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The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 109 customer reviews
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ISBN-10: 0195368347
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Kilcullen, adviser on counterinsurgency to General Petraeus, defines accidental guerrillas as locals fighting primarily because outsiders (often Westerners) are intruding into their physical and cultural space, but they may also be galvanized by high-tech, internationally oriented ideologues. This interaction of two kinds of nonstate opponents renders both traditional counterterrorism and counterinsurgency inadequate. Kilcullen uses Afghanistan and Iraq as primary case studies for a new kind of war that relies on an ability to provoke Western powers into protracted, exhausting, expensive interventions. Kilcullen presents two possible responses. Strategic disruption keeps existing terrorists off balance. Military assistance attacks the conditions producing accidental guerrillas. That may mean full-spectrum assistance, involving an entire society. Moving beyond a simplistic war on terror depends on rebalancing military and nonmilitary elements of power. It calls for a long view, a measured approach and a need to distinguish among various enemies. It requires limiting the role of government agencies in favor of an indirect approach emphasizing local interests and local relationships. Not least, Kilcullen says, breaking the terrorist cycle requires establishing patterns of virtue, moral authority, and credibility in the larger society. Kilcullen's compelling argument merits wide attention. (Mar.)
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Review

"This book should be required reading for every American soldier, as well as anyone involved in the war on terror. Kilcullen's central concept of the 'accidental guerrilla' is brilliant and the policy prescriptions that flow from it important. And that's not all; the book has many more insights drawn from various battlefields." --Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek

"Kilcullen's compelling argument merits wide attention."--Publishers Weekly Starred Review

"David Kilcullen, man of action and man of ideas, has produced a rare--and indispensable--guide to understanding and winning the so-called 'war on terror' by combining ideas of military theory with those of culture and tradition among tribal peoples." --Professor Akbar Ahmed, Chair of Islamic Studies, American University, Washington DC.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 1 edition (March 16, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195368347
  • ASIN: B007F7TRU0
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.4 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,654,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on January 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
David Kilcullen's book "The Accidental Guerrilla" is a dense read and requires you to have an intense interest in the subject. It is not for the faint of heart but is well worth the investment of reading in order to understand the subject - our safety. For those of us not involved in the military this book opens the curtain on a world we never see. I have far more respect (and disrespect in some cases) for the people who work so diligently to keep us safe and think about how to protect us from evolving threats and enemies.

David points out that while many US Military leaders where congratulating themselves on the supremacy of US strength and overwhelming dominance new hybrid threats emerged, ones we at first denied and now struggle to adapt to. While the US maintained that no major land war would ever occur again because of our massive armaments, the Chinese, for example, were developing the idea of unrestricted warfare. Colonel Qiao, said, "the first rule of unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules, with nothing forbidden."

Turns out that there are more wars and violence, not less, despite US dominance. The author offers four possible models for understanding why this situation exists and what responses can be taken. These localized wars could be 1) a backlash against Globalization 2) Insurgency has been globalized, i.e. funded and used by large interests that exceed national boundaries such as religious forces 3) a civil war within Islam, and 4) asymmetric warfare, that security should be understand from a functional and capability standpoint leaving the politics out of the evaluation and response.

Great book if you want to understand the dangerous world in which we live and why simplistic answers no longer work.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
One warning up front: if someone quotes this book, *check them*. This is a brilliant and comprehensive discussion of the current global environment, but has a lot of provocative comments that could be taken out of context.

Starting with two major case studies (Afghanistan and Iraq) and a few smaller ones (East Timor, Thailand, Pakistan, and the European Union), David Kilcullen builds several arguments. The most salient point to me were the need to identify both overarching patterns (like the movement of Al Qaida money and people) and to develop a refined understanding of each insurgency or movement in isolation. Also important are the concepts of the relative nature of "foreigner", "outsider", "invader" etc. and the absence of absolutes in counterinsurgency.

The case studies are well constructed and rapidly convey the complexity of the cultures and the implications of those complexities, as well as clearly identifying tactics and strategies for gaining the upperhand in the strategic sense. The central point, that many "insurgents" are locals who feel threatened operating with 'outsiders' (who threaten the locals) against other 'outsiders' (who also threaten the locals), is an old lesson of World War II Balkans, the British intervension in Malaysia, the French in Indochina and later the U.S. in Viet Nam. As far as I can tell, the reason it is forgotten is that Western militaries want to focus on big budget, big contract, high tech, maneuver warfare, and diplomats don't want to discuss conflict at all. Guerrilla warfare fits neither world view. Part of the strategic solution to these conflicts is address the issues that are exploited by "foreign fighters" (a.k.a. Al Qaida, but Communists in the past, and who knows what movements in the future).
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
First, the bad points.

Kilcullen writes in a very complex style, uses big words and long paragraphs. In short, it is not an easy-read, listen-to-the-radio, relax by the fire type of book. Reading it requires concentration-I couldn't really read more than 40 pages or so at a single sitting without taking some time to digest the info.

My only other criticism is it is not clear what the target audience is for this book. It is certainly not a mass-market paperback-I would guess the casual reader stops at page 20. But it seems a little light for the diplomatic/intelligence crowd. Rather it is more like an executive summary (albeit a large one) of a 10,000 page CIA analysis.

Now the good points.

First, subject to the above caveats, Kilcullen writes very well. His writing is logically constructed, concise, and has excellent grammar.

This is a man who knows what he is talking about. Kilcullen has advised General Petraeus in the "surge", has first hand knowledge of various insurgencies around the world, and is capable of well-reasoned analysis. I am by no means an expert in the subject, but after reading this book I feel that I know more about low-intensity warfare than most of the world's population, and half its politicians.

Kilcullen approaches the subject from the bottom up. Why are people fighting, who are they fighting, what do they believe in, what resources do they have, what are they willing to risk. Only when those questions are answered, does it make any sense to talk about strategy and tactics. The large powers of the world always seem to get this wrong, both today and in the historical cases cited in the book.
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