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Insurgents, Raiders, and Bandits: How Masters of Irregular Warfare Have Shaped Our World Hardcover – June 16, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


John Arquilla brings to life the accomplishments of "great captains" in irregular warfare, using comparative history, biography, shrewd policy analysis and an uncommon appreciation for military strategy. The case studies and other analyses show that masters of unconventional warfare share common traits, including steadfastness in the face of adversity, adaptive personalities, and the effective use of "modern" means of warfare suitable for small formations, such as swarming and decentralized command. This book is highly recommended for military professionals, teachers and students of national security policy, and others who are intellectually engaged with the problem of irregular warfare in the past and present. (Stephen J. Cimbala, Pennsylvania State University)

I've read dozens of books on irregular warfare and John Arquilla's Insurgents, Raiders, and Bandits is among the most fascinating, readable and informative. As long on swashbuckling as it is on military savvy, Insurgents is a Plutarch's Lives of renegades, cutthroats and outlaws. From brilliant behind-the-lines fighters like Nathan Bedford Forrest, Orde Wingate and T. E. Lawrence to full-scale heroes of national liberation like Josip Broz (Tito) and Vo Nguyen Giap, the unconventional warriors of Mr. Arquilla's narrative demonstrate again and again how outgunned and outnumbered forces can prevail against an overpowering conventional enemy. This is the present, and it's the future. We need to understand it. Mr. Arquilla's important book sets insurgent and irregular warfare within a telling historical context as his narrative unfolds over the centuries from one Bad Boy to the next. Not just for mil/pol addicts, Insurgents belongs on your shelf and mine. Terrific! (Steven Pressfield, author of Gates of Fire and The Afghan Campaign)

Arquilla, of the Naval Postgraduate School, is internationally recognized as a military historian, a defense analyst, and a security policy consultant. He brings all three skills to bear in this comprehensively researched and accessible treatment of a neglected subject: “the great captains of irregular warfare.” He offers 18 convincing examples, irregular leaders and their successfully unconventional opponents, like George Crook, who took on powerful insurgent Indian leaders. The battles took place in locations ranging from the wilderness frontier of the French and Indian War to contemporary Chechnya. Rather than using a comparative approach, Arquilla establishes each protagonist in a distinct context. Nathanael Greene combined conventional and irregular methods to frustrate a superior British enemy during the American Revolution. Giuseppe Garibaldi mobilized insurgents to put his stamp on an independent Italy. Vo Nguyen Giap, a schoolteacher turned general, excelled at using his adversaries’ strengths against them. Phoolan Devi, the only woman on Arquilla’s list, was a social bandit and accomplished guerrilla who for years eluded India’s soldiers and police. What they and their counterparts shared were resilience in adversity, flexibility in approach, and ruthlessness in execution. Arquilla says that irregular war has a single law: win. The author concludes that irregular leaders can be defeated but victory’s costs and demands are high. (Publishers Weekly)

Insurgents, Raiders, and Bandits is a great overview of irregular warfare for the student, academic, and lay reader. Arquilla adds to his academic muscle with an enjoyable work that reads less like history and more like an adventure story. (New York Journal of Books)

John Arquilla...presents a fascinating history....More than just a battle study, this book shows how these masters of unconventional warfare shared common characteristics, such as an acute appreciation for strategy and policy, adaptive leadership, and tactical innovation. What these fighters accomplished with small, scattered forces against powerful conventional armies is remarkable. Best are Arquilla’s astute analyses of how convention forces adapted to combat irregular warfare. (Military Officer)

An informative, enjoyable study. (Military Review)

About the Author

John Arquilla professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School and the author of Worst Enemy: The Reluctant Transformation of the American Military, was recently named one of the world's Top 100 Thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine. He resides in Monterey, California.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Ivan R. Dee (June 16, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566638321
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566638326
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,619 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By John M. Lane on August 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a review of INSURGENTS, RAIDERS, AND BANDITS: HOW MASTERS OF IRREGULAR WARFARE HAVE SHAPED OUR WORLD, by John Arquilla. The author is a professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School and a respected author on military subjects. FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE recently honored his scholarly achievements by naming him one of the world's "Top 100 Thinkers." After reading his most recent book, I'm happy to agree. Mine is the hard cover edition published in 2011 by Ivan R. Dee.

