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Invisible Armies Insurgency Tracker

A Visual History of Guerrilla Warfare From 1775 to 2012

The Invisible Armies Insurgency Tracker presents a database of insurgencies from 1775 to 2012. It supplements the comprehensive historical narrative in Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present, by CFR Senior Fellow Max Boot.


The Invisible Armies Insurgency Tracker draws on existing databases of insurgencies, but it is designed to be more wide-ranging, more detailed, and more accurate than any previous compendium.

Outcomes are categorized as an insurgent victory, a draw, a victory for the regulars, or ongoing. It is considered a victory for the regulars even if the incumbent makes some political concessions and even if the insurgent group is not completely destroyed militarily. For example the British defeated the Provisional IRA in 1998 even though the Good Friday Accord gave the republicans representation in government. The IRA did not, however, achieve its goal of unification with Ireland. It is a draw when there is no clear-cut winner and the conflict ends in a negotiation in which both sides make significant concessions. For instance, EO KA was said to have gotten a draw rather than a victory in Cyprus because it forced the British out (save for two air bases) but did not unify Cyprus with Greece.

Many databases include only conflicts that pass a certain threshold, such as inflicting over one thousand battle deaths. This excludes groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Baader-Meinhof Gang, and produces bias in favor of insurgents—just as a study of start-up companies would be biased in favor of entrepreneurs if it were limited to only those firms that achieved a certain revenue threshold or stock price. Most start-ups, like most insurgent groups, never get very far, and this fact needs to be recorded. Therefore this database attempts to include all significant insurgent movements since 1775. What does significant mean? That they caused some deaths and drew some attention from contemporaries and historians. Some of these groups may seem insignificant, but the same could have been said about the Chinese Communist Party when it was founded by thirteen delegates in Shanghai in 1921. Purely criminal enterprises such as the drug gangs of Mexico or the pirates of Somalia have been excluded.

In a number of wars the insurgents prevailed only because of the intervention of outside forces. In conflicts such as the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s and the Cuban War of Independence in the 1890s, where the insurgents did much to spur that outside intervention, the outcome is considered an insurgent victory. In other conflicts, such as most of the resistance fronts of World War II, the insurgents had little discernible impact on the intervention by outside powers, and therefore the outcome is a draw.

The Invisible Armies Insurgency Tracker is edited by CFR Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies Max Boot.

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