Turns out, he has much to teach us.
In 1916, while the Irish rebels were led to a near certain death after having been defeated during the Easter Rebellion, Michael Collins decided he would fight the world’s most powerful empire differently, if he ever got the chance. Michael Collins got that chance in 1918, and he fought differently. In fact, modern successful insurgencies are largely modeled on Collins’ strategic concept.
Collins recognized that the oppressive powers that had their boots on the necks of the Irish people enjoyed power over the economy, information (news papers at the time), police, military, and the courts. No one was going to fight the British and win using British strategies. The only way to win was to fight differently.
For the preceding six-plus decades, the Irish Republican Brotherhood built a parallel state within Ireland. This was necessary for two reasons: (1) if independence was achieved, an Irish managerial class and network needed to step in and manage Ireland; (2) in order for independence to be achieved, Irish rebels needed competent intelligence resources. Collins recognized the value of both and used them successfully. But how did Collins win Irish independence when sixteen prior attempts failed? The targeting of bureaucrats.
The Irish Flying Columns disrupted British rule in the countryside, but they never really landed a true killer blow. What they did achieve, however, was that each successful attack (A) shook confidence in British capacity among Irish locals and (B) invested the locals in asymmetric attrition warfare. Melting back into the farms was critical to Irish successes outside of Dublin. Meanwhile, simultaneously, Collins and his Squad (or Twelve Apostles) of hitmen targeted mid-level bureaucrats for assassination.
Collins, a former bureaucrat himself, understood that senior leaders in British bureaucracy were fairly useless political appointees – not unlike the United States today. Targeting them was useless. The middle managers were the true strength of the British Empire – collecting taxes, disseminating intelligence, feeding news sources, etc, etc. By killing them, Collins was eliminating functional British Rule.
More importantly, not only did each lost beaureaucrat take critical business continuity knowledge to the grave, junior bureaucrats feared promotion. Why accept the role of Deputy X, even with higher pay and prestige, if Deputy X keeps getting killed? This began to destroy British capacity in Ireland.
The insurgency lesson of Collins, therefore, was not to simply attack the teeth of the oppressor, but to dismantle the ability of the teeth to strike – by selectively targeting individual bureaucrats for elimination.
This is a pluperfect primer on how insurgents might remove the tyrant’s boot from off their necks, to which I have nothing to add.