Fighting the War on Terror: A Counterinsurgency Strategy

By Cassidy, Robert M. | Parameters, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

Fighting the War on Terror: A Counterinsurgency Strategy


Cassidy, Robert M., Parameters


Fighting the War on Terror: A Counterinsurgency Strategy. By James S. Corum. St. Paul, Minn.: Zenith Press, 2007. 267 pages. $25.95.

Fighting the War on Terror: A Counterinsurgency Strategy essentially offers a primer for those atypical military professionals who in this late stage of the war against terrorism are not already well-read or well-versed in the theory and practice of counterinsurgency. This book recapitulates the fundamentals of counterinsurgency and reviews several examples of counterinsurgency practices in the twentieth century. The author, an associate professor at the US Army Command and General Staff College in the Department of Joint and Multinational Operations and a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, offers some critical analysis of the US military's performance during the first years of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While certainly pertinent for current and future counterinsurgencies, this tome is not necessarily timely. Most of the information regarding operations in Iraq and describing US Army counterinsurgency doctrine is dated because the book was written in 2005 and released in 2007. The reader might find it a bit irksome that the author and the publisher did not make an effort to update some obsolete observations before the manuscript went to print.

Although the book lacks an introductory chapter detailing its purpose and a framework for analysis, the reader can find a distilled thesis on the back cover: "To lay out a plan for winning this unavoidable and essential struggle." Corum sets out on this journey by highlighting the lessons to be learned from the victories and defeats of both sets of combatants during a host of twentieth century insurgencies and the early years in Iraq. This book is well-written and exceedingly readable. Corum amplifies two salient aspects of America's history with counterinsurgency and reviews their fundamentals. First, he revisits the economical but successful American and Salvadoran counterinsurgency campaign in the 1980s. This section elucidates the contribution of Max Manwaring's thinking to the successful conclusion of the counterinsurgency in

El Salvador and recapitulates the tenets of "Manwaring's Paradigm," which remain relevant today. Second, the author offers an incisive and candid critique of Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Douglas Feith's roles during the early days of the Iraq War. As one example, Corum observes, "The historical record of the ongoing Iraq War and the costs incurred to date provide a very eloquent commentary on the soundness of Wolfowitz's strategic thinking. …

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