Accession Number:



Violence in Counterinsurgency - The Case of El Salvador

Descriptive Note:

Master thesis

Corporate Author:


Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



El Salvadors civil war is a case where domestic government response took generally repressive measures to quell an insurrection, unlike the United States preferred solution to counterinsurgency, and provides a good case study comparing the levels and types of violence used by insurgents, domestic government, and interventionist forces. The civil war in EI Salvador 1980 - 1992 is a case where an estimated 75,000 people died during the conflict, most were non-combatants. While any war can create immense casualties, that the Salvadorans suffered at the hands of their own marks a departure from the expected actions of a military operating within its own country. Several reasons for increased domestic repression in counterinsurgency arise. Prominent among these is the perceived social contract between the state and the people in which the insurgency constitutes a violation of the covenant formed in the state-versus-governed relationship. Barbarism, indiscriminate violence, and intimate violence permeate in a failed government such as was discovered in EI Salvadors civil war. Finally, the Salvadoran governments lack of control over the military failed to curb massive non-combatant killings, which occurred mostly at the hands of the Salvadoran Armed Forces, not the insurgents. The United States found itself in a conundrum of supporting the repressive government in the name of the Cold War, but faced allegations that it was supporting a regime known for its human rights abuses. Unlike its experience in Vietnam, the United States only resorted to diplomatic and economic measures as a means to curb the Farabundo Martf Liberation Front. Failing to enforce some fundamentals of counterinsurgency and allowing the Salvadoran military to operate unobserved contributed to prolonging both the wrongful violence and the insurgency.

Subject Categories:

  • Sociology and Law
  • Unconventional Warfare

Distribution Statement: