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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