on 10:45 AM on the 28th of June 1914, Gavrilo Princip, altered the course of history and ushered in one of the most frightening era in human history. Up until that point a man would have to be a king, or lead a great army to topple nations or set nations on a collision course. One man, by killing another man and his wife ushered in the fall of three great nations of the time (the Ottoman Empire which was over a thousand years old, and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, and Russia, but I'll get to that) would nearly ruin two others (Germany, and France), as well as wreak havoc across all of Europe. One man did that.
The Czars also fell to insurgency, which is all you can call the several revolutions that took place in 1917. The result of home grown insurgents, who the "Whites" didn't take seriously until they were totally surrounded. The truth is that the communist "Reds" didn't stop their "Revolution" there, and spent the next 60 years exporting insurgency to all over the globe. Small peasant armies, and even children would ravage Old World powers, and make life chaotic for the rest of humanity. They would, ironically enough be undone by insurgents themselves.
Today we have Islamic insurgences, we have psuedo communist insurgents, we have anarchists, even the so called Occupy Wall Street can be classes as an insurgency in their aims, if not their actual accomplishments. Indeed it seems that there are more insurgent groups then there are resources to combat them. When one also considered that insurgents often view no extreme as too extreme to accomplish their goals. As the insurgency in Iraq shows, such men and women are often able to wreak unbelievable amounts of damage, and stopping them requires a united population.
From a purely tactical standpoint the insurgent has an advantage they can choose the time and the place they strike. Indeed they have the advantage in that the portability of weapons, and the mass media make it nearly impossible to avoid how easily fear is spread from even minor attacks. Say an insurgent went to three movie theaters in one state and rolled one grenade into the building. One M-67 grenade has a blast radius of about 20 meters and frag radius out to 50 +/- so it is certain nearly everyone would be wounded. Now the attack might be minor in scope but the panic it could cause could be crippling.
We are also faced with not just the tactical or even strategic insurgent, now we are also having to deal with the Technological insurgent. Anonymous, an online group in Guy Fawks masks, have regularly hacked secure sites, some for fun, some for malicious intent. With our reliance as a society on technology, from bank transactions, to our drone fleet for air support, the attacks of an insurgency group that was seriously committed to causing havoc in our society, could do so with little effort, and a maximum of chaos.
Indeed when one looks at the threat is is easy for us to feel a cold chill of fear down our spine. We can't avoid on some level that there are some serious threats that could very easily destabilize and destroy our society. there are a few advantages societies have, however that insurgents have great difficulties overcoming. The first is momentum. Societies that are not about to collapse completely can usually keep going just through sheer momentum. We have seen this in the Spanish Flu pandemic, and even 9/11 even when we came very near to collapse, we kept on going just through sheer momentum.
Another thing societies have in their favor is that insurgents regardless of what they say can not create, they can only destroy. No society ever created by an insurgency had lasted long without descending to barbarism or extreme brutality. Indeed even in areas where insurgency is used to great tactical effect, it will only leave behind a blasted useless land. Again one should look at Iraq circa 2007, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chechnya, or a couple of other notable examples. Societies can use this ability to create and indeed improve the lives of the individual people, to "win the hearts and minds" of the populace that might be supporting the insurgency.
Lastly societies have one advantage that insurgents lack until they are on the cusp of victory: funding. Even the poorest society can in times of crisis pool their resources and better respond to the crisis' that face them. Insurgents will have to find a clear and dependable source of funding. Some use kidnap and extortion, others rely on "charities" to help them. regardless of the source, if you find a way to cut off said funding, insurgencies will literally and figuratively starve. Also if one is able to deny them a rallying cry, or anything to draw new fighters to their banner. Its really hard to get people to pledge to die for a cause if that cause doesn't exist and their land is at peace.
As we march towards the future, that seems to increasingly favor the Insurgent over the Society, it will be even more vital for each and every society to define itself clearly. To have an identity. To be clear about what that is and what that means, both positive and negative, and ultimately what a society is willing to do to preserve themselves from both internal and external threats.