10.4.19

3698) Book Review: Unconventional Warfare in the Ottoman Empire - The Armenian Revolt und the Turkish Counterinsurgency

Customer Review:
Jon Peters
Everyone's Genocide
January 13, 2018

"Unconventional Warfare in the Ottoman Empire" is a comparative study of unconventional warfare practiced by the Turkish (Ottoman) military in relation to the Armenian genocide that took place during World War I.

The author has bravely tackled the fascinating (and still highly sensitive) subject of the Armenian genocide dispute, from the perspective of Armenian insurgency and the corresponding Ottoman military response to it, in the form of COunter-INsurgency (COIN) operations - 'asymetric warfare' to use the more up-to-date terminology. I was particularly struck by the fascinating comparison made by the author with regard to the British counter insurgency 'experience' during the 2nd Boer War of 1899 -1902 and the way that the appalling British treatment of Boer civilians helped form the blueprint for Ottoman COIN operations during World War I (as a former member of the British military serving in Northern Ireland during the 1980's - the euphemistically termed 'Troubles' - the parallels are not lost on me: I had first-hand personal experience of counter insurgency warfare against a tough, and utterly ruthless insurgent opponent that was - supposedly - British like me too. It just went to show that there are no 'nice rules' for defeating an insurgent enemy, only effective methods). Few people seem to realise that it was Great Britain that 'invented' the concentration camp, and that the Nazis just 'borrowed' the idea - whilst tweeking it a bit with understandable classic German efficiency - to make a far 'superior' genocide of their very own. Why should the Ottoman's have reacted any differently to their own insurgency issue, when countries like Britain and America (Philippine -American War) presented them with the guidelines on how to go about achieving it in the first place? Another important point that the author makes in the book is that the Turkish regular soldier of the time was tough, stoic and incredibly brave; the majority of the Ottoman forces involved in the Armenian Revolt were, unfortunately, not first rate soldiers, but irregular troops with ethnic divisions and a commensurate lack of military discipline when dealing with civilians. Sadly, murder and fear can be very effective 'force multipliers'.

I highly recommend Mr Warndorf's work to anyone with even a passing interest of the subject, but I especially recommend it to serving members of the Armed Forces (of any nationality), particularly those with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan ( it's also pocket-book size, so doesn't take up much space in your kit, lads!). Finally, anyone wishing to delve deeper into the subject of the Ottoman military of the C19th/ C20th can't go wrong with buying anything from Edward J. Erickson in my humble opinion.

Unconventional Warfare in the Ottoman Empire - The Armenian Revolt und the Turkish Counterinsurgency Hardcover – 2017
by Nicholas Warndorf (Author), Manzara Verlag (Editor), Mehmet Remzi Demirel (Illustrator) . . .

The present study deals with the uprising of the Ottoman army in Eastern Anatolia during the First World War. The asymmetric warfare (unconventional warfare) of armed insurgents posed particular challenges not only to the former Ottoman army, but also to the armies of other states. The assumption that the Armenian underground fighters defended themselves, refutes the author with relevant sources. As noted by Nicholas Warndorf in his well-researched case study, during the Boer War (1899-1902), the British army had already used tactics of counterinsurgency against the resisting Boers. During the Philippine-American War (1899-1902), the US Army also used rebellion strategies against the Philippine rebels. After the entry into the war, the Ottoman army was involved in a multiple-front war. A further complication was that the armed Armenian underground fighters operated from Ottoman territory as well as from the land of the neighbouring countries and were supported materially as well as logistically by the war opponents. The author compares the operations of the Ottoman army against the Armenian guerrillas regarding their tactics and strategy in counterinsurgency with those of the British army in South Africa and the US Army in the Philippines, and shows examples of how the Ottomans and the Western powers have dealt with rebellion in general, and how effective the counterinsurgency was. The question arises as to which degree of potential threat the Armenian insurgents had for the Ottoman army, and which military and political objectives Russia pursued? Warndorf describes the situation in Eastern Anatolia and examines the question whether the resettlement of Armenian civilians from the frontline can be justified. In addition, the author does away with the widespread myths about the Ottoman army. This book is excitingly and comprehensibly written. It fills an important gap in Ottoman counterinsurgency research.

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