Monday, June 1, 2009

Research Update: Missed Opportunities in published Gadianton studies

I haven't posted in awhile so I thought I would let my readers know what I have been working on. Mostly I have been looking for a job that utilizes my Masters Degree. With the job market what it is and only having an MA its been somewhat difficult to find a job that utilizes my skill set.

In between job searching I have been working on a current research project involving the Gadianton robbers as Guerrilla Warriors. Daniel Peterson wrote about the subject here. Since I have read much of the same material as him, and military thought is my specialty I thought everybody could gain from seeing what I had to say on the subject. So I read his article, another one from BYU Studies by Ray Hillam, and I am reading The Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung (which are quite long- I would hate to see his unabridged works), the writing of Clausewitz on the subject, an article from "Makers of Modern Strategy" (the seminal introductory book on military thought), and the writings of Lenin and Trotsky. I am not done researching but I have found a few important points that Peterson missed. As always, these are preliminary research notes that connote a need for further research and refinement and I invite constructive comments.

-Words matter in a revolutionary war. That's why the title "Gadianton Robbers" is so important. The rulers and record keepers of the Nephites thought they were illegitimate contenders for ruling so they labelled them as robbers and not a manner of "ites". (See this post)
-Peterson missed a chance to explicate the origin of Gadianton. Hugh Nibley made a strong case that Gadianton was a Jaredite name and probably a Jaredite descendant. (Lehi in the Desert, pg.245) This could mean that Gadianton was a supporter of a Nephite ruler that more closely matched his political persuasion. That may be why Paanchi lost (see Helaman 1), and adds a political dimension to something that Peterson simply described more as a guerrilla warfare. John Shy in Makers of Modern Strategy described how guerrilla warfare is a tactic used to obtain a larger, mainly political purpose.
-Mao's three phase model of insurgency is under utilized. The political preparation of the people for the revolution is under emphasized. The increasingly wickedness of Nephite society is an editorial indication that they were turning away from the Nephite political and religious rulers. Only an "insurgency" (using Hillam's words)by Nephi allowed them to regain the government.
-The second phase is to obtain local control over a limited area in preparation for a complete seizure of government. Peterson and Hillam mention this, but they fail to see the implications of a shift in Gadianton bases. Urban support is important, but as Lenin and Mao can tell you, a small island of urban support in a sea of rural hostility will not sustain the revolution. The shifting of the Gadianton Robbers from the urban to rural environments could signify their shifting base of support. Instead of a small vanguard of urban and probably landless elites such as lawyers, priests, and high judges (3 Nephi 6:23), they found their support in local rulers (the lower judges and perhaps semi autonomous local rulers mentioned in Alma 51), and the increasingly landless soldiers. Many modern writers such as Mao, Ho Chi Mingh, and Che Guevara disagreed as to the where the support of the insurgency should come from, a vanguard of urban elites or the sea of support among the rural population. This is a vital question that appears to have affected the strategy of the Gadianton robbers as well.
-At one point they gain "sole control" of the government (which is the goal of conventional third phase operations), but are then fully discredited and seemingly destroyed. Again, Mao discusses how the three phases are flexible. An insurgency may feel strong enough to obtain control of the government but then quickly loose control and revert back to stage one. Peterson and Hillam briefly mention this point if at all. And they fail to account for the political and social dimension of the Gadiantion insurgency. Peterson and Hillam both focus on strategy, while I love a good strategic read, I feel that focus misses on ideas that can inform us as to how the Nephites lived and conducted their politics.
-Peterson mentions the importation of labor. But I've already done research concerning the sociological implications of this practice. These verses denote an importation of labor (perhaps for arms industry), and imply a possible difference in social status as a cause of "runaway brides". Having words matter mean that these defections, of wives and citizens, were identified as being "captured" by "robbers" instead of defecting to an insurgency led by some disaffected elites from within Nephite society.
-The letter from Giddianhi is a vital primary source. As historians we are blessed to have a long letter from the "man" himself as to his motivations, tactics, and ideas. Above all, the leader of the Gadianton robbers is educated. He can read, and write a letter to the official Nephite leaders. He mentions his "rights and privileges" which are the same words that Paanchi used to start the Gadianton band some 50 years earlier. It took Mao 25 years to take power, and Ho Chi Mingh over 30 (1940 to 1975) to have a unified independent state. Thus we should not separate these events too much.
-Having a detailed study of insurgency operations and revolutionary warfare is a strong witness for the authenticity of the BoM. Except for a handful of pages from Clausewitz that had not been translated into English yet, there were no extant writings concerning the theory of revolutionary warfare in 1830. Yet the BoM contains enough detail to extensively document the Gadianton insurgency and compare it to writings that we have now.

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