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The Accidental Guerrilla Review Finale

(For foreign policy buffs, remember to check out On V's Christmas Gift Recommendations. )

In my two recent posts on The Accidental Guerrilla, I described the book's importance, and then I summarized it's core theory. Yet, if I only explained the book's main point, I would be doing you, my readers, a disservice. Dr. Kilcullen's doesn't simply present a thesis, he applies it to the varied conflicts underway in the world today. He synthesizes history, politics, culture and military theory to prove his point, and its an elegant thing.

If you want a primer on why modern wars look the way they do, then you need to read the first chapter of The Accidental Guerrilla. First, Kilcullen describes his word for war: hybrid warfare. As we mentioned in our defining war posts, this definition cleverly delineates the difference between trans-national terrorism and the Islamic insurgencies plaguing countries as diverse as Iraq, Afghanistan, the Phillipines, Thailand and Somalia. Hybrid warfare is the symptom of a globalized insurgency that uses political tools along with conventional attacks against nation states. He then describes four different ways to look at the conflict between Islam and the West. He identifies a backlash against globalization, a globalized insurgency, an Islamic civil war, and the asymmetry of US power as the four factors causing the international conflicts in the world today.

A powerful and succinct summary.

After his introduction, Dr. Kilcullen busts out his convincing case studies. First, he tackles Afghanistan. He visited the country twice, and he uses a case study to explain the progress that can be made there. His case study is a road construction project in Konar Province, Afghanistan, a place near to my heart. I generally agree with his conclusion about the intertwined power battles between religion, government and tribe in Afghanistan. Students of the region or soon to be deployers need to read this chapter.

After Afghanistan, Dr. Kilcullen delves into Iraq--a country he deployed to in support of the Surge. First he describes the forces at conflict in Iraq, and then deconstructs the Sunni Awakening. The image that stuck with me the most, surprisingly enough, is the disconnect between American and Iraqi forces characterized by bad meetings and PowerPoint. Apparently, Dr. Kilcullen and I have the same enemies and one of them is PowerPoint.

Finally, he concludes by analyzing the political situations in Thailand, Timor, Pakistan and Europe. These chapters demonstrate his understanding of ongoing insurgencies, his cultural literacy of the Middle East and Asia and the West, and the nature of the terrorist threat. Well traveled in addition to being well learned, Dr. Kilcullen has been to every country he describes, and it shows. For example, he deployed to Timor as a Captain in the Australian Army and he traveled to Pakistan with the State Department. If American had payed more attention to the Australian experience, perhaps we would have avoided so many COIN mistakes in the beginning of the Iraq adventure.

After reading The Accidental Guerilla, one can't help but worry about the course of our counter-terrorist campaign. Thankfully, Dr. Kilcullen lays out plenty of advice at the end of his book on both counter-insurgency and the war on terror. But better than all his advice is the idea that we should change our perceptions and assumptions to fight terrorism.