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Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla

4.11  ·  Rating Details ·  428 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
When Americans think of modern warfare, what comes to mind is the US army skirmishing with terrorists and insurgents in the mountains of Afghanistan. But the face of global conflict is ever-changing. In Out of the Mountains, David Kilcullen, one of the world's leading experts on current and future conflict, offers a groundbreaking look at what may happen after today's wars ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 2013)
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Bob H
Sep 13, 2013 Bob H rated it it was amazing
Shelves: military-history
This is far more than a book on tactics in the chaotic world we're in: it's an analysis of strife and the social, urban and environmental trends that feed it and shape it. The world is increasingly urbanized, and those urban areas are often -- usually -- coastal ("littoral", a word he uses often), dysfunctional, complex, connected electronically and filled with internal rivalries and flashpoints. It's the kind of dystopia that authors like Martin van Creveld (The Transformation of War) and Rober ...more
Denise Eggleston
Dec 13, 2013 Denise Eggleston rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
Out of the Mountains is a serious work of scholarship written by David Kilcullen a serious scholar of modern warfare. It's not a topic that I would want to study in depth, but I'm glad there are people out there who make it their lives' work. A full disclosure, I received this book through Goodreads' First Reads program.

Kilcullen points out that we are becoming more clustered in our coastal cities. We use our technology to connect us in ways that our ancestors couldn't even dream. Our clusterin
Very good overview of urban counterinsurgency to come, almost more by way of an anthropological/sociological view of urbanization, rather than a purely military focus. The appendix is where the technical meat is, and it's quite fascinating. The idea that Iraq/Afghanistan are a collective mistake best forgotten is reinforced by Kilcullen's reference to innovative studies on urban operations, which really peaked between 1997 and 2002, and were then stopped and/or forgotten after the invasion of Ir ...more
Oct 30, 2013 Julien rated it really liked it
Very interesting book which reads more like a guide to modern urban warfare two days after the Paris attacks. I would strongly recommend all urban dwellers to check it as they may one day face the same situation as the Mumbai and Paris inhabitants.
Pablo Estevez
May 06, 2017 Pablo Estevez rated it it was amazing
An excellent work focussed on insurgency from recent global examples, but with an equally interesting basis on urban littoralization - the increasing size and number of cities in coastal areas and the contest for control between state and non-state actors.
Jan 26, 2014 Annick rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all
Shelves: geography, military
I read it under a landscape-architectural-urbanist-geographic lens with no military or techno-military knowledge. What interested me first is David Kilcullen's thesis, pretty simple but very relevant. I noted three interrelated drivers (I should include food security and water supply to this list as it will become as important as the three drivers I will mention) that may dominate this 21st century: population growth (rural-to-urban migration. As you know population growth will be accompanied wi ...more
Susan in NC
Jul 02, 2013 Susan in NC rated it really liked it
I chose this book from the Amazon Vine Program because it sounded very interesting, but was concerned I'd drown in military-speak or dense academic language. No worries - Kilcullen's writing is clear, concise and accessible, and while he uses some academic terminology to explain theories from the varied fields of sociology, public health, military science, economics, political science, etc., he explains thoroughly with real-world examples such as the Mumbai attack and the "Blackhawk Down" incide ...more
Michael Griswold
Jun 22, 2013 Michael Griswold rated it really liked it
There is something familiar yet new about David Kilcullen's Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerilla. By looking at four trends: population growth, urbanization, coastal life, and interconnectedness, Kilcullen paints a rather convincing picture of the future of warfare. Instead of large-scale state on state warfare, Kilcullen predicts that warfare will take place where population is likely to be centered in urban areas along the coast.

