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The War Nerd November 27, 2002
Nepal: Peace, Love, Massacres
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
Page 2 of 4
Mao's battle-plan is simple. It can be adapted to almost any country as long as you've got the basic ingredients: mean landlords, hungry peasants, educated city people who couldn't care less what's happening in the countryside. In other words: if you've got a really fucked-up agricultural country. Nepal had that.

Mao's plan doesn't take military geniuses to make it work. What it does take is lots and lots of discipline and patience, because you must avoid battle until the odds are overwhelmingly in your favor. So the first rule is: No Hotheads Need Apply.

Step one is to work the villages. The university-trained commie recruiters fan out into the villages and radicalize the locals -- which isn't too hard when the landlords have been buying and selling peasants like mules.

The next part is harder: you set up a shadow government. You don't attack the local police or army at this stage -- you try to make them irrelevant. Instead of taking complaints to the cops, peasants take their quarrels to a People's court that meets in a shed at night. Instead of paying regular taxes, you pay people's taxes to a guy who comes around at night with a notebook and a bag. The idea is to isolate the cops, tax collectors and other informers -- to "put out the eyes" of the government in the area, so that by the time you're ready to attack, they won't have any intelligence system worth the name and you'll take them completely by surprise.

Of course, it's never as neat as the way Mao laid it out in the little red book. People talk, the cops know something's going on. And in Nepal, "cops" doesn't mean a squadcar with two guys in it. The Nepalese police are organized in paramilitary units dispersed in barracks across the countryside, with dozens or even hundreds of men armed with automatic rifles, heavy machineguns, light armored vehicles and air cover on request. These cops know that if they lose their grip on the villages, they'll wake up some night to find their barracks overrun. They start bringing in likely suspects and working out on them, using whatever form of torture is traditional in these parts.

There are 90,000 cops/soldiers fighting for the new King, up against at least 10,000 guerrillas. That's not good odds for the government. Conventional wisdom says you need at least 10 soldiers for every guerrilla, but that's assuming your troops are as good, man for man, as the guerrillas. The Nepalese cops/soldiers aren't very good. The leader of the rebels (who's from the upper class himself, naturally) said recently "The King's army will not fight for very long." He's probably right.

The landlords know it too. They can feel their grip on the locals getting weaker. Scary grafitti on the walls, people not bowing and scraping the way they used to....They start calling their cousins in Kathmandu, begging them to send more troops. It all starts heating up.

But when the local version of the IRS stops getting taxes from the peasants -- that's when the authorities really get grim. You can mess with the army and the cops, but don't mess with the tax collectors. When the government stops getting taxes, they use the only leverage they've got: they send the army to get their money at gunpoint. The Maoists are doing the same thing to the villagers at night. Not a happy time to be a Nepalese villager, especially when the rebels are known to use some pretty extreme penalties for late payment of tax -- such as crushing people's arms and legs with big rocks.

Squeezing the peasants between two forces like this is part of Mao's big plan. The idea is to drive the peasants so damn crazy they'll finally be ready to fight. The soldiers actually help the Maoists at this stage by lame attempts at reprisal: they'll almost always grab the wrong people, torture them, and end up radicalizing whole families, whole villages. The Maoist cadre won't be touched; they're hiding deeper in the hills. But every time the cops beat somebody to death, all his cousins become recruits. So the meaner the cops get, the stupider they get, the better for the revolution.

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Gary Brecher
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