Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 190 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0871406880
ISBN-10: 0871406888
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  • Length: 809 pages
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Characterized by stealth, raids, and retreats, irregular warfare is a strategy of the weak against the strong, and has been, according to military-affairs writer Boot, ever since Alexander the Great was stymied in modern Afghanistan. Cataloging unconventional wars by the dozens, Boot considers factors that led to victory or defeat, factors common to rebels, whether motivated by tribal loyalty, nationalism, political ideology, or religious militancy. Ultimately distilling his massive historical survey into several precepts for analyzing insurgency, Boot concludes that a rebellion will most likely succeed if its irregular fighters cooperate with its conventional units; if it receives foreign assistance; and if it produces effective propaganda. Boot cites the American Revolution as a template and, likewise, Garibaldi’s unification of Italy and Ho Chi Minh’s Communist victory in Vietnam. Receiving Boot’s equal attention are strategists who defeated twentieth-century insurgencies in the French and British Empires. Few but specialists know of Louis Lyautey; that his counterinsurgency ideas are ancestral to current U.S. military doctrine illustrates the current-affairs importance of Boot’s presentation, which is impressively researched, astutely synthesized, and eminently readable. --Gilbert Taylor


“[A] comprehensive history of guerrilla warfare, breezily written and chock-full of perceptive insights.... [Boot] has a great feel for details...a mighty impressive achievement, one that should be a bible for policymakers everywhere in the civilized world.” (Steve Forbes - Forbes Magazine)

“A sweeping panorama that ranges over a vast terrain... thoughtful, smart, fluent, with an eye for the good story.” (Mark Mazover - New York Times Book Review, Front Page Review)

“Max Boot has written a landmark book about a perennial and important challenge: guerilla warfare.” (Jon Meacham, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House)

“A penetrating writer and thinker.” (Wall Street Journal)

“Fascinating. . . . Beginning with the barbarians at the gates of the Roman Empire, a wonderful and valuable historic narrative filled with colorful characters.” (Walter Isaacson)

“[D]estined to be the classic account of what may be the oldest as well as the hardest form of war.” (John Nagl - The Wall Street Journal)

“This is the definitive treatment of guerrilla warfare through the ages―a tour de force by a preeminent military historian who has advised generals, policymakers and political leaders on the subject.” (Senator John S. McCain)

“An expansive nuts-and-bolts historical survey from a keen military mind.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“...[I]mpressively researched, astutely synthesized, and eminently readable.” (Booklist)

“The word “magisterial” is bandied about far too freely these days, but in the case of Max Boot’s sweeping and deeply researched history of guerrilla warfare, it proves fair. Somewhere in the first third of Boot’s book, you begin to realize that guerrilla wars (and terrorism and insurgencies) are the way we fight, while the formal set battles of, say, the Napoleonic wars are but an exception.” (Lucas Wittmann - The Daily Beast)

Invisible Armies’ is a magisterial account of insurgency and counterinsurgency across the ages, peppered with fascinating personalities such as Robert the Bruce, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Che Guevara, Edward Lansdale, Osama bin Laden and David Petraeus. Out of narrative emerges cogent analysis: The author offers important insights relevant to any modern power faced with a guerrilla opponent. Hard lessons are, however, delivered with elegant prose. Leaving aside what Invisible Armies teaches us, this is a wonderful read.” (Gerard DeGroot - Washington Post)

“For the historian and journalist Max Boot to use the phrase ‘an epic history’ in the subtitle of his own book implies a magnificent lack of modesty in his own capabilities. The work more than matches the hype…. This pathbreaking book should thus be on the reading list of every NATO officer hoping to defeat an insurgency.” (Andrew Roberts - Commentary)

“Max Boot’s alternative military history is so marvelously readable because every section―and there are many in this epic of 750 pages―is moved along by a vividly pictured zealot, mass murderer, mini-murderer, tactician, partisan, general, king―as well as the weary survivors of battles, wars, massacres, atrocities.” (Manueala Hoelterhoff - Business Week)

“There’s no better guide to both the past and the future than Invisible Armies, the tour de force of a scholar as well as a man who’s seen American adversaries and soldiers at work up close.” (The Weekly Standard)

“In his encyclopedic history of guerrilla warfare, Max Boot, a military analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations, makes a crucial observation: that [guerrilla warfare] has been a far more enduring feature of conflict than many realize… [An] important survey…. Nicely drawn portraits of the leading figures in the insurgents’ pantheon―Giuseppe Garibaldi, T.E. Lawrence, Orde Wingate, Mao Zedong.” (James Blitz - Financial Times)

“Max Boot is an ideal guide to offer such a timely and, in some ways, reassuring history of guerilla warfare.... A considerable achievement that will ensure Invisible Armies remains a valuable scholarly research tool as well as popular history…. Boot is concerned with neither a morality tale nor politics, but in conducting a disinterested examination of a method of war that is still poorly understood, yet increasingly relevant to our own security…. Boot’s formal findings may startle…. [A] magisterial study.” (Victor Davis Hanson - The New Criterion)

“Lively.... A timely reminder to politicians and generals of the hard-earned lessons of history.” (The Economist)

“Boot is an elegant writer …. Invisible Armies is a timely book.” (Mackubin Thomas Owens - National Review)

“Enormous, brilliant, and important...should be required reading in the White House and Pentagon.... Lucid, enlightening, and highly readable.” (Michael Korda - The Daily Beast)