Technology will play a role because technol
Sep 08, 2013 Joseph rated it really liked it
Out of the Mountains: The Coming of Age of the Urban Guerrilla certainly makes a solid case concerning the changing face of warfare. I am just not totally sure that urban warfare is a new idea (Mogadishu, Byzantium, Vietnam?). Kilcullen does present an interesting subject in an educated manner, and his first-hand experience adds credibility to his argument. He states that the ever increasing population is becoming more urbanized, and concentrated in coastal areas; this is a trend that has been t ...more
Oct 24, 2013 Kara rated it liked it
In Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerilla author David Kilcullen cogently explains how certain macro-social changes over the course of the next generation will change warfare as we know it. In some respects, Kilcullen is pointing to changes that are already visibly in effect and being grappled with by present-day state actors -- the ability of nongovernmental organizations to use social media to orchestrate targeted action, military or otherwise -- and the overall decline of ...more
Jan 23, 2017 Ats rated it really liked it
A great introduction to the background workings of modern and possible future conflicts of the world. I will never look at the terror organisations the same way. I now see, how the common man wishes to have modern freedoms, that should be guaranteed on the basis of UN Human Rights, but at the same time longs for Stability and Safety in the zones of persistent conflicts. I see now more than ever how social segregation and extreme poverty are fertile soil for Mafias or similar organisations to sta ...more
Denis Mcgrath
Dec 07, 2016 Denis Mcgrath rated it it was amazing
Kilcullen writes a well-paced narrative of potential urban warfare with good case samples from world mega cities based on real world examples. Key stress points will be littoral and the utilization of hybrid and competitive control and connectivity that will override local government’s ability to respond and control. The new warfare will be irregular, urbanized and will need local support and understanding of culture and customs to resolve conflict. The solution will most often not be a classic ...more
Bruce Reiter
May 13, 2015 Bruce Reiter rated it really liked it
In the military we were always being taught to train for the next war. This author does a good job of looking at some of our recent encounters (and those of our adversaries) and posits wars fought in urban environs and how such warfare might be accomplished. He looks at the huge populated areas along the coasts, the "nonstates" that have come into existence, the competitions among interest groups and the connectivity of social media throughout the world. The picture isn't pretty. The use of tech ...more
Roger Burk
Mar 23, 2014 Roger Burk rated it liked it
According to Kilcullen, future irregular wars will not be in remote mountainous regions like Afghanistan, but in crowded, urban, coastal, and connected megaslums whose typical inhabitant has a cellphone but no reliable water, electricity, or sewage service. The typical opponent will be an armed gang allied with a political faction. Whover can provide the population with the best semblance of order will win their support. Archtypical battles include the 2008 terrorist raid in Mumbai, the Battle o ...more
Simon Blair
Dec 29, 2013 Simon Blair rated it really liked it
An expert account of the way technology and highly-urbanized coastal environments will effect the future of conflict. Kilcullen - a former Australian soldier and strategic consultant in conflict areas as diverse as Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Jamaica - applies his experience and insight to the terrain of future warfare and identifies non-state armed groups as the actors with the most maneuverability and adaptability. His assessment of the Arab Spring uprisings and the utilization of Social Medi ...more
T. Fowler
Feb 14, 2015 T. Fowler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kilcullen givs a good overview of the likely character of warfare in the coming decades. We have already seen that conflict has become very different from warfare in the 20th century, but now Western militaries will have to take into account non-state adversaries, more urban combat than ever before, and most importantly cyberwarfare and global digital connectivity. Conventional armies will face a real challenge, as is already unfolding in Iraq and Syria! It is all laid out here as an excellent p ...more
Oliver Brackenbury
Mar 20, 2014 Oliver Brackenbury rated it really liked it
A great read, containing many useful terms and examples to help understand not only where warefare is heading...but where it already is in many ways and where it's been quite a few times over the past twenty-odd years. A well written book that doesn't require you to decipher a dense, wanky congruence of acronyms and military jargon - the author wisely cordons most of that sort of thing into an appendix, which wasn't a half bad read anyways.

I made a great deal of notes in the margins and truly fe
Nov 24, 2013 Cathy rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Kilcullen is extremely knowledgeable about military tactics, and has written extensively in this book about numerous conflicts from around the world. I especially enjoyed learning the history and details of such battles. The last chapter was also interesting, where he discusses his ideas about future directions for rapidly expanding urban areas. Overall this was a very interesting and highly informative discussion of past, current, and future urbanized and littoral cities.
(I won this book in a G
Lamar Stellfox
Jan 31, 2017 Lamar Stellfox rated it it was amazing
Two things - "It's time to drag ourselves-body and mind-out of the mountains." and "Troops will have to become hikers again, not campers."

