military thinking is equally selfevident. Lenin seems to be by far most important source when it comes to military and politcal strategy, especially his work about "Partisan warfare" gets quoted often. Keep in mind that Lenin wrote a specifc booklet to collect his thoughts about "On War" and often referred to Clausewitz in his speeches and writings. BTW here I discovered an interesting paper about Clausewitz written around 1967, during the Vietnam war. Needless to say, a time when a deep study of communist guerilla warfare was of great importance, with the chapter about "arming the people" also in the spotlight.
Quote:
Lenin, like Friedrich’ Engels and Marx, was fascinated by Clausewitz’ war theories; he not only studied them with insight, but annoted his books extensively. That Engele, Marx, Mao, and Lenin, the most noted exponents of the Communist philosophy, acknowledged their debt to Clausewitz, who was a non-Communist thinker, is undoubtedly the highest compliment ever paid to his insight on the nature of war.
A similar compliment by Mao was of course also made to Sun Tzu, also a non-communist thinker.


"Western" thinking

c) The influence of general "western" science, technology and thought was also certainly strong. In military thinking it was perhaps Germany which had the greates influence, given the deep, long and sometimes rocky Sino-German cooperation. The German-trained "elite" divisions under direct command of ChiangKai-shek and the advice of senior german military figures almost annihilated the red army in 1934, forcing them on "the long march". This happened after the first four "encirclement and supression" campaigns were utter failures. The publications of the marines has some good background on it. How deep the influence of Japan was is hard to know, I didn't yet have the chance to study it.

Clausewitz was quoted often directly by Mao and after I have read the latter after the former it seemed to me that the influences where greatly visible, overall and even in details. From the superiority of the rapid counter-attack from the interior lines of the strategic defence with a great concentration of force to encircle and annihilate a part of the enemy force decisively to the reliance on the "armed peasantry" - it would be worth a paper. I will perhaps show some of it later on.
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Old April 23rd, 2009   #8
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Military analysts like Frank Hoffman and Michael Evans have suggested that future conflict will be multi-modal or multi-variant. Therefore greater attention is paid to the blurring and blending of war forms in combinations of increasing frequency and lethality. Often described as “hybrid warfare,” the modern adversary will most likely present hybrid threats specifically targeting the other party's vulnerabilities. Instead of separate challengers with fundamentally different approaches (conventional, irregular, or terrorist), we can expect to face competitors who will employ all forms of war and tactics, perhaps simultaneously. I previously posted in another thread an article by Robert Martinage on the future challenges for US special forces. Do you think he is misconceived about the US Special Operations strategy for the long haul and the future challenges posed by potential rise of the People’s Republic of China? Or he is spot on? Have a read and let me know what you think.
I will need a sperate post to reply to it in due form - I will do so in your thread.

BTW: Here is a interesting critic on Clausewitz or better on part of the military establishment of the USA. Very worthwhile to read after you invested some time in Clausewitz himself.
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Old April 24th, 2009   #9
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Lightbulb

I read now War as an instrument..


Some critic:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Goh Teck Seng

Clausewitz's formulation of war as a means-end relationship tied to a state's policy, namely its national interests, endows war with a higher rationality. More pointedly, it clothes war in the garb of acceptability and gives it a face of legitimacy. The Clausewitzian paradigm sees war therefore not only as an instrument of politics but also a legitimate one at that. This opens the way for states to employ force against other states as they see fit based on their cost-benefit calculus.

I agree with his view on the role of strategy - just as Clausewitz did. Note that the author continues with a take on game theory were single actors interact in a very simplistic manner and precisely define framework.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Goh Teck Seng

Equally disconcertingly, Clausewitz's exposition on war as an instrument of politics is in fact an assertion that "might is right". The former Bush administration, with its doctrine of prevention and pre-emption, could have found no higher intellectual justification of its policy stance than Clausewitz. What is Operation Iraqi Freedom if not "the continuation of politics with the admixture of other means"? Given the uneven global distribution of military power, adherence to the Clausewitzian paradigm would imply a world governed by the laws of the jungle where the mighty would do what they will, and the weak have to simply accept what they must. International society as we know it will then unravel; there will be no order, much less justice, and life will be "nasty and brutish" in the Hobbesian sense. A domestic analogy is here instructive: can we imagine the turbulence in domestic society if duels can be a legitimate extension of debate? The upshot of Clausewitz's dictum that war is an instrument of politics is to hold peace perpetually to ransom.
While I strongly disagree that the classic dictum of him indicates "might makes right" - one can see here how a world seen as a simple game according to game theory would lead to great distress.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Goh Teck Seng

