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Counterinsurgency: Exposing the Myths of the New Way of War Paperback – 11 Jul 2013


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Product details

  • Paperback: 445 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (11 July 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1107699843
  • ISBN-13: 978-1107699847
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 33,003 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

'In this brilliant volume master historian Douglas Porch shatters the myth of contemporary counterinsurgency by exposing its raw historical roots. American counterinsurgents often preach moralistic sounding bromides like 'protect and serve the local populations'. Porch deconstructs the mythical universe of counterinsurgency and lays bare the historical truth that they are ultimately wars of death, destruction, and often brute conquest.' Colonel Gian Gentile, United States Military Academy, West Point

'Douglas Porch has written one of the single most outstanding reviews and critiques of the modern theory of counterinsurgency. It fully exposes the myths and legends behind a fundamentally flawed and pernicious approach to conceptualising human conflict. This book should be essential reading for military students, scholars and laymen alike.' Alex Marshall, The Scottish Centre for War Studies, University of Glasgow

'I cannot say how important I believe this book to be. You may have the usual issues with my article, but do not let these put you off this hugely significant piece of scholarship, which melds aspects of foreign and domestic policy in a very unusual way and, if the world were just and reasonable, would become an internationally acclaimed text. I hope it does because it would be little short of a tragedy if it disappeared and the West did not embrace the analysis and so change its ways for the better. It's a tough read for the British and Americans, but like all good analysis, it really can stop us making the same mistakes, generation after generation.' Henry Porter, Observer

'Provocative … challenges the very doctrine of counterinsurgency from the late nineteenth century to the Petraeus surge in Iraq.' Total Politics

'This is a rich, well supported study of a tendentious topic … it pulls together material on a remarkable variety of cases to make a powerful point that is valuable in the undergraduate and graduate classroom as well as for broader practitioner and public audiences.' Jacqueline L. Hazelton, H-Diplo

Book Description

Douglas Porch's sweeping history of counterinsurgency campaigns, ranging from nineteenth-century colonial conquests to General Petraeus' 'Surge' in Iraq, challenges the contemporary mythologising of counterinsurgency as a humane way of war. The reality, he reveals, is that 'hearts and minds' has never been a recipe for lasting stability.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Steve on 12 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback
The `back of jacket' endorsements are accurate for once; this really is a brilliant and compelling analysis of warfare as counterinsurgency. It illuminates the causes and consequences of recent and not so recent conflicts as well as being incredibly topical in giving insights into current tragedies like Syria (one theatre not actually covered in this book).

The author's analysis of COIN as a counterinsurgency methodology is extremely well argued. Inevitably the focus is very much on the mistakes (a.k.a. successes) of British, American and other armed forces of 'the willing'. In contrast there is little coverage of truly successful operations - the author posits that success usualy arose through circumstance or external factors - or the potential for public good in stabilising a deteriorating situation. But perhaps that's because too often the actions of military powers, local or interventionist, instigate or worsen rather than contain a violent insurgency, and any benefits are short-lived. Douglas Porch assigns responsibility for failures in counterinsurgency operations to politicians without a clear policy, an over-reliance on Special Forces as a 'magic bullet' and military commanders with a contextually irrelevant strategy, presenting 'old wine in new bottles'.

This review would have been 5 stars, but for two reasons. Firstly the writing style is somewhat dense at times (I know....) Having said that, the whole flows well and ideas are expressed clearly; so I urge any hesitant reader to persevere. Secondly it would also be interesting to read the author's analysis of the experience of other actors engaged in counterinsurgency operations in say China, Russia, Sri Lanka or India.

I do hope this book gets the attention this subject deserves; especially now.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By William Podmore on 7 Oct. 2014
Format: Paperback
Douglas Porch is Distinguished Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California. He has written a penetrating study of colonial warfare.
He presents studies of the US wars against Vietnam and Iraq, the British wars against the Boers, Ireland, Palestine, Kenya, Malaya, Yemen and Northern Ireland, and the French wars against Syria, Vietnam and Algeria.
Porch writes of these wars, “most proved to be protracted, unlimited, murderous, expensive, total-war assaults on indigenous societies. … the true key to success was pitilessly to target anyone and anything that sustained the insurgency. In this way, colonial warfare simply boiled down to national displacement and ruining the countryside by making it unlivable.”
He points out that “World War II linked counterinsurgency more closely with special operations, which favoured ‘kill or capture’ decapitation strategies and dramatic coups as quixotic solutions to intractable political or strategic problems. … even though special operations and resistance action through intelligence collection, sabotage, disruption, diversion, and popular mobilization had played at best a minimum, even a morally ambiguous, role in the Axis defeat, World War II propelled the myth of the military effectiveness of Wingate-inspired Special Operations Forces (SOF), Lawrencian people’s war, and paratroops into the postwar.”
He notes that “despite its disastrous consequences, Palestine impelled the British tradition of police militarization in small wars, with its concomitant brutalization of counterinsurgency politics and tactics, forward into British operations in Malaya, Kenya, and Northern Ireland.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. Packham on 26 Oct. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Douglas porch has written a superb thought provoking account of counterinsurgency past and present. Again Ive been using this as reference material and further reading for my Masters. A superb read for the general reader and student of warfare.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Gabriel Stein on 30 Mar. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An interesting and well-argued book. I don't agree with everything the author says, but he is careful to back up his views with well-reasoned arguments.
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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jay on 1 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback
I have read the authors previous books with interest. This however is dreadful - the writer is angry (almost hysterically so) and proceeds to undermine the point of his arguments by blaming napoleons marshals and 19th century colonial soldiers for failing to have a strategy for the 21st century as well as for being shockingly politically incorrect.

He sets up a straw man and rips him to shreds. He accuses everybody of failing to realise their policies won't work but this is easy as he never suggests what could have worked - because he seems to believe nothing will. To do this he has to ignore successful counter insurgencies (and plead that the few he mentions didn't work) - especially those where states successfully put down insurgencies within their own borders
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