The Theory of the Anti Partisan
In the 20th Century's wars of IDEOLOGY, the bearers of ideas were targeted as infrastructure
“Bolshevism is a sociological crime - we must abandon any thought of soldierly comradeship. Commissars and OGPU men are criminals and must be treated as such.’’ - Adolf Hitler
‘‘Everyone said eliminate them. I never met someone who didn't say it. A captain told me, ‘Goddamn it. I sit with my starlight scope, and I see VC at this village every night. I could go home if I could eliminate it’." - Lt. William Calley
There is a difficulty in discussing modern warfare, as distinctions are drawn (not infrequently) according to moral paradigms that were - in reasonably good faith - developed in the aftermath of that most terribly of sectarian wars in 1648 between soldier and non combatant that had no meaningful relevance to the 20th Century battlefield (after 1918). This owes not just to revolutionary technology that allowed military violence to be extended far beyond discreet battle spaces to encompass virtually any territory that could hold value as a target, but (more significantly) to the fact that what constituted a military objective changed radically as warfare became a means of imposing ideological hegemony and concomitantly annihilating competing conceptual schemes and (psychological) basis for mobilizing opposition.
The 20th Century- let alone the modern era - of warfare did not ‘‘invent’’ the Partisan. Conceptually, Partisans have existed as long as political allegiances have existed, but the incidence, function, and significance of the Partisan within a broader paradigm of war and peace (and efforts to impose ethical rules therein) shifted dramatically with the onset of the Bolshevik revolution and only increased in systemic importance thereafter. In order to fully appreciate the gravity of this development (in historical and political terms) it is imperative to define the precise nature of these conflict variables that emerged in such violent earnest during the bloody 20th century and remain essential features in our present, if much reduced in significance owing to a return to a relative historical peace.
What is a ‘‘PARTISAN’’?
At base, a Partisan is one who takes up arms and instigates violence (spontaneous or reactive) against a Sovereign authority - or against other Partisans similarly situated but with inimical objectives - and does so without claim to or color of legitimacy conferred by Sovereign officialdom either formally or covertly (indeed there are instances where Partisan violence is indeed sanctioned, encouraged and facilitated by Sovereign government yet said Sovereign authority categorically denies such sanctioning or collusion. This is certainly an issue that warrants analysis but it does not change the status of the Partisan de jure or de facto under conditions of conflict). Carl Schmitt, eminent political theorist, emphasized that what distinguishes the Partisan from any other outlaw who employs unprivileged violence to accomplish his objectives is the categorically political motivation of the Partisan for his actions. Said simply, the Partisan does not kill for profit, to satisfy vendetta, or to guarantee his own exclusive right to exploit a resource, commodity, or liberty of movement - he may commit homicide for these ends in addition to his primary mission of facilitating a political outcome, but his paramount motivations remain political - and the purposeful target of his violence is his political Enemy.
Schmitt, by training and intellectual persuasion first and foremost a jurist, was fundamentally concerned, first and foremost, with how Sovereign authority attempts to not only sustain its monopoly on legitimate employment of violence but the manner in which States attempt to render Political occurrences conceptually accessible by imposing legal paradigms upon warfare and conflict short of warfare. The manner in which States do this, as Schmitt adeptly noted, is as important as the substantive precepts and diktats that are arrived upon by way of this process. When States in the modern era - and especially in the case of the 1949 Geneva Conventions - purport to be establishing lawful rules said to govern the conduct of future conflicts, they are often engaged in a sort of retro-active analysis of a conflict that has concluded. In this way, victorious States can assign themselves a moral legitimacy in victory while wrong-footing their vanquished enemies but also can rationalize conflicts in their entirety so as to render discussion of such things more susceptible to narrative structuring. This is not always insidious nor even cynically undertaken - it is essential to the basic nature of human mind and memory (severally and collectively).
For all practical purposes, the Geneva Conventions addressed (in very superficial terms) the myriad ‘‘resistance’’ movements of the Second World War - they did not impose nor render a meaningful structure or intelligibility upon the (then vigorously extant and burgeoning) armed guerrilla elements - many of which were abetted materially and morally by the USSR - and ‘‘national liberation’’ movements that were emerging on virtually every continent as the once great European powers fell apart completely or at least endured the profound abrogation of their ability to project power beyond core ‘‘home’’ territories. Stated simply, the Nuremberg System governing conflict between national states was - all other fallacies and shortcomings contained therein - abjectly irrelevant to the Cold War strategic landscape generally, and did nothing to clarify what in fact constituted ‘‘morally’’ acceptable measures to combat Partisan fighters and non-state actors at a time when asymmetric conflict to which Partisan movements were party were becoming the norm rather than a circumstance of exception.
1917-1989: The Partisan Century
Partisans have - in history - always existed in some capacity. What was Judas Iscariot if not (along with his zealot comrades in arms) a Partisan? However, the distinction must be made as regards the incidence and frequency of the Partisan’s emergence on the historical stage (as well as the intensity of his violence) in the 20th century vs all preceding epochs. The question for the historian and the political theorist is why.
Fascinatingly, but unsurprisingly, the German contribution to ‘‘Enlightenment’’ rationalism was Clausewitz’s exhaustive study of warfare - reject as they might virtually all claims presented by the ‘‘Enlightened’’ philosophies relating to man’s inner moral constitution, the nature of consciousness and the basis and origin of political order and authority (conceptually speaking), the German people asserted in Clausewitz that warfare was first among man’s collectivist endeavors in no small measure owing to its consummate rationality, not merely in how it is waged but in its original purpose and sociological function: War is literally the deliberate application of targeted violence to accomplish rational political objectives.