Wars since 1648 have clearly been waged by nation-states. But have these wars always been rational, with the political ends justifying the force employed? While it is true that war is almost always a deliberate and carefully calculated act, it does not follow that the political logic can remain in command through a war. Was it not Clausewitz himself who observed that war was "a collision of two living forces" with its inherent explosive dynamic? If so, even as it is desirable that the political end should limit the force applied, the expectation must also be that the political logic itself can transform as a war escalates. Did the US not enter the Vietnam War to contain communism only to concede the very cause that it fought for because of adverse public opinion? Or was Clausewitz in fact right in that he had advocated that the trinity of "government, military and public opinion" in any war should be prudently managed, and the Vietnam War was a negative example of all that went wrong with the trinitarian balance? If public opinion alone was a sufficient condition for US rethinking on Vietnam, Clausewitz would have been right; but geostrategic calculations of the centrality of Vietnam to the Cold War and US economic overstretch were important explanatory factors.

He sadly gets the trinity completely wrong. Read the - not so brilliant - translation:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carl von Clausewitz

War is, therefore, not only a true chameleon, because it changes its nature in some degree in each particular case, but it is also, as a whole, in relation to the predominant tendencies which are in it, a wonderful trinity, composed of the original violence of its elements, hatred and animosity, which may be looked upon as blind instinct; of the play of probabilities and chance, which make it a free activity of the soul; and of the subordniate nature of a political instrument, by which it belongs purely to the reason.

The first of these three phases concerns more the people; the second more the general and his army; the third more the Government. The passions which break forth in war must already have a latent existence in the peoples. The range which the display of courage and talents shall get in the realm of probabilities and of chance depends on the particular characteristics of the general and his army; but the political objects belong to the Government alone.

These three tendencies, which appear like so many different lawgivers, are deeply rooted in the nature of the subject, and at the same time variable in degree. A theory which would leave any one of them out of account, or set up any arbitrary relation between them, would immediately become involved in such a contradiction with the reality, that it might be regarded as destroyed at once by that alone.

The problem is, therefore, that theory shall keep itself poised in a manner between these three tendencies, as between three points of attraction.

The way in which alone this difficult problem can be solved we shall examine in the book on the "Theory of War." In every case the conception of war, as here defined, will be the first ray of light which shows us the true foundation of theory, and which first separates the great masses, and allows us to distinguish them from one another.

There are some points in the trinity I will later address, but as a compact summary it seems to me that it does rather fine.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Goh Teck Seng

In short, the political logic for why the US entered the Vietnam War had evolved with the progress of the war, raising questions about how war can be guided by a singular, unchanging logic if the politics itself is variable over time. As Tolstoy so poignantly observed of war in the concluding part of War and Peace, "(l)eadership, calculation, control over events - these are merely the illusion of statesmen... The passions of men and the momentum of events often take over and propel war in novel and unexpected directions".14

A dilemma which he posed himself before achieving a better approach in book one. Read on.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carl von Clausewitz

If we give an affirmative to the first, then our Theory will be, in all respects, nearer to the necessary, it will be a clearer and more settled thing. But what should we say then of all wars since those of Alexander up to the time of Buonaparte, if we except some campaigns of the Romans? We should have to reject them in a lump, and yet we cannot, perhaps, do so without being ashamed of our presumption. But an additional evil is, that we must say to ourselves, that in the next ten years there may perhaps be a war of that same kind again, in spite of our Theory; and that this Theory, with a rigorous logic, is still quite powerless against the force of circumstances. We must, therefore, decide to construe war as it is to be, and not from pure conception, but by allowing room for everything of a foreign nature which mixes up with it and fastens itself upon it—all the natural inertia and friction of its parts, the whole of the inconsistency, the vagueness and hesitation (or timidity) of the human mind: we shall have to grasp the idea that war, and the form which we give it, proceeds from ideas, feelings, and circumstances, which dominate for the moment; indeed, if we would be perfectly candid we must admit that this has even been the case where it has taken its absolute character, that is, under Buonaparte.

