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Comandante Che: Guerrilla Soldier,…

Comandante Che: Guerrilla Soldier, Commander, and Strategist, 1956-1967

by Paul J. Dosal

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While one can argue that the material with which to do a military life of Che Guevara is thin on the ground, Dosal takes an honest swing at the problem. The Guevara depicted is almost a throwback to the Thirties and the politics of the Popular Front, and who would have been most at home leading an element of the International Brigades in Spain. Certainly the great power conflict between Beijing and Moscow aborted Guevara's grand vision of a "tricontinental" strategy to undermine the American imperium.

The core of the book is then the comparisons between Guevara's campaigns in Cuba, the Congo, and Bolivia. In the first Che's depicted as an indispensible man; the soldier who made guerrilla warfare work. In Africa the man's vision runs afoul of geopolitical realities; and Laurent Kabila's ineptitude. By the time Che arrives in Bolivia one wonders if the goal was to seek a gallant death, seeing as the adventure depicted feels more like "Aguirre: The Wrath of God" than anything else; a more politically realistic man would have conducted himself very differently.

In the last case Dosal is quite blunt that the Bolivian army defeated Guevara's command, even before American-trained troops were committed to the fight. The Bolivians displayed a level of determination and willingness to seek action that Batista's army almost never displayed, and this made up for any tactical failings in the conduct of the fight. Charisma and dedication will only take you so far in overcoming alienating your political compatriots, bad logistics, and a just generally unpromising strategic situation.

I suppose the question one is left with is why Guevara chose not to die fighting; one supposes that even living legends burn out and give in. Or perhaps Guevara wanted to confront those who he felt let him down. ( )
  Shrike58 | Sep 6, 2009 |
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