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Beating Goliath: Why Insurgencies Win [Hardcover]

Jeffrey Record
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 2007 1597970905 978-1597970907 1
Beating Goliath examines the phenomenon of victories by the weak over the strong—more specifically, insurgencies that succeeded against great powers. Jeffrey Record reviews eleven insurgent wars from 1775 to the present and determines why the seemingly weaker side won. He concludes that external assistance correlates more consistently with insurgent success than any other explanation. He does not disparage the critical importance of will, strategy, and strong-side regime type or suggest that external assistance guarantees success. Indeed, in all cases, some combination of these factors is usually present. But Record finds few if any cases of unassisted insurgent victories except against the most decrepit regimes.

Having identified the ingredients of insurgent success, Record examines the present insurgency in Iraq and whether the United States can win. In so doing, Record employs a comparative analysis of the Vietnam War and the Iraq War. He also identifies and assesses the influence of distinctive features of the American way of war on the U.S. forces’ performance against the Iraqi insurgency.

Make no mistake: insurgent victories are the exception, not the rule. But when David does beat Goliath, the consequences can be earth shattering and change the course of history. Jeffrey Record’s persuasive logic and clear writing make this timely book a must read for scholars, policymakers, military strategists, and anyone interested in the Iraq War’s outcome.

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Beating Goliath is relevant to both America’s current wars and to developing capabilities for future wars.”

“Record has given us a thoughtful, well-researched, historically based, look at a problem all too timely…Beating Goliath: Why Insurgencies Win stands as one of the best of the recent books on the evolving nature of insurgencies and the challenges they present.”

“This is a book well worth reading…highly recommended.”

"Record's well-chosen case studies highlight the common characteristics of successful insurgencies. . . .His analysis is persuasive and makes for a sobering read."

“This book is highly recommended to any national-level elected political officials, military personnel of all ranks, civil servants dealing with foreign policy or the Department of Defense and to any citizen who wants to know more than the popular media can give you. This is an excellent work.”

“This impressive book deserves a wide audience. Undergraduates and general readers will find this book to be an excellent introduction to the topic. The high level of analysis also makes this book essential reading for war-fighting practitioners and counterinsurgency specialists.”

"Record's Beating Goliath is a book everyone should read. Its insights into US public opinion and strategic culture, its analysis of the current US war in Iraq and its conclusions—cogently summing up the policy-relevant literature on asymmetrical conflict outcomes and counter-insurgency strategy—are among the best and most accessible of any of these subjects in print."

"This reflective critique, illuminated by historical insight, offers much for general readers, specialists, and policy makers to consider."

"The United States would be better off if more people read Jeffrey Record's insightful analysis—especially people in power. His analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the American way of war is by itself worth the price of the book."

"Beating Goliath is short, clear, interesting, and practical—that is, everything a book designed to change minds should be. It is also full of arguments and conclusions that will surprise many readers and would greatly improve America's decisions about when and how to commit military force. This is a valuable book for military professionals and the intelligent non-expert public alike."

"Beating Goliath is a small book that packs a big wallop. Jeffrey Record's explanation as to why insurgencies pose such a daunting challenge for powerful nations—especially for the United States—is succinct, incisive, and compelling."

"Through solid research and astute analysis, Dr. Record demonstrates that the United States is 'not particularly good' at precisely the type of armed conflict it expects to encounter in coming decades—counterinsurgency. This idea has immense repercussions for future American strategy. All policymakers, scholars, and citizens concerned with U.S. security should grapple with the implications of Beating Goliath." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

"The United States would be better off if more people read Jeffrey Record's insightful analysis--especially people in power. His analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the American way of war is by itself worth the price of the book." -- Thomas E. Ricks, author of Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq

"Beating Goliath is short, clear, interesting, and practical--that is, everything a book designed to change minds should be. It is also full of arguments and conclusions that will surprise many readers and would greatly improve America's decisions about when and how to commit military force. This is a valuable book for military professionals and the intelligent non-expert public alike." -- James Fallows, author of Blind Into Baghdad and National Defense

"Beating Goliath is a small book that packs a big wallop. Jeffrey Record's explanation as to why insurgencies pose such a daunting challenge for powerful nations--especially for the United States--is succinct, incisive, and compelling." -- Andrew J. Bacevich, professor of history and international relations, Boston University, and author of the New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War

