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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History Lesson - looking good for the Taliban, 7 Oct. 2009
By 
Benjamin Girth "NI5 MCR" (Hampstead N6) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: War of the Flea: The Classic Study of Guerrilla Warfare (Paperback)
Robert Taber's book is about guerrilla insurrection, how the flea kills the dog. Written 45 years ago it is interesting on two levels, what he got right which is relevant today and, equally, what he got wrong. For those confused by the war in Afghanistan we want to know where is the "winning strategy" (even if a retreat), this book is valuable and depressing in equal measure.

Taber explains how tiny groups of motivated guerrillas can in a political vacuum win power, expel a government even if supported by a superpower. The critical aspect is what is a "political vacuum", typically a weak or corrupt state, one that has no domestic legitimacy and is a client of external power (with its own agenda). He explains how a strange bearded man with a minuscule following used limited armed force to capture a country. Casto and Cuba aside have we learnt anything? It was written as the Vietnam War was getting underway (1965) and defeat by a "peasant militia" seemed inconceivable. Ten years later, 1975, America was humiliated and world communism looked to be unstoppable. The dominoes were falling.

The mechanics of insurrection, - how irregular forces confront conventional armies, civil war and regime change - remain relevant. Taber deals with the conditions for insurgency to take hold, the lessons from Mao, the French expulsion in Indochina, de faco the post colonial experience. What he clearly illustrates are the advantages of insurgents - limitless targets that can be attacked requiring massive resources to defend them. The time factor is equally advantageous, insurrections occur over lengthy periods sapping the commitment of domestic and external support. As we all know, but seem to have forgotten, Vietnam was lost in Middle America as well as on the battlefield. Is it going to be any different for Afghanistan? All the Taliban have to do is keep the body bags trickling back day after day, which is not proving difficult. The more troops we send, the richer the target opportunities they have.

The parallels between the Viet Cong (1965) and Taliban (2009) are the external force - the American dominated collation propping up the uninspiring government - wants to believe the insurgents are alien, separate from the population who despise them. They can be destroyed and peace and prosperity will bloom. Such wishful thinking fills media sound bites by politicians and soldiers. It has been a common error in almost all guerrilla insurrections that "hearts and minds" can be won. What if the ordinary Afghans are not actively opposed to the Taliban and can accommodate them? The second issue is that of contamination, the domino theory that one insurrection leads to another. What Taber got wrong was Cuba did not end in Brazil; Vietnam did not end in Indonesia so when Afghanistan is lost will the Indian sub continent implode? Is Islamic fundamentalism unstoppable, are the dominoes falling?

Taber's book is well worth reading; unfortunately it is too late for many who should have.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars War of the Flea, 6 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: War of the Flea: The Classic Study of Guerrilla Warfare (Paperback)
By far the best book on terrorism ever written. Explains why it is almost impossible to defeat a determined terrorist organisation - should be required reading for military tacticians, politicians and anyone else involved in or interested in this subject. I first read this book 30 years ago, and it is still as pertinent today as ever.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic and still relavent as ever, 25 Jun. 2012
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This review is from: War of the Flea: The Classic Study of Guerrilla Warfare (Paperback)
Some of the predictions Taber makes have been proven wrong by history. Power-hierarchies everywhere can be rest assured that they need not resort to indiscriminate extermination in order to win an irregular war from when it has passed its first stage. Nevertheless, this book is an absolute classic that offers many interesting insights into the method of the seemingly weak in a world where the powerful would otherwise appear to be unbeatable.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for overthrowing the Government, 11 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: War of the Flea: The Classic Study of Guerrilla Warfare (Paperback)
Great book for overthrowing the Government. With this book and a Swiss Army penknife overthrowing most regimes should be possible even for beginner level revolutionaries.
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War of the Flea: The Classic Study of Guerrilla Warfare
War of the Flea: The Classic Study of Guerrilla Warfare by Robert Taber (Paperback - 2 Aug. 2002)
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