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

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  668 ratings  ·  66 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 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 ...more
Kilcullen argues that conflict follows where the populations are. And that within the next couple of decades a large percentage of the world's populations will live in stressed urban centers on the coast. Cities that have grown from 50,000 to 15 million in 50 years are going to be the new normal, especially in Africa and Southeast Asia. "Competitive control" means that non state armed groups such as drug cartels, street gangs, and warlords draw their strength from local populations and will be ...more
Denise Eggleston
Dec 13, 2013 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
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 ...more
Alex Linschoten
Sep 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 30, 2013 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.
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thesis: Irregular warfare -- conflicts involving non-state actors -- is the future whether politicians like it or not; four megatrends are affecting how these conflicts will be fought: population growth, accelerating urbanization, littoralization, and increased connectedness -- which together mean that the connected urban littoral is where future irregular warfare will mostly take place.

Kilkullen combined sophisticated theoretical account of the politics of these conflicts, rooted in close
Kilcullen is both a soldier and a scholar, with experience ranging from small combat unit leadership to the staff of a theater-level commander (Gen. Petraeus), and perspective drawing on service in a variety of places and types of situations. Like John Nagl (who also worked for Petraeus), this author is more able than even most effective leaders to analyze and project based on developing and likely trends in economics and geopolitics.
This book looks at the accelerating growth of megacities,
Dec 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Good book for giving someone another reason to move away from populated coastal areas. Not exceptionally readable due to the industry jargon (many paragraphs read like research thesis statements) but addresses all kinds of interesting issues on the subject, like:

Drone warfare is increasingly waged from military bases near civilian populations, and the pilots typically return to their homes and families at the end of the shift - as the pilots are combatants, are they legitimate targets?

Peter Stuart
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Penned by one of the preeminent military intelligentsia authors of our time, this 2013 work stands as well today in predicting the future of our world and the conflict it will likely encounter as it did upon publication.

The author structures his work around the 4 mega trends of our time, population growth, urbanization, connectivity and littoralization, in conjunction with recent past and current examples, in support of his view on the future of conflicts and of where, why, by whom and how they
Isaac Lambert
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating deep and technical read, with many case studies about irregular warfare, and how populations crave stability above mostly anything else. You'll certainly learn a new way of thinking, equating the dynamism of a city to something like a cellular system, and better understand the "theory of competitive control". A must read for military buffs or policy wonks, this will reframe your view of war and recent (or upcoming?) conflicts.
Martin Gregersen
This is mandatory reading for any officer or NCO in military units, for the 21st century. Due to technology, The Fulda Gab is irrelevant while costal, overpopulated cities is where we will engage in joint civil-military interventions against an non-state armed opponent. And if we choose to overreact, buy locally or close their internet connection? The population might turn against us.. all 10million of them. Learn the new norm. Before you ship out.
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Anyone interested in the future of COIN operations and warfare in the near future should consider picking up a copy of this book. It is incredibly interesting and highlights trends that will change how we view and practice warfare. Dr. Kilcullen's work never disappoints!
Pablo Estevez
May 06, 2017 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.
Christopher Westman
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: unowned
A lot of the observations are of the "obvious if you live in a city" sort of thing, but the way Kilcullen takes those observations and constructs an actionable theory of military and police action is pretty damn beautiful.
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed Kilcullen's venture into this intriguing field of conflict futurology. The appendix at the end was by far the most interesting and coherent. The book is a valuable source of resources for further reading and research. A useful primer on a complex and difficult subject.
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Mandatory reading for anyone looking to understand what makes current, and likely future insurgencies work in the context or organization and technology. One of the most insightful and well informed books I have read. We should be pushing this to all leaders.
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Kilcullen's work is as informative as it is compelling.

Prepare for the next era of warfare, one that takes place in massive, interconnected, coastal cities.
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-military
This book is an in depth analysis of current (and future) urban environments and how security, armies, governments, businesses and illegitimate organizations operate within.
Jul 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
It's eye opening to be reminded about the bigger picture instead of living in our own cozy little world with our petty problems.
Eric Molicki
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Important work to help us not prepare to fight the last war as if it will be the next war. His research and reasoning are sound with excellent real world examples.
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Allison Roder
Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fairly dry but really insightful and interesting take.
Robert Jones
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book. Scary and in-depth.
Chad Gagnon
Jul 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Whether you love Dr COIN or not, youll find this a well informed, throughly researched piece. A recommended read for anyone working in the industry. ...more
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In my humble opinion, by far the best book by David Kilcullen.
A good blend: military operations and urban planning.
Jan 26, 2014 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 ...more
Ryan La Fleur
Out along the shpre

As always an excellent review of likely potential war zones and how future battles may be. A bit more academic then his last book but still a good read.
Susan in NC
Jul 02, 2013 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" ...more
Michael Griswold
Jun 22, 2013 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
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