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

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Overview


David Kilcullen is one of the world's most influential experts on counterinsurgency and modern warfare, a ground-breaking theorist whose ideas "are revolutionizing military thinking throughout the west" (Washington Post). Indeed, his vision of modern warfare powerfully influenced America's decision to rethink its military strategy in Iraq and implement "the Surge," now recognized as a dramatic success.
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, Indonesia, Thailand, the Pakistani tribal zones, East Timor and the horn of Africa. Kilcullen sees today's conflicts as a complex interweaving of contrasting trends--local insurgencies seeking autonomy caught up in a broader pan-Islamic campaign--small wars in the midst of a big one. 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 book is a must read for everyone concerned about the war on terror.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"For a wider perspective on the lessons drawn over the past seven years of the 'war on terror', the reader can do no better than turn to Mr. Kilcullen's excellent book. The Accidental Guerrilla has an anthropologist's sense of social dynamics and a reporter's eye for telling detail. If T.E. Lawrence evoked the means of waging irregular warfare in his 1926 classic, 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom', Mr. Kilcullen describes the practitioner's art of combating insurgents."--The Economist

"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 influence on how the U.S. military thought about counterinsurgency campaigning cannot be overstated."--Thomas E. Ricks, author of The Gamble and Fiasco

"There are some standard texts on [counterinsurgency]. The Accidental Guerrilla is sure to become one."--The Wall Street Journal

"This book is essential.... Kilcullen skillfully interprets the future of counterinsurgency, the proper use of military force and what we must learn from our losses and mistakes. After reading The Accidental Guerrilla, one is left to wonder why the Pentagon did not listen to his sage advice back in 2003."--New York Times Book Review

"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 indispensible-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

Janine di Giovanni
Kilcullen draws on his vast experience not only as a dedicated field researcher, but also as a soldier…The Accidental Guerrilla is not an easy book…Even so, [it's] essential…Kilcullen skillfully interprets the future of counterinsurgency, the proper use of military force and what we must learn from our losses and mistakes.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

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.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195368345
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 3/16/2009
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

David Kilcullen was formerly counterinsurgency advisor to General David Petraeus in Iraq and to the NATO Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, and currently serves as a consultant to the U.S. government. Kilcullen is also Adjunct Professor of Security Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

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Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

Prologue: West Java, December 1996

1 The Accidental Guerrilla 1

2 "The Crazies Will Kill Them": Afghanistan, 2006-2008 39

3 "The Twenty-First Day": Iraq during the Surge, 2007 115

4 "Terrain, Tribes and Terrorists": Conflicts from Indonesia to Europe 186

5 "Turning an Elephant Into a Mouse": Beyond the War on Terrorism 263

A Note on Sources and Methodology 303

Notes 307

Index 341

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 21 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 21 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2009

    Excellent and Timely

    Kilcullen's work is a wealth of knowledge for the armchair counterinsurgent and provides valuable insight into the mind of victimized groups of people exploited by war, not of their choosing. He diplomatically states, where, he believes the Bush administration strayed in its choices that initiated the conflict in Iraq offers a worthwhile analysis and solution for correcting the strategic errors made in the onslaught of war. It is a fascinating and highly complex excerpt from a proven expert in small wars. Highly recommended reading for any individual participating in the United States' excursions Iraq, Afghanistan, or Pakistan.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A must read to understand the new way of way

    For those who seek to understand the current conflicts and the way wars are waged today, this book will be an eye-opener

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2012

    Hhhy Njb

    Vggyhhgt

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  • Posted June 16, 2011

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    I listened to this on audio & found it immensely engaging

    Faced with unsuccessful military interventions in several conflicts, some of our own making, the U.S. military leadership seconded Lt. Col. David Kilcullen of the Australian Army to work with them on devising a and testing a new strategy that might allow them to withdraw from their engagements without complete failure. Kilcullen is a military officer, but also an anthropologist. This book is his attempt to explain his thinking on the worldwide Islamic insurgency and the best methods to try and counter it successfully. Kilcullen thought the U.S. intervention in Iraq was an extremely serious strategic error, but tried, as assistant to General Petraeus in 2007, to devise a method to stabilize the population, reduce violence, and establish governance so that U.S. troops could effectively withdraw and leave Iraq to the Iraqis. Kilcullen thinks globalization and anti-globilization, and overwhelming U.S. military dominance are drivers to conflict in the 21st century-that citizens of countries around the world become involved in conflicts not of their making when warring groups enter their "space." They choose the least foreign "side" and fight for their group. In this book, Kilcullen first introduces successful attempts to reduce violence and increase local participation in governance and stabilization in Afghanistan, then sheds light on the conflicts in Iraq, and then discusses East Timor, where he earned his credentials as part of the U.N. peacekeeping force in the 1999. He then discusses Thailand, Europe and Pakistan. Trying to understand an ongoing conflict is extraordinarily difficult, but Kilcullen draws on his experience, research, and natural bent to establish a framework he insists can, will, and is working in various conflict theatres around the world.

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