Saturday, December 20, 2008

Source for the Three Percent?

Just received this email with a very pertinent question.

Dear Sir,

I just came across your blog by way of Xavier’s, and saw the mention of “Three Percenters,” which upon further reading I learned refers to the 3% said to have been the active resistance in the Revolution. I write because I have read about the three percent active resistance measure before in a different context, but I have not for the life of me been able to find it and was hoping you might know where I should look.

The quote I had read was from a military officer who was explaining the percentages necessary within a population necessary for the success of a guerrilla war/revolution. Those percentages broke down to three percent active resistance, 23% passive support, 50% neutral, (and maybe 25% active resistance?). If memory serves, the comments were in regards to some of the more recent wars (perhaps Vietnam) rather than the Revolution. It some number of years ago that I read it, before I had reached the point in my schooling to understand the necessity of keeping/identifying one’s sources for such a quote. As such, I have no idea what book it was in or the context or even if those numbers are the exact numbers given by the original source. As mentioned, I have searched the web for various combinations of words with no avail, and would greatly appreciate a source other than the “I read somewhere” that I could refer to when discussing these topics with
my friends.

Thank you greatly for any help,


To which I replied:

Excellent question. I will find my original source (15 years old though it may be) and let you know, although I won't even begin looking until sometime after the first of the year when I finish with my novel. In the mean time, I can post your question on my blog and see if anyone else has a ready reference.


So, all you amateur Revolutionary historians out there, can you find a footnote for the man? If so, please post it here. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

Something similar can be found in Revolutionary Strategy by EF Betancourt.

Sean said...

Could've come out of Viet-Nam, where you had a 3% chance of being killed, wounded, or captured, if balanced against the total number people serving there. Contrasted with the 5% chance you had of getting killed on a highway, here in the US, during the same time period.