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A Question of Command: Counterinsurgency from the Civil War to Iraq (Yale Library of Military History) Paperback – October 26, 2010
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"Moyar's study of Vietnam -- Triumph Forsaken -- is becoming a classic in counterinsurgency circles. His new case studies -- A Question of Command -- are making it to the desks of top military decision makers." - George Stephanopoulos, ABC News
"By distancing himself from self-professed experts capable only of regurgitating thoughts and assertions made earlier and better... Moyar has done the impossible and provided a third course of action to all counterinsurgency professionals and practitioners." - Adam Strickland, Small Wars Journal
"has attracted considerable attention in counterinsurgent circles.... now part of the curriculum in courses in Kabul." - C. J. Chivers, New York Times
"In this important, well-written, and solidly researched work, respected historian Moyar adds to his impressive record of publication a thoughtful contribution to the counterinsurgency debate.... There is so much that scholars, military personnel, and policy makers can learn from this study." - J. B. Cook, Choice
"'Moyar provides a useful illustration of the challenges of leadership and of developing leaders for counterinsurgency.' David Ucko, The Journal of Military History"
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Top Customer Reviews
The central theme of Moyar's work is the theory that counterinsurgency is "leader-centric" warfare, a contest between elites in which the elites with the superior leadership attributes usually win.
I was pre-disposed to discard this theory, but thought, "it may be an interesting book anyway." Well you can teach an old dog new tricks. His articulate and well documented arguments caused me to reconsider my biases and pre-conceived notions about the role of leadership in counter-insurgency warfare. You see, anybody can say "leadership is the key." But not everybody can get down in the weeds and spell out the specifics where both good and bad leadership made a substantive difference. This man does excellent, in-depth research is a good writer too.
Mr. Moyar's uses case studies, some of which are a bit remote from mainstream counterinsurgency literature, e.g. the Civil War, Reconstruction in the South (a major eye-opener for me), The Philippine Insurrection, The Huk Rebellion, Malaya, Vietnam, the Salvadoran Insurgency, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
Vietnam was especially interesting. There is a prevailing logic as to how and why we "lost in Vietnam." I am not going to be a spoiler. I am a Vietnam "Era" Vet, and I encourage other Vets to read the book, especially this Chapter. I think it sets the record straight about a lot of half-truths and politically correct journalist accounts that were flat incorrect.Read more ›
In this, his most recent piece, on the hot topic of counterinsurgency, Moyar takes aim, indirectly, at the celebrated US Army / Marine Corps COIN Manual published in 2006, which focuses on population centric doctrine as the touchstone for a successful COIN campaign. The author's main thesis is that good leadership - defined as a combination of charisma, creativity, sociability, flexibility, empathy and morality - is just about the only thing that really matters. To paraphrase Lance Armstrong, "It's not about the book" -- it's about the man. Moyar uses nine case studies, all of which but one (Malay Emergency) were US experiences, to demonstrate his point, both in the positive, examples where good leaders made all the difference, and the negative, where the lack of such leadership led to failure, often despite the use of population centric COIN best practices.
Moyar has dug up some great quotes from legends to support his case. One of my favorites comes from Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, who was asked by Winston Churchill to opine on the situation in Malaya at a time when things were particularly bleak for the British cause.Read more ›
Moyar's book fails spectacularly on all counts, which unfortunately only serves to undermine his thesis (which I actually think deserves a far better and more studious examination than the one he provides here). There are two major flaws, in my mind, and I'll discuss each in turn.
This book's first gaping flaw is that it fails to actually define insurgency, which any serious student of counterinsurgency literature should notice. It's a flaw that permeates the entire book, as Moyar conflates guerrilla warfare (a tactic) with insurgency (a political-military entity designed to overthrow a government via asymmetric means). This is particularly evident in his case studies (for which he never provides selection rationale, an unforgivable oversight in political science), where he lumps in Reconstruction with El Salvador and Iraq. Moyar's (incorrect) conception of insurgency is essentially a military strategy of asymmetry through force of arms - guerrilla warfare - completely ignoring the political dimensions, most pertinent among them legitimacy.
Ironically, this sets up his analysis to basically argue that insurgencies can thus best be understood as contests between elites, with the side with better elites emerging as the victor.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I thought this was an exceptional book covering the history of counterinsurgent warfare and the leadership question. Read morePublished 6 months ago by David L Asay
For an trained, professional historian, Mark Moyar is remarkably dismissive about the role of great historical currents in shaping the outcome of insurgencies. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Kevin M. Boylan
Dr. Mark Moyar's most recent book, "A Question of Command: Counterinsurgency from the Civil War to Iraq," is a must read for any serious student of military history, and, in... Read morePublished on September 15, 2013 by Dr.L
To borrow and adapt a really good line from Michael Herr's overdub narrative for "Apocalypse Now," "the bulls*** in this book piles up so fast you need wings to stay above it. Read morePublished on March 18, 2013 by NS
A quick scan of the first chapter of "A Question of Command" would suggest considerable potential for an original and insightful contribution to COIN theory. Read morePublished on September 8, 2011 by Peter Monks
Being a student of counterinsurgency, I looked forward to reading A Question of Command as a fresh perspective on the topic. Read morePublished on April 29, 2011 by Abe Medoff
Mr. Moyar has done an excellent job of intertwining case studies with the realities of fighting a counterinsurgency. Read morePublished on February 24, 2011 by Jelz
Engrossing narrative. It offers insight into significant past and recent counterinsurgency efforts. The author identifies 10 attributes of effective counterinsurgency leaders and... Read morePublished on February 8, 2011 by serap
I like the dynamics this author writes on winning counterinsurgency wars (small wars, guerrilla wars, limited, unconventional... whatever you'd like to title them). Read morePublished on January 24, 2011 by Jeffrey D. Freeman