How might nationalism help revolutionaries overcome the disadvantages of old weapons and poor supplies to win a war for national independence?

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nationalism can be a powerful force in helping revolutionaries overcome poor supplies and old weapons in their quest for independence. There are some examples to support this conclusion.

When the thirteen British colonies declared their independence from Great Britain, most people believed the colonists had no realistic chance of winning the war. Great Britain was a world power, and the colonies had been under British control for many years. The colonists had few weapons and lacked supplies. Their weapons were inferior to those used by the British. However, the colonists were fighting for several tangible ideas. For some of the colonists, defeat in the Revolutionary War would have meant that they would be killed. The colonists were also fighting for something that was very important to them: their freedom. They also were fighting for the idea that the government should work for the people and represent the wishes of the people. These goals were very motivational and important to the colonists. Some of the British soldiers were soldiers who were hired to fight for the British. They had far less at stake compared to many of the colonists.

In the region of Indochina, a similar situation existed after World War II ended. When the people of Indochina wanted their independence from France, there was no way the French military should have been defeated. However, the people of Indochina strongly believed in their cause, and they were willing to endure much suffering to achieve their freedom.

A similar situation also existed in Vietnam. When elections weren’t held to unite North Vietnam and South Vietnam, the North Vietnamese felt wronged. They eventually fought a mighty power when the United States got involved in the conflict. Many Americans questioned why we were in fighting in Vietnam. The North Vietnamese knew their goals and their objectives. They were willing to face much suffering to achieve their independence. The Americans wanted a quick war. When the war dragged on, American morale suffered. Additionally, our military advantages were not suited for the type of warfare used in Vietnam. The guerilla-style warfare favored North Vietnam, even though the Americans had a stronger and more modern military.

Nationalistic forces and believing in a cause can increase morale and help an underdog defeat a strong military power.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Wars for national independence are not really won by weapons.  Instead, they are won by morale and motivation.  Nationalism can give the rebels the motivation to keep fighting even when things look bad and to make serious sacrifices for their cause.

The colonizing country can really only win a war for national independence if it makes people stop wanting to fight.  This can be done by completely crushing them militarily, but that is very difficult.  What is really needed is to make the people feel that independence is not worth the suffering that the war causes.  Nationalism prevents this from happening.  It makes people feel that gaining their independence is the most important thing in the world.  This keeps them going and makes it so that they never give up.  Often (as with the British in the American Revolution and the US in the Vietnam War), the colonizer gives up and goes home because the war is not important enough to them.