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Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla [Hardcover]

David Kilcullen
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 Sep 2013
In his third book, David Kilcullen takes us out of the mountains: away from the remote, rural guerrilla warfare of Afghanistan, and into the marginalised slums and complex security threats of the world's coastal cities, where almost 75 per cent of us will be living by mid-century. Scrutinising major environmental trends - population growth, coastal urbanisation - and increasing digital connectivity he projects a future of feral cities, urban systems under stress, and increasing overlaps between crime and war, internal and external threats, and the real and virtual worlds. Informed by Kilcullen's own fieldwork in the Caribbean, Somalia, the Middle East and Afghanistan, and that of his field research teams in cities in Central America and Africa, Out of the Mountains presents detailed, on-the-ground accounts of the new faces of modern conflict - - from the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, to transnational drug networks, local street gangs, and the uprisings of the Arab Spring.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd (2 Sep 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849043248
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849043243
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 16.4 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 58,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Although an enemy of the state, I must concede that this is a brilliant book by the most unfettered and analytically acute mind in the military intelligentsia. Kilcullen unflinchingly confronts the nightmare of endless warfare in the slums of the world.' --Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums

'David Kilcullen brilliantly illuminates a coming dystopian urban world, part Blade Runner and part Minority Report. He cogently argues that we must rapidly find a way to build our own security networks to prepare for the coming age of urban guerrillas. Out of the Mountains crystallizes this sadly probable future in vivid and practical terms.' --Admiral James Stavridis, USN (Ret), Former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO and Dean, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University

About the Author

David Kilcullen is one of the world's foremost thinkers on counterinsurgency and military strategy. He is the author of The Accidental Guerilla, a Washington Post bestseller, and Counterinsurgency. He was formerly Senior Counterinsurgency Advisor to General David Petraeus in Iraq and to the NATO Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. He is currently Chief Executive Officer of Caerus Associates, a Washington-based strategy and design firm.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent piece of work 25 Jun 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent piece of work, thought provoking and very current. It's easy to read and so relevant to future combat that i think anybody with an interest in the future of warfare should read tis urgently.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Maybe flawed - still worth reading 18 May 2014
Format:Hardcover
Finally had time to read 'Out of the Mountains'. It is a good easy read, with examples given for each point, some from his most recent consultancy work with Caerus Associates, his own experiences and a host of footnotes - alas at the back.

Given his thesis that the future is urban guerilla warfare in the megacities I was surprised he had so little support from those who already face the problems now - such as Mumbai.

From my armchair I am unconvinced that suffiecent Western understanding will come from the collection and analysis of 'big data' from such places. How much data do megacities produce and is it reliable? Given the current NATO (mainly US) experience, doctrine and equipment - could they adapt and intervene without local 'big data'?

I was particularly interested in the section on the Mumbai attack by LeT in November 2008, as this supports my viewpoint. Nariman House, the Jewish cultural centre's actual presence was unknown to the local police and intelligence bodies; it had been purchased in 2006.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 11 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
An excellent and insightful piece on the Western approach to counter insurgency.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  70 reviews
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Present and Future of Warfare 17 July 2013
By Michael Griswold - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There is something familiar yet new about David Kilcullen's Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerilla. By looking at four trends: population growth, urbanization, coastal life, and interconnectedness, Kilcullen paints a rather convincing picture of the future of warfare. Instead of large-scale state on state warfare, Kilcullen predicts that warfare will take place where population is likely to be centered in urban areas along the coast.

Technology will play a role because technology makes people more interconnected, particularly in crowded coastal areas like the ones Kilcullen describes. I'm not sure that we have not heard many of these predictions before, but what sets this book apart is the depth Kilcullen takes his argument.

He uses several case studies from Iraq and Afghanistan, the various rebellions throughout the Middle East and Africa, and Jamaica among others to illustrate why the problems experienced by rulers and armies in these locations don't lend themselves to conventional solutions, but rather are a product of the new conditions of warfare that he sees increasing in the future.

I was impressed with the argument itself, but if we accept Kilcullen's argument that all four of the above mentioned factors play a role in future of war, what do we do about it?

