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

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  771 ratings  ·  73 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
Paperback, 352 pages
Published July 1st 2015 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 2013)
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Bob H
Sep 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Pearse Anderson
Did this book take me over two years to read? YES! Am I annoyed at that? YES! But it is also a fantastic read that not only explains counterinsurgency tactics but explains the PoV of militant, terrorist, and guerrilla warriors. Do you know how essential that is? It doesn't talk down or belittle their arguments while also noting every time that either side (insurgency or counterinsurgency) committed war crimes or human rights violations. He pulls in subaltern studies, organizational theory, and h ...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 c ...more
Denise Eggleston
Dec 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
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.
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 readi
John Baldwin II
May 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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, espe
Dec 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
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?

Social med
Peter Stuart
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Isaac Lambert
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Rick Davis
Feb 10, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kilcullen has written a very interesting book, especially in light of events that unfolded in the United States in 2020. The book was published in 2013 and there are many similarities to incidents he described in foreign cities that took place in Seattle, Portland, St. Louis, and other major U.S. cities last year. This book should serve as a wakeup call to those who refuse to see what is happening in our cities.
Jason Mays
May 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is truly an well-researched and exceptional book and may deserve more than 4 stars. I read it during the COVID stay-at-home order and looking forward applying some of Kilcullen's theory on the job. This book is a must read for anyone focused on urban planning, security politics or national security.

How these theories play out in a post-COVID world would be another great read...

Nov 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.75 stars. This is an excellent, scholarly but realistic analysis of current conflicts and some likely paths of future conflicts. All of it is interesting; I was particularly fascinated by his analysis of lessons to be drawn from the Arab Spring rebellions as well as the strengths of Somali small unit tactics. I shelled out my own money for this and am glad I did. Recommended.
Pablo Estevez
May 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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! ...more
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Barbara Westman
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unowned, favorites
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. ...more
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Allison Roder
Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fairly dry but really insightful and interesting take.
Robert Jones
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great book. Scary and in-depth.
Jul 29, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In my humble opinion, by far the best book by David Kilcullen.
A good blend: military operations and urban planning.
Eric Molicki
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.
Chad Gagnon
Jul 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whether you love Dr COIN or not, you’ll find this a well informed, throughly researched piece. A recommended read for anyone working in the industry.
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“The unified field theory that best fits the currently known facts is what I call the “theory of competitive control.” This is the notion that nonstate armed groups, of many kinds, draw their strength and freedom of action primarily from their ability to manipulate and mobilize populations, and that they do this using a spectrum of methods from coercion to persuasion, by creating a normative system that makes people feel safe through the predictability and order that it generates.” 1 likes
“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
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