Take the above and other parts of his last book, which is unfinished but important. He wrote shortly before his death in a notice that he wanted to work out the differences the following two types of war.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carl von Clausewitz

The two kinds of War are, first, those in which the object is the OVERTHROW OF THE ENEMY, whether it be that we aim at his destruction, politically, or merely at disarming him and forcing him to conclude peace on our terms; and next, those in which our object is MERELY TO MAKE SOME CONQUESTS ON THE FRONTIERS OF HIS COUNTRY, either for the purpose of retaining them permanently, or of turning them to account as matter of exchange in the settlement of a peace. Transition from one kind to the other must certainly continue to exist, but the completely different nature of the tendencies of the two must everywhere appear, and must separate from each other things which are incompatible.

Back to the "Plan of War":

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carl von Clausewitz

If we must do so, if we must grant that war originates and takes its form not from a final adjustment of the innumerable relations with which it is connected, but from some amongst them which happen to predominate; then it follows, as a matter of course, that it rests upon a play of possibilities, probabilities, good fortune and bad, in which rigorous logical deduction often gets lost, and in which it is in general a useless, inconvenient instrument for the head; then it also follows that war may be a thing which is sometimes war in a greater, sometimes in a lesser degree.

Now a very interesting part:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carl von Clausewitz

All this, theory must admit, but it is its duty to give the foremost place to the absolute form of war, and to use that form as a general point of direction, that whoever wishes to learn something from theory, may accustom himself never to lose sight of it, to regard it as the natural measure of all his hopes and fears, in order to approach it where he can, or where he must.

That a leading idea, which lies at the root of our thoughts and actions, gives them a certain tone and character, even when the immediately determining grounds come from totally different regions, is just as certain as that the painter can give this or that tone to his picture by the colours with which he lays on his ground.
At a fast first glance it would seem quite war-mongering, but take a closer look. Than he continues.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Carl von Clausewitz

Theory is indebted to the last wars for being able to do this effectually now. Without these warning examples of the destructive force of the element set free, she might have talked herself hoarse to no purpose; no one would have believed possible what all have now lived to see realised.

Would Prussia have ventured to penetrate into France in the year 1798 with 70,000 men, if she had foreseen that the reaction in case of failure would be so strong as to overthrow the old balance of power in Europe?

Would Prussia, in 1806, have made war with 100,000 against France, if she had supposed that the first pistol shot would be a spark in the heart of the mine, which would blow it into the air?
He witnessed the destruction of the greatest army to this date commanded by the genius of his time who was following a sensible, rational plan of war. Hard to believe after reading his words that the advocates the perception of war as easily manageable "rational" tool of politik.
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Old April 24th, 2009   #10
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Interesting piece of Mao - who let murder many scholars among others - about the need to study and classical idealist philosophy

II. THE TALK OF JANUARY 27, 1957

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If you comrades here already know materialism and dialectics, I would like to advise you to supplement your knowledge by some study of their opposites, that is, idealism and metaphysics. You should read Kant and Hegel and Confucius and Chiang Kai-shek, which are all negative stuff. If you know nothing about idealism and metaphysics, if you have never waged any struggle against them, your materialism and dialectics will not be solid. The shortcoming of some of our Party members and intellectuals is precisely that they know too little about the negative stuff. Having read a few books by Marx, they just repeat what is in them and sound rather monotonous. Their speeches and articles are not convincing. If you don't study the negative stuff, you won't be able to refute it. Neither Marx nor Engels nor Lenin was like that. They made great efforts to learn and study all sorts of things, contemporary and past, and taught other people to do likewise. The three component parts of Marxism came into being in the course of their study of, as well as their struggle with, such bourgeois things as German classical philosophy, English classical political economy and French utopian socialism. In this respect Stalin was not as good. For instance, in his time, German classical idealist philosophy was described as a reaction on the part of the German aristocracy to the French revolution. This conclusion totally negates German classical idealist philosophy. Stalin negated German military science, alleging that it was no longer of any use and that books by Clausewitz [4] should no longer be read since the Germans had been defeated.
Mao was certainly one of the reader with the most interesting interpretations, certainly up there with Corbett.