At first blush, one might think that we need to strengthen government capacities in these troubled areas, but given that development in the most charitable appraisal has had mixed results that doesn't seem like a great solution. Further, these projects take money, which may be in a short supply in the era of austerity and increasingly partisan politics.

In conclusion, Kilcullen's ideas seem more than plausible, but how we deal with them is a question that this book seems to leave open-ended for further debate.
30 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Future Face Of Conflict: Urban, Littoral, and Connected (Sorry, But This Is Old News) 28 Sep 2013
By M.A. Hallisey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Unlike the majority of other reviewers, I did not fall in love with this book. It's good and worth a read, but nothing spectacular. I'm not sure it is even an important book (interesting, yes; important, not so sure).

For starters, I don't think there's anything truly new in the book (something the author pretty much admits to in the first few pages). Mr. Kilcullen's spends (in my uncorrected, advance copy) 265 pages (not including an appendix and notes) telling the reader that future conflict will - more often than not - take place in urban areas (by 2050, more than 3/4 of the world's population will reside in an urban setting), that most urban areas are situated within 12 miles of a coastline (hence, littoral), and that these urban/littoral setting will be ultra-connected. In short, future conflict will take place in a "Blade Runner" environment and thus is something that works to the (dis)advantage of both sides. Mr. Kilcullen also reminds us that the world is not binary (i.e., us vs them), but multi-agenda'd. Finally, Mr. Kilcullen states that in future conflicts the line between lawful conflict and criminal activity will be blurred and our comfortable Westphalian view of the "nation-state in conflict" will be displaced by a reality where the enemy is a non-state entity. I'm not finding anything new here (except for the 20th century, seems this is how the world has always been [again, something the authors admits to in the first few pages]). Not to be cheeky, but :yawn:.

While the book is informative, accessible, and well-written it is not what one should expect from an academic publishing house (in this case, Oxford University Press). If you would be disappointed to see The Economist covering news like USA Today, then I think you will understand my point: we expect The Economist to challenge "everything" (the reader, the current zeitgeist, etc.), so we should expect academic publisher house offerings to do the same (or if they can't, at least add to the body of knowledge). Bottom line, this book doesn't challenge. If you are up-to-date with the literature in this field I suspect the reaction just might be, "so what?"

Had the book come from a non-academic publishing house I might be writing a different review. But it didn't and as a result, no matter how hard I tried I just could not get into the book and justify the time I was spending reading it.

Summary: 3 stars (interesting, but didn't see anything new here. Readers should expect better from an academic publishing house offering).

(NOTE: this advance copy was provided at no cost for review purposes.)
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Feral cities, fish traps, and soccer hooligans 6 Aug 2013
By sneaky-sneaky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There are a half-dozen actors responsible for the U.S. exit from Iraq. Barack Obama, Generals Petraeus and Odierno, Emma Sky, the voting public, and David Kilcullen. The go-to guy for counterinsurgency, Colonel-professor Kilcullen's new book analyzes a number of recent combat actions and draws some conclusions about the future.
Any number of authors have now covered TF Ranger in Mogadishu, and each brings new insight; Kilcullen describes Somali swarm tatics that are now widely applicable in the wired Arab Spring. The LeT attack on Mumbai, and the various uprisings in the Middle East over the past couple of years, Afghanistan, and Jamaica all get attention. Mr. Kilcullen is making the point that complex, crowded, coastal megacities are predominating, and will be the focus of conflict in the coming decades. Hence the title 'Out of the Mountains' describes the irrelevance of remote Afghan valleys and the importance of Mumbai, Karachi, Dhaka, or Rio.
Mr. Kilcullen also lays out his theory of competitive control, and though he never explicitly states it, shows that the Taliban should never have been removed from power in Afghanistan, as it at least provided a measure of stability. Competitive control encompasses the strongest and stickiest memes, so that organizations like Hezbollah that provide health care, reconstruction, education, and so forth, prevail by providing armed security and social services, much like functioning governments.
Mr. Kilcullen's work is standard in military colleges and think tanks, it is drawn from experience both on the ground and at higher orders of command, and makes for compelling reading.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perspective on war that you will not get elsewhere 5 Sep 2013
By Adam Rust - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a book on how our military should plan for future wars. David Kilcullen has a unique mindset, as he is a trained anthropologist who has served as a counter-insurgency expert to Condoleeza Rice and David Petraeus.