In this book, Professor Arquilla manages to drag the study of military history into the twenty-first century by noting on page xi that all of the more than thirty wars waged in this new millennium are "irregular in nature." Instead of seeking inspiration and guidance from history's "Great Captains" like Napoleon, Frederick the Great or General Patton, we need to look at the careers and accomplishments of such "masters of irregular warfare" as Robert Rogers, Mao tse tung, George Crook, Vo Nguyen Giap and Aslan Maskhadov, among others.

Arquilla includes 18 such masters and also has a chapter explaining irregular warfare in clear terms free of the mind-numbing jargon of some experts on military history. His last chapter explains why each of his "masters" is a master and summarizing irregular warfare and how to recognize it when it's being waged. One of his masters is Charles Lockwood who directed the US submarine offensive which proved so devastating to Imperial Japan.

This book ought to be required reading at all of our military academies. It's well-researched, well-written and timely. If you're interested in military history from Caesar to al-Qaeda, you'll enjoy this book. I liked it and gave it five stars.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By T.A.L. Dozer VINE VOICE on January 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really like the whole concept behind this book. It gives a general biographical sketch and contributions of various "masters" of unconventional and asymmetrical warfare; enlightening the read on how they have affected modern warfare. The author does an excellent job at making this a very interesting read for the uninitiated to irregular warfare, military strategy and history.

The book covers 18 personalities from Rogers of Rogers Rangers to the partisan leader Tito. One chapter in particular, I really enjoyed was on General Sir Frank Edward Kitson British Army officer and writer on military subjects, notably "Low Intensity Operations: Subversion, Insurgency, Peace-Keeping" and the classic "Gangs and Counter-Gangs" about the development and employment of pseudo-operations. The chapter provided an excellent overview of his contributions to the British counter-insurgency strategies. Kitson is accredited as being the farther of "modern" pseudo-operations; the employment of turned terrorist/insurgents, conducting mirror image operations against their former comrades (AKA false flag operations). These same tactics were made famous by the Rhodesian Selous Scouts during the Rhodesian Bush War.

Overall I recommend this book to junior military personnel and military history enthusiast.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Nick Howes on August 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The biographies and contributions of the last 250 years of masters of insurgent warfare are desribed in John Arquilla's book, from Major Robert Rogers of Rogers Rangers who laid down the rules for irregular warfare, demonstrated their effectiveness with the St Francis raid against the Abanaki, and managed to convince the Redcoated British regulars they needed to adapt to Vo Nguyen Giap of North Vietnam who adapted Mao's guerrilla teachings into a style that combined insurgency in the rural and urban centers of South Vietnam.

There's Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck who tied up British forces during World War Two in present-day Kenya with small units blockading invasion forces and reserve units ready to rush in.

There is also Aslan Maskhadov of Chechnya who fought post-Soviet takeover of his small country with swarm tactics while nearly unsung Revolutionary War hero General Nathaniel Greene beat the British in the later years of the war when they switched to a Southern strategy, feeling they had stronger support in the South, combining raids by irregulars like Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion with formal battlefield strategy.

Lawrence of Arabia's Arab revolt challenged the Turkish occupiers through raiding Turkish units and dynamiting the railline resupplying Mecca without actually closing it, even as Allenby's conventional British forces barrelled through up the coast to Damascus.

Abd el-Kadar led an insurgency against the French in 19th century Algeria, unifying Arabs and leading them on rapid Bedouin-style hit-and-run raids on French forces untiol al-Kadar controlled two-thirds of the country.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. Feliciano on September 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a book for our time. The United States, is presently involved in combatting terrorist groups in the middle east.

The book covers, samples of, small scale conflicts and the personalities that lead those conflicts. The book makes the point, that small scale conflicts have had strategic impacts in effecting the outcome of those conflicts.

This book should be read, especially by policy makers. It will give them some insights as to what is really going to be required to truly "contain" insurgents and terrorists.

This book should be required reading for all involved in "small scale" conflicts. Not, only for those who plan and execute the missions. But, citizens in general, to understand the difficulty involved in "winning" those conflicts.

Great book !!
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