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Jorge Verstrynge: The Guru of Bolivarian Asymmetric Warfare

By John Sweeney

09.09.05 | The new national defense doctrine adopted recently by the Armed Forces of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is based on the core premise that Venezuela will someday (soon) fight a David vs. Goliath war against invading U.S. military forces. This doctrine calls for a long-term “asymmetric war” in which committed Bolivarian revolutionaries and foreign (mainly Cuban) supporters would wage a “war of the people” on all fronts against the invading U.S. military forces. This new doctrine wasn’t devised overnight. It was several years in the making. Cuban military and political planners were very influential in the process from a strategic and tactical perspective. However, the national defense doctrine of asymmetric warfare also has its philosophical and ideological proponents, like Jorge Verstrynge, for example.

First there was Norberto Ceresole, the Argentine neo-fascist and anti-semite who Chavez embraced in the late 1990s because Ceresole had written at length on the need for authoritarian military-civil regimes in which civilians and military would be mobilized jointly to carry out the will of a supreme leader. However, Ceresole eventually fell out of favor with Chavez, and died of a terminal illness. Now it’s Verstrynge’s turn to bask under the Bolivarian sun. Chavez is very enthused with Verstrynge, as is Division General Raul Isaias Baduel, the Bolivarian army commander who likes to quote Sun Tzu, and burn incense in his office while Gregorian chants play softly in the background.

Verstrynge is the author of a book titled “La Guerra Periferica y el Islam Revolucionario: Origenes, Reglas y Etica de la Guerra Asimetrica.” The book, which is over 250 pages long, is a combination of a technical treatise on terrorism – which Verstrynge prefers to call “asymmetric war” – and a paean of praise to Islamic terrorism as the ultimate and preferred method of asymmetric warfare because it involves fighters willing to sacrifice their lives to kill the enemy. This book so delighted General Baduel that he personally invited Verstrynge to participate as a keynote speaker at the recent “First Military Forum on Fourth Generation War and Asymmetric Conflict” that was held at the Military Academy in Caracas. The Chavez government also financed a special edition of Verstrynge’s book exclusively for the Army of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Hundreds of copies were distributed to all army officers and sub-officers with explicit orders from Baduel that the book should be studied cover to cover.

("La guerra periférica y el Islam revolucinario")

The core argument put forward by Verstrynge is that asymmetric war is a conflict without any rules of engagement, where it’s valid for the small combatant opposing the giant invading foe to use all types of weapons to fight the invader including car bombs and weapons of mass destruction. Collateral damage (meaning dead and maimed civilians) is always acceptable, and the most effective fighters are those willing to blow themselves up in order to inflict massive casualties on the enemy. Verstrynge is a great admirer of radical Islam, which he sees as the only force capable of defeating U.S. imperialism because Americans, he argues, hate body counts. Verstringe’s appeal to Chavez derives from the fact that he admires radical Islam, hates Americans and presents himself as an “expert” on asymmetric warfare. However, who is Jorge Verstrynge?

Jorge Verstrynge Rojas, 56, was born in Tangier ( Morocco ). According to Verstrynge, his mother was an “extraordinary” Spanish angel, and his father a rightwing Belgian who migrated to Tangier from the Congo and was “an awful parent.” His parents divorced while he was still a child, and his mother remarried Rene Mazel, a French Stalinist that “I consider my real father,” Verstrynge says.

Verstrynge says he is a “Marxist” and that he always harbored socialist sympathies. Currently he is a member of the Spanish Socialist Worker Party (PSOE) but he has no positions in the party hierarchy. However, his career in Spanish politics started on the far right, where for a time in the late 1970s and 1980s he was widely viewed as the dauphin and political heir of Manuel Fraga, the ultra-rightwing leader of the Alianza Popular party. In the mid-1980s Verstrynge clashed with Fraga and was kicked out of the party. Fraga accused Verstrynge of being a traitor and disloyal because he tried to steer the AP towards the political center, but Verstrynge claims he left the AP because Fraga wanted to destabilize the Socialist government of then-Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez.

After he was dumped by the Spanish right, Verstrynge joined the PSOE but he never ascended in the PSOE hierarchy because his past association with Fraga and the ultra-right was a black mark. In effect, his career in Spanish politics ended when Fraga booted him out of the AP. For a time Verstrynge was an advisor to the Catalan communist leader Francisco Frutos. Today Verstrynge is a non-entity in Spanish politics. No one of any substance in Spanish politics or academe views him as a figure of importance or influence. Currently he is a professor at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and has authored several books including “Sobre el poder del pueblo” and “Rebeldes, revolucionarios y refractarios: ensayo sobre la disidencia.”

We reviewed these texts and did not find anything original or innovative in Verstrynge’s political and military thinking. All of Verstrynge’s work on the strategic and tactical aspects of asymmetric warfare, and evolving modern warfare, has been amply covered for the past 10-15 years by dozens of real qualified U.S., European and Asian military experts. In effect, it appears that Verstrynge borrowed a lot of other people’s work as he became an auto-didact “expert” on the subject of asymmetric warfare. However, we did perceive undercurrents of anger, resentment and anti-Americanism in his work. That’s enough to make him a top Bolivarian philosopher and “expert” in the strategies and tactics of warfare, although there is absolutely nothing in Verstrynge’s past that qualifies him even remotely as an authority in military affairs.

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