"Through solid research and astute analysis, Dr. Record demonstrates that the United States is 'not particularly good' at precisely the type of armed conflict it expects to encounter in coming decades--counterinsurgency. This idea has immense repercussions for future American strategy. All policymakers, scholars, and citizens concerned with U.S. security should grapple with the implications of Beating Goliath." -- Steven Metz, Reserach Professor of National Security Affairs, U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books Inc.; 1 edition (May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597970905
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597970907
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #754,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Several colleagues of mine recommended this book - several more people said that all I had to do is read the dust jacket and put it away. Disagree. The book will explain the difficulties for fighting insurgencies, several historical examples, and the dangers insurgencies pose to big military organization and states. There are a couple dated passages concerning Iraq, but that is understandable considering the fast pace of the war. I would recommend this book, as a starter, to all those attempting to better understand insurgencies.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding contribution, excellent work August 10, 2007
Format:Hardcover
The premise of the book is to explain why some insurgencies, consisting of poorly equipped and numerically inferior forces, can defeat powerful nations with are, at least in comparison, limitless material resources. The author looks at specific factors of insurgencies and how these factors affected the outcomes of eleven insurgencies where the insurgents defeated a larger, more powerful opponent. He then looks at the role of external support in aiding insurgents, concluding that, statistically, it is the most significant single factor. The author then attempts to apply his analysis to the current insurgency in Iraq and draws some conclusions concerning the likelihood of an insurgent victory there.
The factors analyzed by Dr. Record are the will to fight, including the political will of the antagonists; strategy and the strategic interaction of the opponents; regime type (liberal democracy versus authoritarian) and external support to the insurgency in the form of money, weapons, personnel and safe areas.
External support, being the single most influential factor in determining the success of the weak versus the strong, rates its own chapter. This chapter does not get stuck in a scientific statistical analysis, Dr. Record analyzes qualitatively as well as quantitatively. His analysis is not a sterile comparison of a set number of variables, but a wide ranging analysis of many factors and indirect influences on the external support and the outcome of the insurgencies.
Taking on a hot media topic, Record compares Vietnam and Iraq. He highlights the differences, the similarities and how these factors can influence the outcome of the war in Iraq. He looks at strategies, will at all levels, political factors in the U.S. government and external support.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Informative Perspective December 11, 2007
Format:Hardcover
In a time when the United States is wrapped up in a seemingly endless international conflict, Jeffery Record sheds light on why insurgencies such as Iraq are hard to combat and, in some cases, are capable of winning their wars. "Beating Goliath: Why Insurgencies Win" is an insightful book that takes an in depth look at several cases throughout history where small military forces were able to win over their adversaries. It brings to light the politics of such wars against insurgents and explains how several factors eventually lead to the submission of the apparent "Goliath."
A Goliath, explains Record, is a nation with a strong superiority over its opponent. This usually refers to the side who's military, technology, size, and financial backing puts them at an obvious advantage.
This book is a crucial read for members of both the pro-war and anti-war camps. Those who completely oppose the war will come to realize that it is a lack of popular and political support of the war effort that is a main contributing factor for the victory of the insurgents. Conversely it can be learned by those who are of the pro-war side that wars against small forces in foreign, unfamiliar terrain are susceptible to high failure rates.
Goliath does not always lose either. The victory of insurgents over their personal Goliath is an abnormal phenomenon. As Record says, most of the time the more powerful force does prevail. However under certain, predictable circumstances, the insurgents do win. One of these circumstances is when the insurgents have outside help from another nation. In the case of the American Revolution, the Americans had the help of the French before it had even been agreed upon that a revolution would be their course of action.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intersting Book On Insurgent Warfare... September 4, 2012
Format:Paperback
I read "Beating Goliath" for a PoliSci course in grad school. I've always been interested in insurgencies and guerrilla warfare, and I like to read every book I can get my hands on. This was one of the better books, as the writer's style is both informative and well written. Record's central idea is that the side with the greater organizational will to win is the side most likely to prevail in an insurgency. An example he cites is the British Empire during the American Revolution; part of the English lack of will was knowing that they had a stable homeland to return to. Record also addresses the importance of the insurgency having outside support as a factor in victory (ie Chinese support for the NVA & Viet Cong).

All in all, "Beating Goliath" is a well written political science book, that adds to the rich literature on insurgent warfare.
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