Guerrilla warfare is nothing new. Neither is proxy war. China’s history of using indirect methods to erode and undermine their enemies without battle goes back to the earliest treatises on warfare written by the general T’ai Kung. (Sun Tzu’s admonition that supreme excellence is found in victory without fighting has nothing to do with pacifism or diplomacy; it is about using politics, economics, and espionage to precipitate the enemy’s collapse before armies ever took to the field.) Alexander waged a vicious counterinsurgency in Sogdiana (now Afghanistan) after the fall of Darius.
But the twentieth century, post-World War II, saw guerrilla warfare and proxy war elevated to levels no one had seen before. Faced with nuclear weapons on both sides and the graphic illustration of what those weapons could do following Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the U.S. and the Soviet Union embarked on a 45-year proxy war waged against allies and interests with covert action, guerrilla uprisings, and coups.
In the process, the techniques of such shadow warfare have been codified and refined. From Mao Zedong’s “On Guerrilla Warfare” to Carlos Marighella’s “Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla” to Che Guevara’s “Guerrilla Warfare,” the techniques of waging guerrilla war are easily accessible, and were often disseminated by the Soviets. Many of these guerrilla wars were successful, as well, by using politics and information warfare to get even the West on the same side as the communist guerrillas. ZIPRA and ZANLA in Rhodesia are a classic example.
The Soviets and Cubans weren’t the only ones to support guerrilla proxies against their adversaries, either. The U.S. did it; just look for “Clandestine Operations Manual for Central America,” a guide to (primarily) the political-indoctrination portion of guerrilla warfare, specifically oriented for the Contras.