“[B]rilliantly sums up the lessons of the centuries.” (Martin Walker - The Wilson Quarterly)

“[C]ool and balanced.” (John Gray - The New Statesman)

“[A] rich and enthralling history of guerrilla warfare.” (Jay Winik, author of April 1865 and The Great Upheaval)

“A magisterial overview of insurgency and counterinsurgency, peppered with fascinating personalities. The author counts 442 insurgencies since the American Revolution, 25.2 percent of which were successful.” (Gerard DeGroot - Washington Post)

“Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of The Savage Wars of Peace, presents an astutely synthesized account of insurgency and counterinsurgency through the ages―from the Peloponnesian War to the post-Sept. 11 battlefields of today.”” (Ihsan Taylor - New York Times Book Review)

Product Details

  • File Size: 22092 KB
  • Print Length: 809 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0871404249
  • Publisher: Liveright; 1 edition (January 15, 2013)
  • Publication Date: January 10, 2013
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007P9M034
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,185 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Terry Tucker on July 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am on the fence about this book. If you are a novice, i highly recommend it. if you are advanced in your understanding of insurgency, then this is a potential desk reference and quick guide. Other books such as Robert B Asprey, War in the Shadows, Vo I and II; and Ian F.W. Beckett, Modern Insurgencies and Counter-insurgencies offer as good, if not better look at the use of terror and guerrila war.
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Format: Hardcover
First, this was an interesting and original idea for a book. Boot takes a previously undefined form of warfare and gives us over 2000 years of its history and allows the reader to decide how he wants to define its evolution.

Many of these historical episodes have been reviewed before while others are less well known but all are a fascinating look at how warfare has not always been thousands of soldiers staring each other in the eye and using a weapon until one falls as most history leads us to believe that it was until the American Civil War. As a matter of fact this book makes you realize that guerilla warfare has throughout time been the rule rather than an exception.

Boot formats the book to be read as a series of short histories on each period or battle or to be read straight through from beginning to end. The format is reader friendly for someone who is going to read a few pages and come back for a few more the next day. If a reader is only interested in one period of history it is set for that reader as well.

Boot also shows us that while guerilla warfare has changed over the centuries it has always been there in some form and certainly wasn't originated by modern terrorists. This book shows us that warfare evolved and changed along with the human race. We also realize that this type of warfare has been a great equalizer over the centuries for forces of good and evil.

The maps and illustrations are helpful and Boot does a good job of not going into technical jargon but just telling us the stories as they happened. He does so in a way that makes the reading interesting, thought provoking, and adding to the readers knowledge of this form a warfare.

An excellent addition to anyone's history library.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Let me tell you from the very beginning of my words that this book is a masterpiece and will surely become a classic of its kind in a very short time. Max Boot has the rare gift of writing in a vivid manner about extremely complicated themes by offering the reader a panoramic view of the topics he focuses on and also by offering a deep and penetrating analysis of the many chapters he writes about.
To be more precise, there are 64 of them. Each chapter is a mini-history, starting from the ancient times to our days. They include the naration of thirty centuries of unconventional warfare and the whole volume is divided into eight parts. He starts analyzing various episodes from antiquity, looking at the origins of the oldest form of warfare in Mesopotamia, Rome and China. Then he moves to the eighteenth century and beyond, discussing guerrilla campaigns that resulted from the liberal revolutions that swept the world from the 1770s to the 1870s. Here he excells, in my view, in describing the way the Spanish struggled against Napoleon.
Another part of the book is about terrorists and its growth. The initial focus is on one of the first terrorist campaigns ever, waged by the Assassins in the medieval Middle East.
In Mr. Boot's view, John Brown's famous attacks on proslavery interests and the KKK's efforts to undermine Reconstruction are two of the most neglected terrorist campaigns.
He then goes on writing about the European anarchist movement, which, in his view, achieved almost nothing and then moves on chronologically, talking about WW1 and WW2 irregular fighters, concluding with the rise of Islam militants.
Another very interesting chapter is about the ways the terrorist mind works and its causes, although Walter Laqueuer dismissed the notion of a "terrorist mentality".
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I very much enjoyed Max Boot's The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power. In that work, Boot shows how small conflicts, like the suppression of the Filipino insurrection following the Spanish American war, had an influence far beyond the relatively small nature of the conflict. Boot is very good at taking aspects of war, often forgotten or relegated to a `sideshow' and making them instrumental to an historical understanding of wider conflicts.

Boot very much takes this notion and drags it by the scruff in his monumental Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare. As the subtitle suggests, Boot wants to create an epic history, a milestone work that will become the reference point for people who want to learn about guerrilla war, terrorism, insurgency, counterinsurgency and asymmetrical conflicts of all kinds. Boot does this, and to great effect.

At first I was put off by the self-conscious effort of this book to assert itself as the reference work on this topic. Boot has become an important person in his field, and far more important people in policy and security will read this book. So, the work comes across as deeply conscious of being important, and that tone can be off putting.

There is also the danger of its wide scope. In 567 pages of text, Boot handles nearly every guerrilla conflict in the historical record. Like all books that take a global approach, one has to wonder if Boot is trying to fit wide and often divergent phenomenon into one form. I am not qualified to say if he is doing so here; I am only pointing out that this is a danger with a book with such wide goals and far flung material.

That said it is hard not to be impressed by Max Boot's accomplishment.
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