This book blends the kinds of ideas we have heard from Donald Rumsfeld with the thoughts of traditional writers in urban studies such as Mike Davis or Saskia Sassen-Koob. He looks at war as a battle for control in cities. To Kilcullen, fighting is an activity that is a part of the regular life of cities. But an important distinction, and one that is a basic assumption for this book, is that warring groups are not limited to nation-states. You have to recognize that there can be many factions within a city.

He draws his analysis from several cities: the civil war in Somalia, the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai, the 2010 revolution in Tunisia, the intifada in Benghazi, and gang warfare in the slums of Jamaica.

Kilcullen's premise is that four transforming forces - urbanization, migration of people to coastal cities, population growth itself, and then the increasing interconnectedness made possible by electronic media - have changed how wars will be fought in the future.

"The future conflict climate, as we have seen, will be coastal, networked, and overwhelmingly urban - so that we need to orient ourselves toward conflict in connected cities...Dominant theories of international relations take the nation-state as their basic building block. We need to bring our analysis down to the city and sub-city level, understanding communities and cities a 'system under stress' in their own right, treating cities as biological or natural systems....A related insight is the need to conceive of a city as a flow and process, rather just place; with violence shaping and creating the landscape and not just happening in it."

As with almost everything else in the world, the explosion in media changes the future nature of war. One example is the 2008 Mumbai attack. This small group of terrorists in Mumbai controlled their operation from a bank of computers in Pakistan. They followed twitter updates made in Mumbai by newspapers and regular citizens to learn real-time details: where the police were arriving, where traffic was blocked, and where their partner cells were having success. With that, those planners sent texts to the soldiers on the ground. Those media, as well as facebook and youtube, were vital throughout the Arab Spring.

The mistake that could be made, he argues, is to believe that Afghanistan and Iraq will be the models for future conflicts. Modelling matters because it determines the long-range investments made by governments with their military expenditures. But recent wars - Afghanistan was a rural war (Iraq's fighting was mostly in cities) fought without navies among communities with little in the way of modern media - provide the wrong viewpoint.

Moreover, as the likely pursuant of war in foreign cities in the future, the United States should realize that it will be judged by how it conducts those efforts. War can kill a city, even if it makes it secure. For example, he believes that making Baghdad safe had the unfortunate effect of ruining the efficiency of it as a place.

This was for me one of the most thought-provoking books that I have read on the topic of war. I have read a lot of great work (Ghost Wars, The Forever War, Night Draws Near, The Looming Tower, The Good Soldiers) on the wars of the last decade, but I cannot think of one that takes so much from such a variety of disciplines to develop a systematic viewpoint on how the near future will differ from the recent past.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, Important, Power to transform the way you think 4 Sep 2013
By javajunki - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
First, I should say that war books are not my typical type of reading; not history, not strategy, not future. I make an exception now and then for something that sounds interesting or to provide information so I'm not a total numbskull. Now, having said that, this book has the tendency to read like a duty report when describing past battles...ex military will appreciate the detail but for the rest of us, it can get a bit dull at times.

Aside from that very minor criticism, which after all is also a clear positive to many would-be readers, this book is nothing short of excellent. Like many people, I realize that warfare has changed in recent decades but have little understanding of what that means for America. Clearly the type of urban warfare which nations like Israel have battled for decades has not been the norm domestically yet our military is more likely to encounter these types of situations than those associated with full scale battles of WWII etc...however, to think it will remain something associated with remote parts of the world is to live in a land of wishful thinking over facts.

The author presents a compelling and insightful look into how a small island like Jamaica has been transformed from local gangs into global organized crime entities; how places without government still function...sort of, how government and gangs are both at odds yet also work together in many areas of the world, how political favoritism drives the health and well-being of entire segments of the population...and how much of the world is now influenced by this type of system. It's an eye opening expose not only of the age of urban war but of an increasingly complex system which is far different than the Norman Rockwell version of America many of use grew up with.
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