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War From the Ground Up: Twenty-First Century Combat as Politics
     

War From the Ground Up: Twenty-First Century Combat as Politics

by Emile Simpson
 

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Recent wars in Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as well as other global conflicts, have shown that, between liberal powers and their armed forces, the line between military activities and political policy has completely broken down. While this overlap may be highly effective in operational terms (it leads to great results on the ground), it strategically erases the

Overview

Recent wars in Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as well as other global conflicts, have shown that, between liberal powers and their armed forces, the line between military activities and political policy has completely broken down. While this overlap may be highly effective in operational terms (it leads to great results on the ground), it strategically erases the vital distinction between war and peace. This, Emile Simpson contends, is a fundamentally worrisome trend. Is it possible for public policy to control the armed forces when the armed forces are a direct extension of public policy?

Simpson's inquiry centers on this dilemma. As the media and the internet increasingly politicize combat, the close ties between public policy and the military are becoming irreversible. Simpson concentrates less on whether the West should curb these developments and more on how to manage, gain advantage from, and mitigate the risks of modern warfare's evolution. While liberal powers must win their conflicts on the ground, they also have a critical obligation to preserve the distinctions between war and peace. Failure to do so could trap liberal powers in endless conflicts for which they are operationally ill-equipped, as evidenced by the twenty-first-century wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. War From The Ground Up therefore offers a unique encounter with the contemporary realities and ideas of war now taking shape across the globe.

Editorial Reviews

Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles

How to do -- and how not to do -- counterinsurgency by an expert and exceptionally thoughtful practitioner. Hard analysis and free of happy-talk. Essential reading for those seriously interested in what makes success in counterinsurgency so elusive.

Dr. John Nagl

War from the Ground Up is an interesting and important meditation on the nature of the unsatisfying wars of the modern era by a man who has seen more of them than most, former Gurkha Rifle officer Emile Simpson. It should be read by everyone interested in the current war in Afghanistan and in the likely nature of conflict for many years to come; these wars are not going away, and Simpson has done yeoman's work in helping us understand them.

Sir - Sherard Cowper-Coles
How to do — and how not to do — counterinsurgency by an expert and exceptionally thoughtful practitioner. Hard analysis and free of happy-talk. Essential reading for those seriously interested in what makes success in counterinsurgency so elusive.
John Nagl

An interesting and important meditation on the nature of the unsatisfying wars of the modern era by a man who has seen more of them than most. It should be read by everyone interested in the current war in Afghanistan and in the likely nature of conflict for many years to come. These wars are not going away, and Simpson has done yeoman's work in helping us understand them.

Conrad Crane

Filled with provocative and innovative observations about the blurring of military and political realms in kaleidoscopic environments, this book is the most percep¬tive account of contemporary conflict I have seen. It deserves to be widely read by military practitioners and their political leaders.

From the Publisher
"A work of such importance that it should be compulsory reading at every level in the military; from the most recently enlisted cadet to the Chief of the Defence Staff and, even more important, the members of the National Security Council . . . It is impossible to summarize Emile Simpson's ideas without distorting them. His own style is so muscular and aphoristic that he can concentrate complex arguments into memorable sentences that will have a life of their own. His familiarity with the work of Aristotle and the history of the English Reformation enables him to explain the requirements of a strategic narrative as effectively as his experiences in Afghanistan illuminate his understanding of the relationship between operational requirements and political objectives. In short (and here I shall really go overboard) — deserves to be seen as a coda to Clausewitz's On War. But it has the advantage of being considerably shorter."-Michael Howard,

"One of the most important assertions in this fascinating book is that the outcome of wars is now less subject to assessment by body counts than to the verdict of civilian outsiders, who make judgments with scant heed to pure military logic. ... This is the first book by an immensely intelligent and interesting young man, from whom much will be heard. He lays down principles of policy-making and war fighting for instance, the key in counter-insurgency is to match actions and words so as to influence target audiences to subscribe to a given narrative with a wisdom lacking in most contemporary foreign offices. ... Ministers would do well to read Simpson's fascinating and provocative study before they launch their next lunge into the unknown. They might then better understand how elusive in modern conflict are the concepts of winning and losing."—Max Hastings, The Sunday Times

"[A]n erudite and intelligent contribution to the literature on counterinsurgency." — Lawrence D. Freedman, Foreign Affairs

"War From the Ground Up should be read by all aspiring military commanders and their Whitehall masters."—The Guardian


"Emile Simpson writes from experience as a frontline soldier who completed three tours in Afghanistan and as a visiting fellow at the University of Oxford. He combines academic rigour with practical perspective to explore the understanding and conceptualisation of modern war. [...] This important book [...] is an essential read for those interested in understanding both the conflict in Afghanistan and the contested and often confused nature of modern war." — James Denselow, International Affairs

"Filled with provocative and innovative observations about the blurring of military and political realms in kaleidoscopic environments, this book is the most perceptive account of contemporary conflict I have seen. It deserves to widely read by military practitioners and their political leaders."—Conrad Crane, lead author of FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency and Director of the U. S. Army Military History Institute

"War from the Ground Up is an interesting and important meditation on the nature of the unsatisfying wars of the modern era by a man who has seen more of them than most, former Gurkha Rifle officer Emile Simpson. It should be read by everyone interested in the current war in Afghanistan and in the likely nature of conflict for many years to come; these wars are not going away, and Simpson has done yeoman s work in helping us understand them."—John Nagl, Minerva Professor of Culture and War, U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis


"A bold exploration of strategic thought, well grounded in experience. It is what one would expect of a Gurkha officer, following in the footsteps of Bill Slim, the thinking man's general." — Carter Malkasian, Afghanistan veteran with the US State Department and author of War Comes to Garmser: Thirty Years of Conflict on the Afghan Frontier

"Emile Simpson engages with a key problem in our understanding of conflict - the binary fallacy that sees war as essentially two-sided and as a precursor to political outcomes, rather than as a multi-player political ecosystem with its own logic. Simpson's analysis of the conflict in Afghanistan should be required reading for all students and practitioners of modern war." — David Kilcullen, author of The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231704069
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
11/20/2012
Series:
Columbia/Hurst Series
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

Carter Malkasian

A bold exploration of strategic thought, well grounded in experience. It is what one would expect of a Gurkha officer, following in the footsteps of Bill Slim, the thinking man's general.

Hew Strachan

I am constantly bowled over by Emile Simpson's insights. He produces lines that exude common sense and which, because they are pithy, deserve to be widely quoted -- and will be. Put simply, this is the most intelligent book on war that I have read in a very long time.

David Kilcullen

Emile Simpson engages with a key problem in our understanding of conflict -- the binary fallacy that sees war as essentially two-sided and as a precursor to political outcomes rather than as a multi-player political ecosystem with its own logic. His analysis of the conflict in Afghanistan should be required reading for all students and practitioners of modern war.

Meet the Author

Emile Simpson is a former British Army officer with the Royal Gurkha Rifles, which he joined after graduating with a degree in classics from Oxford University. Between 2007 and 2011, he completed three tours in Afghanistan.

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