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The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One
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David Kilcullen is one of the world's most influential experts on counterinsurgency and modern warfare. A Senior Counterinsurgency Advisor to General David Petraeus in Iraq, his vision of war dramatically influenced America's decision to rethink its military strategy in Iraq and implement "the surge."

Now, in The Accidental Guerrilla, Kilcullen provides a remarkably fresh perspective on the War on Terror. Kilcullen takes us "on the ground" to uncover the face of modern warfare, illuminating both the big global war (the "War on Terrorism") and its relation to the associated "small wars" across the globe: Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Chechnya, Pakistan and North Africa. Kilcullen sees today's conflicts as a complex pairing of contrasting trends: local social networks and worldwide movements; traditional and postmodern culture; local insurgencies seeking autonomy and a broader pan-Islamic campaign. He warns that America's actions in the war on terrorism have tended to conflate these trends, blurring the distinction between local and global struggles and thus enormously complicating our challenges. Indeed, the US had done a poor job of applying different tactics to these very different situations, continually misidentifying insurgents with limited aims and legitimate grievances (whom he calls "accidental guerrillas") as part of a coordinated worldwide terror network. We must learn how to disentangle these strands, develop strategies that deal with global threats, avoid local conflicts where possible, and win them where necessary.

Colored with gripping battlefield experiences that range from the jungles and highlands of Southeast Asia to the mountains of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to the dusty towns of the Middle East, The Accidental Guerrilla will, quite simply, change the way we think about war. This much anticipated book will be a must read for everyone concerned about the war on terror.

Customer Reviews:

  • Redefined
    As a professional military officer,I found Kilcullen's work refreshing and pertinent to the modern theatres of operations.I think his focus on the people as the 'centre of gravity' including the various ethnic,cultural and religious factors as exceptional comon sense. ...more info
  • With concentration this is good professional development
    Kilcullen has a written a solid book that those who follow his works will want to read. I havn't read the other reviews before mine because I didn't want to sully my own review by absorbing their comments. My background is I'm a company grade officer w/multiple deployments like everyone else in the military and having seen some of the areas mentioned and probably headed to others described I found his comments thought provoking on both OIF/OEF. I did feel alot of the same points were constantly reiterated and about 50 pages probably could have been cut to make the book read better or put in more examples/war stories that illustrate his points of view on the GWOT. Overall I'm glad I read it and I feel its good professional development however I did have to focus as its not light reading. ...more info
  • Accidents happen and there is still a war to be won
    Kilcullen seems to have done at least 2 things here:

    On one plane he has summarised the current state of counter-insurgency doctrine, with an emphasis on recent developments, including his own contributions (accidental guerrillas).

    On another plane he gives us a partial version of the story of his own journey to acquiring these important tactical and societal insights, and then attempts to synthesise the current state of his thinking with some tentative yet commanding strategic conclusions.

    It is a fascinating and enriching mixture. In the end he may have fallen prey to a shortcoming that he himself identifies: he seems to elevate the tactical to the strategic. However his self awareness and the intellectual courage he displays in so truly grappling with the intractable but crucial geo-political dangers we face, is an inspiration.

    He insightfully observes that so much of the way these geo-politcal issues are defined is now in the negative, by what things are not rather than what they are: COUNTER Insurgency, NON state combatants, etc. He suggests that we now need better lingistic tools to navigate in this area. I agree, but also notice that many of the words we need for this may already exist, even though rampant post-modernism has seen us discard many of them. We now need to reclaim these words, and use them again with confidence in our dialogues; words like: "civilization", "freedom", and " principle".

    If this is to be a battle for minds let us not abandon the names of the things we are fighting for from mere intellectual preciousness, irony or our self regard in seeing a meta-context.

    Kilcullen's book takes us to the places we need to go intellectually and culturally to help ensure our civilization, our hard won values and freedoms, survive for future generations. This book needs to be read to inform our debates with the rigour and complexity that the ideas we stand for deserve.

    ...more info
  • outstanding resource
    In my opinion, this book, "The Accidental Guerrilla" by David Kilcullen is, by far, one of the finest books that I have read this past year or two. Kilcullen's credentials are excellent. He meticulously describes combat typologies, strategies and tactics, and how these have been applied in the two wars in which the United States finds itself. I found that it was very objective in tone. A brilliant thinker, I look forward to reading future books by Kilcullen and continuing to see him rise in the spot light. The biggest downer to this book was that he uses a somewhat dry and tedious writing style. The advantage of that, of course, is that he covers nearly all aspects. I'd give this book a solid A. It is well worth the price used or new. It is highly recommended reading by military, intelligence, diplomatic corps officials as well as, perhaps, insurgents....more info
  • Excellent Explanation of Contemporary Guerrilla Conflicts
    Kilkullen provides an excellent analysis of several contemporary guerrilla conflicts including Iraq, Afganistan and Asia.

    Written more like a college thesis, he sprinkles extracts from his personal diary throughout. His conclusions are logical but executing them would require a complete realignment of the military-industrial complex. Based on past history, that is not likely to happen unless some existential crisis forces us to change.

    Definitely worth the time to read, but don't expect the experience to be light and casual. ...more info
  • A fascinating overview of contemporary warfare
    Author David Kilcullen, an expert on counterinsurgency techniques, shows why the War on Terror, far from being a conventional war, is instead something new - a "hybrid form of warfare, combining terrorism, insurgency, propaganda, and economic warfare." Tied together by the new technologies that most Middle Eastern countries can use but not invent, these elements have been combined to negate the West's overwhelming conventional warfare advantage - an "asymmetrical" model that is quickly taking the place of the more traditional models familiar from the 20th century.