Clausewitz’s On War contains an enduring power to fascinate brilliant minds - of soldiers and scholars, statesmen and anarchists - and it is not this author’s intention to suggest him, and his seminal work, unworthy of enduring repute. It is however indisputable that On War - and its creator - had very little to say about conflict outside of a (then monolithic) paradigm of interstate warring whereby violence was largely restricted - by conceptual orientation as well as technology of arms - to designated battle spaces and the contested objectives within those battle spaces were remarkably concrete and unfailingly territorial in nature. What changed?
The Cunning of Reason and the Birth of Total War
A fascinating dichotomy emerged after the catastrophe of the Great War and the unprecedented megacide of the Bolshevik Revolution and subsequent creation of the world’s first truly ideological state. Despite the declared commitment to dialectical materialism as the singular cause and prime mover of the historical process (in case of the nascent Bolshevik regime) and the implicit conceptual bias in favor of merely material causes in history (be them racial, geographic or economic) in the minds of both statesmen and intellectuals throughout the world, the gravest concern vis a vis questions of war and peace was acknowledged by all to be the power of ideas.
Of course, war planners in the West, (owing in part to the backwards-looking tendency of jurists and generals acknowledged by Schmitt) purposefully or instinctively opted to assign ‘‘fault’’ for the emergent total nature of war to the advent of combined arms, mobilization of mass armies and the productive techniques that facilitated such things but even in the epoch that such ideas were first thoroughly disseminated in channels of public discourse the power of these features to act as formative causes of conflict seemed entirely inadequate, to expert and layman alike. In reality, even those most resistant to the concept of mind and ideas being the driving force of causation in history were nevertheless acting in full accordance with an apparent acceptance of the (strategic and political) reality that the greatest threat to a prevailing peace - or a state of war that was at least manageable - was the, seemingly contagious as it was murderous, revolutionary fervor that had sparked the Bolshevik Revolution and carried its standard bearers to total victory.
Neither ‘‘Diplomacy by Other Means’’ nor War for Territory
The Second World War - or rather, what became the Second World War - is somewhat of a difficult series of phenomena for the novice (and even advanced) Revisionist to unpack (proverbially speaking) on grounds of the apparent contradictions emergent not just in the decades preceding the catastrophe but also those revealed during the years of the conflict itself. Everybody has heard the cliche’d adage that modern War planners, Generals, and conflict profiteers all pine for conflicts that are categorically similar to the Second World War - owing to fact that it was (primarily) waged between National States, with armies fielded and equipped by way of full mobilization of human and material resources and utilization of hugely scaled mass production techniques. Battlefield objectives as well are considered, in hindsight particularly when compared to quagmires such as that which ensued in Southeast Asia, highly conventional and realizable according to the strictures not just of Clausewitz’s dictum but also to the inherent material strengths of Western industrial society. This is extraordinarily misleading.
The ascendancy (if not the ideological origin) of National Socialism in Germany can only be understood (whatever remarkable features the Party owed to intellectual and historical precedent independent of then contemporary political exigencies notwithstanding) as a reaction to the veritable contagion of revolutionary (Communist) fervor the scope and intensity of which was sight unseen since the disaster of 1789 in Jacobin France. Hitler’s political career in this regard, as R.H.S. Stofli and John Toland documented extensively in their respective historical biographies of the Fuhrer, held more in common with the lives of messianic personages like Mohamet or Oliver Cromwell than with the life trajectory of modern statesmen.
Nor was Hitler’s (and the Party’s) vision comparable to phenomena such as that on the Iberian peninsula where - in the decade preceding the Second World War - reactionary elements had established a vanguard coalition of sorts to neutralize the immediate threat to peace posed by Bolshevik radicals while presiding over a sort of staid, if heavy handed, stewardship. The NSDAP - and its Fuhrer - owed their ascendancy, and their effectiveness, to a total ideological commitment to annihilate not just the physical Bolshevik threat to peace and the European way of culture but to eradicate the very idea of Communism.
Annihilate the Annihilator
Ernst Nolte, eminent historian and disciple of Martin Heidegger, found himself at the center of the Historikerstreit (lit. ‘‘historians’ dispute) as it became known in late Cold War European media and academe for raising the issue that not only were every instrumentality of political violence employed by the Third Reich previously utilized by the Soviet Union (with the arguable exception of homicidal gas chambers, but that is a dispute for another day), but that the USSR had exterminated civilians according to categorical criteria that (often arbitrarily) identified them as enemies of the new (socialist) order who on grounds of aforementioned criteria were political ineducable and therefore had to be annihilated regardless of age, sex, or overall health. It was obvious to Nolte, albeit himself a Right-Hegelian, that the fate of much of European Jewry owed to the fact that the NSDAP - and particularly the SS - viewed the Jewish world of social existence as the progenitor of Bolshevism - and thus, the Jewish people the standard bearers of a world-destroying idea. Therefore, in a total ideological war - wherein the Bolshevik enemy sought the annihilation of the European form of life - an equivalent response in opposition was the annihilation of the (Jewish) annihilator.
Of course, regardless of whether or not one accepts the moral equivalence of Nolte’s thesis, the fact that America found itself waging a purely ideological struggle across the entire planet in the wake of the Second World War (and enduring for four decades) is as indisputable as the fact the anti-Partisan measures resorted to in battle theaters such as the Republic of Vietnam were in no way qualitatively different than those employed by the Third Reich and in particular the einsatzgruppen formations under direct command authority of the Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS.
*END of Free Content. Continued in Part II: Anti-Partisan Warfare and the Nuremberg Regime