5 stories of how the small and the poor defeated the big and the rich

War is the most reliable companion along the entire path of humankind. It never stops: even after such grandiose events as World War II, the world has not known a year without a war. As a rule, war is always about resources, about territories, about money in the end. Yet, not all wars and not all conflicts are the same. Usually, the more technologically advanced and prepared side wins. Usually, but not always.

Heroic legends about 300 Spartans or the confrontation between Rome and Carthage excite the imagination and make the blood move faster. This happens because it does not fit in my head how small armies could defeat indestructible legions. These events took place a very long time ago, and the degree of their reliability raises many questions, but there are similar examples in modern history. Wars and conflicts in which the small and the poor won the big and the rich.

Vietnam and Afghanistan

These two wars are combined into one clause because they are structurally very similar. Vietnam and Afghanistan are impoverished countries that have defended their independence despite invaders far superior in strength. You can argue as much as you like that Vietnam was helped by the USSR and Afghanistan – by the United States, but the decisive factor in both cases was will. An adversary, obviously weaker, bit both superpowers and was forced to retreat in the end.

Without the will to win, no American “stingers” would have helped the Afghan mujahideen. Without the fierce desire of the Vietnamese to defend their land, no Soviet instructors would have helped. If the people do not want to fight, if the people are overwhelmed by the technical superiority of the enemy, it is impossible to force them to live from hand to mouth for years in the jungle or caves and at the same time resist.

Yom Kippur War

A six day-war, during which a coalition of four Arab states invaded the territory of a still very young Israel. The coalition forces (Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan) were almost three times superior to Israel’s. If we consider the possible reserves, then the figures are generally incompatible.

Nevertheless, gaining an advantage in the early days of the war due to numerical superiority and surprise, the coalition was defeated. Israel defended its territory and occupied part of the Syrian land – the Golan Heights.

The civil war in Colombia

From 1964 to the present day, the FARC has been at war with the government to build New Colombia, a society of social justice and social equality. In different years, the number of armed fighters ranged from 9,000 to 20,000 versus 250,000 in the regular army. By the early 90s, the FARC controlled almost half of the country.

Whole families went to the partisans; women served in the ranks of the revolutionary army along with men. Everyone lives in the same difficult conditions – in small villages in the jungles of Colombia without electricity, without the amenities and benefits of the civilized world.

Nevertheless, the determination of the people of Colombia was enough to wage an unequal struggle for half a century – and to wage it successfully. In 2016, the Colombian government was forced to recognize the FARC and begin negotiations. Thus, the guerrillas from the jungle became a political party, and the government agreed to defeat them.

The civil war itself did not end there. Other rebel groups in Colombia have not yet laid down their arms.

War of independence of Algeria

Algeria has been a French colony for over a century; the movement towards independence began after the end of World War II. In those years, this was a worldwide trend in all colonies. “One rifle for two” – was it so bad at Stalingrad, historians still argue. But for the Algerians, “one rifle for two” would pass for happiness. There the alignment was about “one rifle for ten.” In any case, in the early stages of the war.

The poor and hungry population stood up against a bloodless but still advanced power – against France. All sources indicate approximately equal forces of the parties: 550,000 for France versus 350,000 for Algeria. But it would help if you remembered about the technical condition. France went through World War II and had the most advanced weapons of the time; the armament of the Algerians has already been discussed. The war lasted almost eight years; in the end, France even used nuclear weapons.

Unlike the Americans in Japan, nuclear tests were still carried out at a test site located just 40 km from the village. Can this be considered an act of intimidation? Quite. But is it possible with this act of intimidation to crush the people, who for eight years waged an unequal struggle and, as a result, achieved independence? A colossal price was paid – about one and a half million human lives.


The African state, which existed for only 11 years, is today known as Zimbabwe. All the years of its existence, Rhodesia waged an unequal struggle against the whole world. Unlike dozens of other examples, Rhodesia was not helped by any of the superpowers. Despite the almost complete trade blockade from the whole world, the economy of Rhodesia was one of the strongest in Africa, which is already an example of the victory of the small and the poor over the huge and the rich. But this article deals specifically with military victories. Rhodesia has left the brightest trace in this respect.

The Selous Scouts are a special unit of the armed forces of Rhodesia that seems to always fight in the minority and almost always win crushing victories. In the 70s, the Selous Scouts ranked third in training and ability to perform combat missions among all special forces globally. Before becoming a scout, a person was taught to complete combat missions and survive alone. In addition to possessing all types of local weapons, the scout had to eat what was needed. For example, the corpse of a monkey is not the first fresh. He could get water from the stomach of a killed animal. In general, these were the modern 300 Spartans.

Here is just one example – Operation Eland. 84 scouts in 11 cars entered the territory of hostile Mozambique. Deeper than 40 km, they attacked the training camp where the militants were concentrating. Result: 1,028 militants were killed, all scouts returned to Rhodesia, and only four were injured. Rhodesia eventually lost on the political battlefield, but the Selous Scouts remained undefeated forever.

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