American revoltionaries were terrorists!

I’ve heard that the American’s participating in the Revolutionary War often used tactics that were unconventinal at the time (such as surprise ambushes and lots of running away which lead there enemy to follow them for long periods of time–making them hungry and sick).

Since these guys were not really following the rules of gentlemen’s warfare, wouldn’t they have been considered terrorists? Did the British have a word for this type of warfare, and did they consider it an abasement-- much as we consider the midle east terrorism today?

Guerilla warfare, yes. Terrorism, no. Terrorism requires the deliberate targeting of civilians.

As for the British, they generally thought is stupid that the colonials were fighting that way. In fact, so did the colonials. One of the first things they did with Lafayette and von Steubing was have them train the colonists in proper, “European-style” warfare. Guerillas don’t win wars, militarily-speaking. They facilitate the political, but they don’t “win” the military conflict. See “Vietnam” for a perfect example.

You want to read about real American terrorists?

The Civil War.

Read about Sheridan’s Shenandoah Valley campaign …where they burned the crops and destroyed farms and anything else they wanted to, whether military targets or not.

Read about Shermans march to the sea. The burning of Atlanta. The burning of Columbia.

Pure terrorism.

But if you use this definition of terrorism, then certain American campaigns in WWII could be considered terrorist actions. I don’t think the definition of terrorism expands to include military campaigns, although a particulary campaign may be condemned as a war crime or other abuse in its own right.

I agree. As Tom Clancy noted in “Executive Orders” (I think), the goal of terrorism is to immobilise a populace through terror and fear, rather than through military force alone.

That being said, assymetrical warfare (like architecture) is almost always defined by the technology available at the time. If you’re the underdog, using tactics which the big dog wouldn’t use is par for the course.

In that context, part of Hezbollah’s tactics regarding the removal of Israeli military occupation from Lebanon prior to 2000 could legitimately be described as guerilla warfare. Albeit, costly in terms of human sacrifice. However, their recent campaign of martyr bombers in Tel Aviv etc could not be described as anything other than barbaric terrorism. It’s an arguable point, but one worth arguing I reckon.

Under this definition, though, neither the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut or the USS Cole constitute terrorism. Do you believe that?

Grey area. It’s a form assymetrical warfare being waged by anonymous militias - groups which have no clearly defined political goal. Seemingly, the act itself is the goal - and not a future political outcome. And yet they were both waged on military targets.

Interestingly, Hezbollah always posted video footage of their martyr bombers during the 1980’s after a successful attack on the Israeli froces. But no one ever claimed responsibility for the US Marine Barracks bombing. Lots of conjecture on that one that it came straight from Iran.

The attacks on soldiers in Iraq don’t fit that definition either. It’s because they’re not terrorism. I suppose you could make an argument about peacetime, but I’m inclined to say they aren’t.

Both Loyalists and Revolutionists were targeted and murdered in what could be considered terrorism. Not necessarily by the Colonial army but by civilians of the respective sides of the conflicts.

Terrorism was quite commonplace during the American Revolution; yes, attacks on civilians did take place. Most of it was reprisals against so-called “Tories,” or alleged loyalists.

I do. I think both were legitimate military targets; in the latter case by an enemy that had openly declared itself.

Granted, they were not a nation-state, and they were not in uniform, so they do not warrant the status of lawful combatant under the Geneva Conventions. But I think it’s stretching credibility to say that a declared enemy attacking a warship is terrorism.

[QUOTE=silenus]
Guerilla warfare, yes. Terrorism, no. Terrorism requires the deliberate targeting of civilians.[\QUOTE]

What about roadside bombs in Iraq targeted at military convoys, the afforementioned attack on the U.S.S. Cole and the Lebanon barracks, or even the targeting of Iraqi police recruits–aren’t these tactical military targets. Or what of the bombing of London and Dresden during WWII or even Hiroshima. Were’nt these largely civilian targets?

I think the term terrorism is loosely applied to the enemy in Iraq. I think it would be beneficial to our effort over there to discriminate between those perpatrating acts of sabotage against military targets and those that are blowing up mosques and market places. I have a feeling that they’re two separate camps.

I would define successfully defending your country against an invasion as a win. I’m sure the American Revolutionaries thought they had won.

Yes, and they won in part by adopting those European tactics he discussed.

No kidding. But that wasn’t stated official policy. Both sides at times targeted civilians “loyal” to the opposition, but it wasn’t widespread when you consider the whole theater of operations. IIRC, most of it was located in the southern colonies, where my ancestors lived. If my mother and her research is to be believed, some of my antecedents probably took part in a few of the “incidents.”

Let us not forget Quantrill, shall we?

Perhaps the definition of “winning” is in dispute. I don’t doubt that the North Vietnamese believed they had “won” the battle by pushing out foreign colonists/imperialists. Nor do I doubt that the colonists believed they had “won” their war after they pushed out the British. I do have some doubt, however, with the argument that somehow our engaging in “European warfare” during the revolution helped us all that much. It seems we abandoned our major costal cities-- leading our enemies on long marches that left them hungry and tired, as we peppered them with nuiscances all the way, in areas that were more familiar to us than them.

Kinda sounds like Iraq doesn’t it.

I’m not by any means calling these guys in Iraq freedom fighters by making the comparison. I just think it would help our situation over there to see this as a military tactic, rather than just abhorent terrorism.

That would be a “no.” If you study the Revolution in any detail, you will discover that it was distractions at home, French involvement, and getting beat on the battlefield in straight-ahead battles that defeated the British. The guerilla war was a best a sideshow. It was not a war-winner.

As for Vietnam, after the Tet Offensive, the Viet Cong were no longer a factor. The war was won by the North Vietnamese Regular Army. Period. They invaded the South with more armor than Hitler sent into Poland, fer Og-sake! That is a win in anybody’s book.

What about Washington’s campaign against the Iroquois ? He burned down most of their towns and crops right before winter IIRC, because they allied with the British.

Two answers. One, I did say “most.” Two, the Iroquois were considered “enemy combatants” by Washington. I’m not saying he was right by any stretch of the imagination, nor am I supporting his actions. Not our finest moment.

I don’t think it’s terrorism. Attacking a military target is “playing fair”.