    Asymmetry applies not just to strategy or tactics, as Kilcullen points out. The United States alone is spending hundreds of millions of dollars a day in Iraq, amounts that over the long term are simply unsustainable. At some point, the United States will be gone, but the radical elements that wish to destroy us will still be there, having simply waited us out, mingling among the millions of locals who just want to be left alone to go about their business -- and others who may have been radicalized by America's presence in their country, despite the removal of Saddam Hussein and countless dollars spent to improve Iraqi lives.

    Another form of asymmetry exists in terms of what Western soldiers are willing to do to their enemies, as opposed to what terrorists are willing to do. Hamas is perfectly happy to use school buildings full of kids as cover for their rockets, something that the Israelis would not do. If kids die as a result of Israeli retaliation for rocket attacks, Hamas quickly claims a propaganda advantage by displaying the bodies of dead or dying children, not mentioning that Hamas members themselves created the situation. Ultimately, despite its superior military, Israel is at a severe disadvantage, because the terror groups aligned against it will stop at nothing, including killing themselves and their children, in their efforts to destroy Israel.

    According to Kilcullen, "traditional notions" of warfare must be completely rethought in order to deal with modern conflicts, many of which are fought by "accidental guerillas" - people who are fighting not because they necessarily want the destruction of the West, but because Western powers have invaded their countries in order to stamp out the extremist elements that have become a clear and present danger to the West. Essentially, we are in their space and getting involved in "local" conflicts. And while we are doing what we feel needs doing for *our* greater safety and security, "accidental guerillas" quite understandably interpret these actions in a whole different way. Bridging this disconnect is just one of the many challenges facing the West in the 21st century.

    This is an interesting and worthwhile read for anyone wanting to understand the roots and evolving nature of today's military conflicts.

    ...more info
  • A Call for Preventing the "Accidental Terrorist" from Proliferating in Order to Win the "War on Terrorism"
    David Kilcullen, a senior counterinsurgency advisor to Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq, brings a stellar pedigree to the task of explaining counterterrorism and the security threats of the present. His analysis focuses on a key observation: the "War on Terrorism," the largest of all possible concepts, is dependent for success on understanding and dealing with a succession of smaller rivalries, feuds, and vendettas between non-state social, political, religious, and often kinship groups. Kilcullen argues that such groups as al Qa'ida have been successful, when such has been the case, because these groups have pursued a policy of "applying a strategy of trans-national guerrilla warfare, while seeking to organize, aggregate and exploit the local, particular, long-standing grievances of diverse--but usually tribal or traditional--Muslim social groups" (p. xi). Anti-Western fanatics are impossible to turn into allies, Kilcullen notes, but many of their foot soldiers are motivated by more traditional concerns for family, land, and locale. As he put it: "The local fighter is therefore often what one might call an Accidental Guerrilla--fighting us because we are in his space, not because he wishes to invade ours" (p. xi).

    In this situation, Kilcullen argues, traditional approaches to counterterrorism offer few solutions and none that will be successful from a strategic perspective in defeating the threat. What has to be done, the author insists, is to adopt his five point strategy for dealing with terrorism.

    First, the author advocates adopting a new lexicon to describe what has been taking place; failure to characterize events and ideas accurately prevents clear thinking about responses. Kilcullen compares the modern military of the U.S. and other great powers as comparable to strong, slow dinosaurs while the terrorists are like small, fast, adaptive mammals, and predicts defeat for the dinosaurs unless they adapt to changing conditions.

    Second, he argues for developing and staying with the right strategy, taking a long view and accepting the reality of the world. He comments that the West must decide "whether our interests are best served by intervening in, and trying to mitigate the process of political and religious ferment in the Muslim world, or by seeking instead to contain any spill-over of violence or unrest in Western communities" (p. 260). From this strategic decision, the allocation of resources to pursue the grand strategy must follow, as does the placement of these resources and their emphases.

    Third, nations must reallocate resources to ensure an appropriate balance between diplomatic, military, economic aid, and other resources applied to meet the strategic threat. Kilcullen believes that the U.S. spends too much on the Department of Defense and not enough on foreign aid and diplomacy, to say nothing of encouraging private investment, to ensure success.

    Fourth, he advocates the creation of a new Office of Strategic Services (OSS) similar to what existed in World War II to apply a full range of "analysis, intelligence, anthropology, special operations, information, psychological operations, and technology capabilities" to the problem (p. 261). The emphasis here is on the strategic situation and responding to it across a broad spectrum.

    Fifth, Kilcullen argues for the development of a strong capability to wage "strategic information warfare." By this he means that the U.S. should view information as a major element of its strategy; information (some might call it propaganda) to persuade those who might undertake terrorist acts toward a more favorable attitude toward the West. At some level this is the age old battle for the "hearts and minds" of the enemy. Fundamentally, Kilcullen sees this as central to success in combating terrorism, and with the employ of military and other direct actions as supportive rather in the effort than the other way around.

    This is a very useful book. Kilcullen is a specialist and some will find the text hard reading, but it clearly written, containing specific real world cases studies to explain his ideas. At sum, diverting the rank and file of those in the Muslim world from becoming "accident terorrists" is his objective. The failure to identify insurgents with their generally limited objectives and the unwillingness to recognize and respond to the legitimate grievances they may have has led to the failed situation presently being experienced. There has been enough success in pursuing Kilcullen's ideas to give credence to carefully considering them here. This is a valuable work and one all interested in the "War on Terrorism" should read....more info