Quote:
In their view, war is war and peace is peace, the two are mutually exclusive and entirely unconnected, and war cannot be transformed into peace, nor peace into war. Lenin quoted Clausewitz, "War is the continuation of politics by other means." [5] Struggle in peace-time is politics, so is war, though certain special means are used. War and peace are both mutually exclusive and interconnected and can be transformed into each other under given conditions. If war is not brewing in peace-time, how can it possibly break out all of a sudden? If peace is not brewing in wartime, how can it suddenly come about?
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Old April 24th, 2009   #11
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I don't know much of the subject and found your posts very interesting. Though, with my limited knowledge of the subject, it seems to me that what clausewitz writes on "Arming the Nation" hasn't so much in common with modern Guerilla war. To me it seems that Clausewitz advocates a different use of the old known "millitias" or irregular forces drawn by mass levy with none or limited training, with the classical purpose of aiding the defense and by that aiding the regular army to traditionally defeat the invader. I honestly don't think that clausewitz imagined that such forces could reverse a total "conventional" strategical collapse (conventionally army defeated, cities taken etc.).

Though I think that Clausewitz does indirectly and on an abstract level explain modern Guerilla war, and why it can be succesfull against seemingly impossible odds and after a total conventional strategical collapse. And I think that this was the inspiration of the father of modern Guerilla war: Ho Chi Minh. (Well, I don't rate Mao or Lenin very high - maybe that's my ignorence)
It has to do with one of , or the, cardinal idea(s) of Clausewitz: That the defense, unless anhillated, will always rise and that as a consequvence a point of ballance will always come between the offense and the defense. And when this point is reached, the defense will, if war is continued, continually improve it's position and finally drive the invader off.
This, I think, was the core of Ho Chi Minh's concept of war. To be able to "stay in the fray". I didn't matter that nothing was tactically or strategically gained by the effort, it was just a question of keep resisting. Then the invaders position would, due to many factors (the "home front" being one of them) deterioate. The french lost the 1st war of Indochine this way and the american's lost the 2nd war of indochine the same way. The french - unlike the americans - learned from this, and found their answer in Clausewitz theory as well: The answer was that; then the "defense" had to be anihilated as fast as possible. That's the basic concept of the french "Guerre subversive". Which was put to use in the only real succes against a modern Gurilla force resisting foreign occupation: The war of algier (that France after millitary victory, achived by extreame brutallity and violence, then lost Algier politically because of the brutallity that affected also the french socity, is another thing).

I think you see this in both Iraq and Afgh. In Iraq what the resistence really achived, besides staying in the fray, was to kill iraqies, but that and the fact that in continued was enough to keep the war going and a daily worsening of the american position (untill the US allied with their Iraqi enemies, that's btw a good way to stop the fighting, but perhaps not so good to achive your original political aims...) In afghanistan the Talliban achives next to nothing besides staying in the fray. Dispite that NATO is very worried that it has allready lost.
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Old April 25th, 2009   #12
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An interesting reply

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I don't know much of the subject and found your posts very interesting. Though, with my limited knowledge of the subject, it seems to me that what clausewitz writes on "Arming the Nation" hasn't so much in common with modern Guerilla war.
After reading the chapter I have come that to the conclusion that the only truly important and major difference is one of purpose. If we follow Clausewitz as Mao and Lenin did and think that "war is a nothing but a continuation of politik {politics, policy, polity} with different/other means" this key difference is easy to understand. However it perfectly fits into his wider theory of war.

Quote:
To me it seems that Clausewitz advocates a different use of the old known "millitias" or irregular forces drawn by mass levy with none or limited training, with the classical purpose of aiding the defense and by that aiding the regular army to traditionally defeat the invader. I honestly don't think that clausewitz imagined that such forces could reverse a total "conventional" strategical collapse (conventionally army defeated, cities taken etc.).
I think you should read the chapter carefully. He points out at the beginning that:

Quote:
A PEOPLE'S war in civilised Europe is a phenomenon of the nineteenth century. It has its advocates and its opponents: the latter either considering it in a political sense as a revolutionary means, a state of anarchy declared lawful, which is as dangerous as a foreign enemy to social order at home; or on military grounds, conceiving that the result is not commensurate with the expenditure of the nation's strength.
As I said before people with too meager historic background don't understand just how widespread the fear of the higher classes was of an revolution - the French one did send many a high head rolling. Clausewitz had to defend his will to arm the people of prussia against the conservatives who feared that it would allow a revolution. He concedes that there is some danger to it but argues that in the specific situation of Prussia it is the lesser evil. He had to contain You should read the chapter again.

