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The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 27 April 2009
It is hard to criticise Kilcullen's new book for anything else than being timely. This is of course great for understanding the international threat situation we experience just now, yet such empirical assessments are of limited value a few years down the line. Kilcullen's opening theory chapter, however, is likely to be circulated and discussed widely for a long time. He offers a synthesis of different approaches of how to battle insurgencies and terrorists, especially the Islamist kind. Kilcullen's credentials account for rock solid experience from academia, politics and the military. He writes in a style that makes his informed analysis applicable to all these three spheres, and this is quite rare. "The Accidental Guerilla" amounts to a must-read for those who work with or study international security and conflict.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 26 August 2009
Clear, concise and very readable. Is the author an academic in military uniform or military in an academic suite...probably both. The author makes the point his book is too academic to be populist and too populist to be academic...(therefore it is pitched at the exact level for the remaining 99% of us).

Regardless if you are an armchair pundit on "terrorism" or a military PHD historian or if you have any interest in what is happening in the World (packaged as the "War on Terror") or any interest in understanding insurgencies.....read this book!!!!

Never has the adage that Counterinsurgency is 20% military 80% non military been so clearly narrated.

I am not military, but can see (after reading this book) how our armies are built to fight conventional wars (ie: state vs state) as opposed to "small wars" (ie: insurgencies). The book highlights how this will not work in Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq etc...if the Armies (ie: invading countries) are purely focused on destroying the "enemy" (territory held, head count, enemy destroyed, etc...).

Dave Kilculen has advised General Petraeus in Iraq and is now advising General McChrystal in Afghanistan. To all junior commanders on the ground and civilian re-construction teams it is recommended you read this....(please).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 9 August 2010
This book is pitched at a reasonably high level, but is still quite readable. The initial chapter on guerilla theory, and the concept of the titular "Accidental Guerilla", is worth the cover price alone. This concept is then backed up with case studies in various hotspots around the world.

The book gives a fantastic insight into insurgency in general, and takfiri (to use the preferred phrase from the book, instead of Islamist) insurgency in particular. The reasons for the global spread of the "War on Terror", and how the US and NATO have unwittingly assisted in some cases, are clearly presented and quite compelling.

Anyone who has an interest in the conflicts of the current era should read this book. Anyone who is involved in these conflicts - soldier, statesman, diplomat - MUST read this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Great text. Should be read in connection with Mark Urban "Task Force Black" narrative and the "awakening" of the Sunni minority in Iraq against the AQ. If I had been Dr Kilkullen's doctoral supervisor I would have questioned the blind spots in this book. What I find curious is the lack of reference to successful previous British approaches in Malaya, the TA Special Forces involvement in blocking Nasser's invasion of Yemen in the early 60s (both successes, limitations and how the Saudis learnt to manipulate tribal loyalties), and British Special Forces work with the development of local Firqat militia in Oman in the 1970s...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 October 2011
The book didn't start well for me, the one and a half pages of acknowledgments and the preface left me with the same feeling of nausea that a bad Oscar night speech does.

BUT and its a big but, one understands by the end of the book why he is thanking so many people. Whereas the book is filled with a very deep understanding of the complex cultures of Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention Southern Thailand,FATA, East Timor etc. This was not the enduring picture I've been left with.

While the main discussion is about the "Accidential guerrilas" it is the "accidental leaders" which are as interesting.

There was a horrendous accident after 9/11 where an immature political and military leadership took out the powerful military for a test spin and crashed it at speed in the middle east.
Out of the wreckage a whole cadre of professional soldiers, diplomats and local leaders had to learn to walk and talk again. In this process of rehabilitation they gained wisdom.

So it is easy with hindsight to understand the groveling preface and acknowledgements. Much of the progress that is being made in Afghanistan and Iraq has been made by truly remarkable people who have stepped outside their comfort zone and got to really try to understand the insanity. It must feel for David Killcullen and many others that he mentions that they are swimming against the forces of chaos and worse still, useless clichés. It is a complex story with no simple answers.

It is sad to see that the understanding that was needed at the beginning of the conflict has been reached at this late stage when financial collapse is getting nearer by the day. Hopefully some of the wisdom bought so dearly will be useful as governments are faced with losing their legitimacy in the west. Perhaps these lessons hard learned on the north west frontier will one day need to be applied in our cities as the fires burn.

I keep a coin from the reign of Marcus Aurelius on my desk to remind myself of the wisdom of the late roman era. Perhaps the lasting legacy of these awful border wars will be to bring civilised minds back to the centre. If nothing else I am glad that some decent men and women have seen through the fog of war and understood the real human story behind the insanity.

Thanks David for a thought provoking book and for introducing me to some remarkable people.
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on 21 November 2014
fantastic very detailed book about counterinsurgency
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on 30 January 2015
Very interest in read, I can recommend it.
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on 15 March 2015
The very best book of its kind.
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