Another excellent, forward thinking work about the future of conflict in the always modernizing world. Excellent case studies, theories, and insights that I will keep in my toolbox. If you are a student or practitioner, there is plenty here for you to digest and think about with regards to future conflict in the crowded, complex, and coastal operating environm
Alex Lennon
Jan 05, 2014 Alex Lennon rated it it was ok
Shelves: global-affairs
I may be biased but, as a journal editor and one who does not specialize in conflict studies, I found this book extremely interesting but one that is much better suited for a journal article. The thesis is powerful and compelling in part because of its simplicity and, ultimately, while I enjoyed it and respect Kilcullen's work immensely, I just didn't find I needed to invest the time or delve into the detail a book requires for this argument.
Rob Faith
Aug 30, 2015 Rob Faith rated it really liked it
Good book, kinda scary/gloom and doom until the last chapter because the author seems to expect every large city near the ocean to have to fight it's own insurgency in the future, but the theory of competitive control makes a lot of sense and goes further than counterinsurgency theory (including the previous theories by same author) to explain how and why insurgents fight and people sometimes choose to back the insurgent than the government.
Terry Quirke
Kilcullen presents an interesting thesis combining ideas from several different disciplines to look at where future conflicts will trend; he posits this is more likely to be urban guerilla campaigns against non-state actors as opposed to nation state vs nation state. I found the conclusions to be a bit light, but that said Kilcullen states from the outset that this is a proposal to kickstart the debate. Interesting read and thought provoking.
Feb 11, 2014 Emily rated it really liked it
A scary & fascinating read. There's a really wide range of research, different geographies and types of conflicts covered here. It's not overly academic or technical, but not super accessible either - I'm glad I read it with some background knowledge of poli-sci literature on IR/security. It's much more about war tactics, policy & ethics than about urban planning, but I definitely appreciate the urbanist lens on global conflicts.
Oct 15, 2016 Azriel rated it really liked it
A far clearer and more readable journey than the author's previous "Guerrilla Warfare", this book goes into actual modern urbanist theory in an accessible manner and ties it clearly to future warfighting threats. Exploring modern Lagos and Mogadishu, dissecting the Mumbai Massacre, and exploring social media as a root of rebellion instead of merely a tool, this book is perfect for warfighting professional and accessible to a civilian with a reasonable grasp of the geopolitics and strategy.
Mar 30, 2014 Laura rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite nonfiction books I have read in a while. Kilcullen's prose is highly readable. And the future he paints is based on years of experience in war, peacekeeping, and aid work all over the world. I learned more from this book than from entire classes in college, and would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in the human and national security challenges of the future.
Alex Strick van Linschoten
More an overview than an in-depth account, Kilcullen's latest is, however, packed with ideas. Lots of it isn't particularly new, especially the urban theory and the overall demographics used to underpin the book's main thesis. In any case, it's an easy overview of some upcoming challenges and environments that people ought to think about. My only quibble is that he tends to approach the issues with with a military mindset, or with an emphasis on military tools.
Sep 18, 2014 Thomas rated it it was amazing
Bursting at the seams with awesome ideas. You may not agree with everything he is on about, wonder why he overlooks the problems of capitalism as a global system with regard to his emphasis on planet of slums/feral cities simmering with class tensions, but hey it isn't that sort of book. Welcome respite from the endless parade of trashy, conventional geopoly porn pushing trashy, conventional views of war.
May 12, 2014 Blair rated it it was ok
Interesting topic and case studies, but the conclusions he reaches are repetitive and David Kilcullen over-stretches the message in order to fill a book. Might have been better as a long essay, similar to the articles he penned on counterinsurgency. Accidental Guerrilla was excellent, Out of the Mountains isn't nearly as inspired.
Oct 24, 2013 Alice rated it it was amazing
Shelves: current
Thank you for the free book :)
This book challenged me to learn more about the politics and what goes on in these other countries.
It was one of those books you read a bit and stop so the brain can absorb all that was written.
It was a great book and especially good for thse who like military books.
Thank you
Timothy D. Cook, Jr.
Well worth the read

Interesting book about the possible future of warfare. Well researched and very well written. I recommend this book for anyone interested in the future state of war and urban operations.
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“Insurgents make fish traps, as do militias, gangs, warlords, mass social movements, religions (Jesus, for instance, called his apostles to be “fishers of men”) and, of course, governments.3 Like real fish traps, these metaphorical traps are woven of many strands—persuasive, administrative, and coercive. Though each of the strands may be brittle, their combined effect creates a control structure that’s easy and attractive for people to enter, but then locks them into a system of persuasion and coercion: a set of incentives and disincentives from which they find it extremely difficult to break out.” 1 likes
“Rather than focusing on stability (a systems characteristic that just isn’t present in the urban ecosystems we’re examining here), we might be better off focusing on resiliency—helping actors in the system become better able to resist shocks, bounce back from setbacks, and adapt to dynamic change. Instead of trying to hold back the tide, we should be helping people learn to swim.” 0 likes
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