The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One

The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One

The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One

The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One

Synopsis

David Kilcullen is one of the world's most influential experts on counterinsurgency and modern warfare. A Senior Counterinsurgency Advisor to General David Petraeus in Iraq, his vision of war dramatically influenced America's decision to rethink its military strategy in Iraq and implement "the surge." Now, in The Accidental Guerrilla, Kilcullen provides a remarkably fresh perspective on the War on Terror. Kilcullen takes us "on the ground" to uncover the face of modern warfare, illuminating both the big global war (the "War on Terrorism") and its relation to the associated "small wars" across the globe: Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Chechnya, Pakistan and North Africa. Kilcullen sees today's conflicts as a complex pairing of contrasting trends: local social networks and worldwide movements; traditional and postmodern culture; local insurgencies seeking autonomy and a broader pan-Islamic campaign. He warns that America's actions in the war on terrorismhave tended to conflate these trends, blurring the distinction between local and global struggles and thus enormously complicating our challenges. Indeed, the US had done a poor job of applying different tactics to these very different situations, continually misidentifying insurgents with limited aims and legitimate grievances (whom he calls "accidental guerrillas") as part of a coordinated worldwide terror network. We must learn how to disentangle these strands, develop strategies that deal with global threats, avoid local conflicts where possible, and win them where necessary. Colored with gripping battlefield experiences that range from the jungles and highlands of Southeast Asia to the mountains of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to the dusty towns of the Middle East, The Accidental Guerrilla will, quite simply, change the way we think about war. This much anticipated book will be a must read for everyone concerned about the war on terror.

Excerpt

Oddly enough, I had to leave the army to get into the war. I had served twenty years as an infantry officer in the Royal Australian Regiment, commanded military advisory teams in Indonesia, and taught small-unit tactics with the British army as the Australian exchange instructor on the Platoon Commander’s Battle Course. I had deployed on peace operations on the islands of Cyprus and Bougainville, advised an Arabian Gulf state on counter-terrorism, and commanded a company on counterinsurgency operations in East Timor. By 2004, I was a lieutenant colonel on the Australian Army Headquarters staff, responsible for analyzing current and future conflicts and seconded to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to help write Australia’s counter-terrorism policy.

For one reason and another, I had been traveling for many years in greater Asia, learning the manners and beliefs of villagers, tribes, and townspeople in the Islamic world; by accident almost, I had become a student of guerrilla warfare in its Muslim variant. My interest was in the nature of conflict within and between nonstate social groups—tribes, clans, and families; districts and villages; religious sects—that build shared identity through common cultural, economic, and belief systems. Before serving as an advisor in Indonesia, I spent a year in intensive language and cultural training at the Australian Defence Force School of Languages, including a period of field research and academic study in Indonesia.

After language school, I did further specialized training, then commanded military advisory teams with the Indonesian army in 1994 and 1995, and later spent evenings and weekends for several years writing my doctoral dissertation on the political effects of insurgency, counterinsurgency, and terrorism in traditional societies, focusing on the Islamic separatist insurgency in West Java and the ethnic-separatist insurgency in East Timor as primary case studies. I took no time off work for study but, through judicious use of my generous annual leave and the allowance that language-qualified officers receive for independent travel within their “target country” each year, I was able to undertake several periods of residential fieldwork in Indonesia. I spent this time studying insurgents, militias, and activists, often working alone in remote areas with tribal and community leaders and local people. They taught me far more about . . .

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