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Violent Politics: A History of Insurgency, Terrorism, and Guerrilla War, from the American Revolution to Iraq

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  123 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
In the current Middle East, insurgency tactics are used with frequency and increasing success. But guerrilla war-fare is not just the tool of modern-day terrorists. Its roots stretch back to our very own revolution.

In Violent Politics, William Polk takes us on a concise, brilliant tour of insurgencies throughout history, starting with the American struggle for independence
Hardcover, First Edition, 304 pages
Published September 18th 2007 by HarperCollins (first published September 2007)
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Steven Peterson
Sep 18, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it
This is a book about insurgency and some of its major tools--terrorism and guerilla warfare. William Polk begins by observing that one factor is common to insurgencies (page xiii): "no matter how they differ in form, duration, and intensity, a single thread runs through them all: opposition to foreigners. Occupation by outsiders creates the conditions for insurgency, then. That is the central thesis of his book.

Throughout the book, he explores his thesis by examination of a number of case studi
May 27, 2008 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Violent Politics reads like a dinner guest regaling a table with insightful commentary on choice topics. Witty, incisive and instructive, Polk captures your attention without ever boring you. The first portion, which touches mainly on the American Revolution, covers ground most everyone vaguely understands. One fact, though, that was new to me was learning of Washington's opposition to guerrilla warfare and his strong desire to emulate the Continental Line after the former sovereign's battlefiel ...more
Peter Kempenich
Oct 10, 2009 Peter Kempenich rated it really liked it
An excellent history on the subject of insurgency. How truly unfortunate that most foreign policy decision-makers (e.g., national leaders in France, United Kingdom, and the United States of America) have not been versed in or have not heeded the lessons of history concerning such matters. Mr. Polk crafted a very readable and interesting analysis of the risks associated with invading and occupying other sovereign countries. Those of you who have read Bernard Fall's Street Without Joy (1962 histor ...more
Mar 05, 2008 James rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Every citizen
This book makes the point, eloquently and with strong examples and reasoning, that insurgencies are about resisting foreign control of a society, and that the foreigners lose regardless of technological or numerical advantages, short of settling in to permanent occupation using mass immigration to become the new natives and the harshest of methods to suppress or kill off the old ones. Not encouraging reading for neocons dreaming of empire, but reasoned and realistic.
Oct 24, 2013 Robert rated it really liked it
Violent Politics by William Polk, former professor of history at the University of Chicago (and holder of many other posts as well), is a concise summary of the history and mishaps associated with insurgencies and counterinsurgencies running from the American Revolution through Algeria, Afghanistan, Somalia, the Balkans, Greece, Afghanistan, and of course, Vietnam.

Polk’s well-document contention is that insurgencies (internal attempts to overthrow repressive regimes) center on three elements: th
Mustafa Basree
Aug 06, 2011 Mustafa Basree rated it really liked it
I feel sleepy and not feel want to write. However, I found this review over the internet that was exactly what I wanted to say:

"Based on extraordinary research and more than thirty years of professional experience as Professor of History and Founding Director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago, Dr. Polk has definitely produced an excellent read to educate us the intrinsic nuances of insurgency and the cost of occupancy through brilliant comparative analysis.

May 10, 2010 Markus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although at times a bit too simplifying and too quick at drawing conclusions, William Polk's book nevertheless is a very interesting and witty tour de force through the most important insurgencies und guerrilla wars of the last two hundred years, covering the "original" guerrilla war in Spain, the Irish war of independency, the Vietnam wars of France and the USA, and some more. These overviews are very short and not very deep but Polk, knowing so much about these events, tells the storys from a ...more
Tim P
Jan 08, 2009 Tim P rated it really liked it
This is a 250 page book that reads like an essay. Polk puts forth a detailed thesis in the intro, and then flies through a dozen insurgent movements that constantly relate back to the first point he makes...very easy to follow despite the overwhelming use of acronyms.

Pros: Great for history, policy, and politics geeks, while being extremely timely (regarding Iraq and Afghanistan)

Cons: A bit disturbingly sympathetic with these movements, painting all as valiant freedom fighters...a gross oversim
Jul 30, 2011 Stefan rated it really liked it
Interesting comparative study of several insurgencies of the recent history, starting with the American Revolution and ending with Russian's occupation of Afghanistan. Polk explains the ingredients of a succesfull insurgency and shows how most of the couterinsurgency measures taken by the occupant failed. He then concludes with an overview of USA's current involvment in occupation of other countries. The author has worked for the US Department of State during Kennedy's presidency and currently t ...more
Sep 27, 2009 James rated it really liked it
Briefly describes a series of insurgency movements, starting with the American Revolution. I learned about American involvement in the Philippines and Tito in Yugoslavia. The analysis is good until the last couple of pages when the author gets onto his soapbox about Iraq, and a couple of conspiracy theories about Bush. The book is 95% sensible, besides that it is a fun read.
May 28, 2015 Antony rated it it was amazing
This survey includes a range of insurgencies, from the obvious through to those that are little known. One central theme emerges again and again from this comparative study: people do not like being governed by an entity they regard as "foreign".
Bill Morrissey
Feb 11, 2008 Bill Morrissey rated it really liked it
The book is an excellent historical overview and his cross-example conclusions are valuable but I would use a grain of salt with his wrap up. Also, I think it would benefit from comparison to internal guerilla movements that aren't motivated by external involvement.
Feb 06, 2010 Mark rated it it was amazing
Books which specialize, and simultaneously fill little holes in my histories, are what I most appreciate. They are also very hard to find. Thanks Dad. This book is concise, and engagingly written. The rare goldilocks effect. Not to detailed, not to glossy. Just right.
Dustin Davis
Feb 01, 2014 Dustin Davis rated it it was amazing
A very informative book full of the history that most of us don't learn in school.
Maxo Marc
I loved it because it showed how a insurgency develops.
Rob the Obscure
Aug 06, 2010 Rob the Obscure rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent history of insurgency. Is nothing short of revelatory in terms of understanding what the US strategy in the Middle East is doomed to ultimate failure and a tragic waste of human lives.
John Miskec
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“Military commanders choose to overlook the Kenyan proverb that proclaims the power of the flea--"A flea can trouble a lion more than the lion can harm a flea." Most generals would rather be lions than fleas.” 0 likes
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