You raised than some interesting points. I have now no time to answer in depth, but i will do so.
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Old April 25th, 2009   #13
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I don't disagree with you vis a vis the revolutionary aspects and fear of the same of arming the population after the french revolution.

I just don't see the clear connection between modern Guerilla war and clausewitz's arming of the nation, other than on an abstract level.

I would consider Mao's war as quite close to a Clausewitz idea, though I am not sure that I consider that as an example of a modern guerilla war.
In the case of the russian civil war (where I reserve the term "Russian revolution" to the political turmoil, muttiny and city unrests that lead to the fall of the tzar regime. ) I consider that as regular warfare.

Also the succes of Mao and Lenin/Trotski had more to do with their popular backing (or, rather, being the side that was least loathed by the populance) and the inefficiency of their opposition, than classic millitary factors on the battlefield/operational area.
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Old April 25th, 2009   #14
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Your contribution is welcome

First of all I want to say that I started this topic after carefully reading Clausewitz and than Mao. I had already taken a more than close look on some chinese military classic. Without the appropriate wide knowledge and the fitting background it is IMHO impossible to come to sufficiently "accurate" interpretation.


Quote:
I just don't see the clear connection between modern Guerilla war and clausewitz's arming of the nation, other than on an abstract level.
To some extent you come quite close to the main argument why so many think that Clausewitz is still relevant.

Anyway Mao is very close to Clausewitz on a great many levels. It is of course impossible to clearly distinct between the influences of the Chinese classics, Communist works (mostly Lenin) and Clausewitz, especially since they are rather close in many regards. He is using though clearly his framework to analyse the strategic position of the communists relative to the KMT and to Japan. The way he thinks about the strategic defense seems (and are) taken right of his book "Defence". The way he presents his strategy. The way he looks at the war in Europe. On a tactical and operational level there are so many references. In fact everywhere you look it seems you see thoughts of his in Maos work. Perhaps the are "just" there because it is simply common sense which is usually quite uncommon.

I frankly think you know too little about the wars in which Mao fought to know just how intertwined "convential warfare" and "unconventional warfare" or "politik" (in the continental sense) and "war" were. On a strategic, operational and tactical level. Perhaps you should first define what you mean by "modern guerilla war". OPSSG has posted in this thread a nice study about the 2006 war in Lebanon which would help you in that regard.

Quote:
Also the succes of Mao and Lenin/Trotski had more to do with their popular backing (or, rather, being the side that was least loathed by the populance) and the inefficiency of their opposition, than classic millitary factors on the battlefield/operational area.
As I said before. Look at the articles and papers in this thread, study them and you will perhaps be in a better position to judge. I don't want to seem rude, but this is IMHO the way things are
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Old April 26th, 2009   #15
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Modern Guerilla war

To have an element of being a popular funded resistance to either an invasion or a regime. That it's "local", and does not draw directly upon some larger conventional millitary organisation (f.ex.in the neighbouring country).
That the Guerilla, is at a clear or sharp strength disparity.

Iraq, Afghanistan (NATO), The war in algier, The arab rebellion (vs. turks), Cuba, Che Guevara in SA falls in this category.

The "revolutionary war" of Mao Zedong would only in it's first phase fall in this category since phaze two and three prerequistite the abillity of the revolutionary forces to succesfully combat the enemy in a more conventional style. The russian revolution, or (in my terminology explained above) the russian civil war hasn't got a thing to do with Guerilla war (well, maybe some of those that fought the red army), the 1st war of indochine doesn't fall in this category (since there weren't a clear strength disparity) and the 2nd war of indochine (the Vietnam war) was only partially such a guerilla war (due the the regular nature of the forces of North Vietnam, though the forces native to the south had a greater likelyness to modern Guerilla war)

Maybe my distinction between Mao, Vietnam and what we see in f.ex. Afgh. seems a bit artificial, though Mao's theory applied to the talliban in afghanistan would never ever move out of phaze I, since no matter what the talliban does or do, they will never be able to inflict a serious tactical defeat on NATO forces, to that the strength disparity is too large.
What they can do, and what they do is keep chewing at the heels, and see what time does to their opponents.

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