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The New Rules of War: Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  287 ratings  ·  47 reviews
"Stunning. Sean McFate is a new Sun Tzu."

-Admiral James Stavridis (retired), former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO

Some of the principles of warfare are ancient, others are new, but all described in The New Rules of War will permanently shape war now and in the future. By following them Sean McFate argues, we can prevail. But if we do not, terrorists, rogue states, and
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published January 22nd 2019 by William Morrow
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Will Byrnes
…America seems to remain fearful of strategic adaptability in any setting. We are wedded to the notion that we shouldn’t change a policy until it has failed, unwilling to ask ourselves how we can do better. Clinging to the status-quo is, in the short-term, an easy course of action, but it is also a dangerous one.
And it seems that even after failure, ineffective military approaches live on as zombie directives. The central notion of The New Rules of War is that while the nature of warfare has
Lance L
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Two and a half stars.

The author raises some good points, but ultimately his arguments go nowhere and his logic does not stand up to even mild scrutiny. The basic point is that “the West” (the USA and Britain? Canada? Germany? what about Sweden? etc - this is not nitpicking, as will be discussed vagueness is a strategy the author goes to time and again to shore up rather muddled thinking) has gotten really bad at “War” (what does that word mean? Well, everything and nothing all at once. When
Mar 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: strategy, info-ops
"Think of warfare like smoke: always shifting, twisting, moving. Strategists who cling to rigid views of war will be blindsided by its mutable character, resulting in strategic surprise and defeat." - author, Sean McFate

- Rule 1: Conventional War Is Dead
- Rule 2: Technology Will Not Save Us
- Rule 3: There Is No Such Thing as War or Peace—Both Coexist, Always
- Rule 4: Hearts and Minds Do Not Matter
- Rule 5: The Best Weapons Do Not
Many people have opinions about why America isn't winning wars, and is instead trapped in never ending quagmires. McFate isn't going to sugarcoat it. Durable Disorder is the new normal and we need to adjust our thinking to it.

Why I started this book: Another library hold that I placed because of the title... looked interesting.

Why I finished it: McFate has a very unusual perspective as both a veteran and a mercenary. He traced the cultural fear of mercenaries back to Machiavelli who's personal
Zachery Tyson
Mar 10, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: warfare
Facile, vapid, and worse, needlessly pedagogic. There are a couple of good ideas in here, but they are smothered by the author's overwhelming arrogance, numerous misstatements and poorly-researched sweeping generalizations.
Jul 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Periodically, I come across a book that creates a conflict in my own mind about how to evaluate it. Sean McFate’s book created one of those conflicts. Though I had never heard of the author, I was very excited to see that the forward was written by Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
Honestly, I almost stopped reading after the first chapter. I forced myself to continue reading in order to get the full picture of McFate’s arguments, and I am glad that I did so because it ended up elevating my opinion of
Mike Stolfi
May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well, this was an enlightening, depressing book.
The return of mercenaries as major actors once again to warfare, & a field of battle that never ends.
Hopefully some-one in charge of our military will be paying attention, & I'm all for pushing the liberal arts because they make people think about more than outmoded tactics.
Jun 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Mcfate used to be a mercenary, novelist and also a Professor of Strategy. He is one of the rare people who do both tactics and strategy. He used to fight in Africa. This book shocked me because of the grim future he painted. He posited that the West has not won a single war after the Second World War, because it still follows Clausewitz. He suggested that Sun Tzu is the way to go, because Russia and China are using Sun Tzu’s Art of War and are winning. Deception is key. He warned that the West ‘ ...more
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a must read by West Point students and all those students intending to enter the foreign relations and intelligence fields. As the author wisely points out, to teach our military and State Department leaders how we must fight the wars of today and the future, we must start before they are senior officers attending a war college, or the course he teaches at Georgetown University.
The author answers the question, "Why we have not won any wars since World War II. While military leaders will
Ryan Lackey
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war-on-terror
This is a surprisingly good book about modern and future war. Basically, the argument is that both third party proxy wars (with mercenaries, militias, and foreign legions) will predominate, and that various forms of "shadow war" will also be preferred, even (especially) when fighting peers. Thus, it would make sense to focus the military investment on these kinds of capabilities and forces, rather than continuing with conventional forces. A good argument is made that Russia has already conducted ...more
Apr 21, 2019 rated it liked it
It's a thought-provoking book, but a little too utopian for me. He gives some recommendations as to which new services or institutes should be created, but he says nothing about how a general should deploy his division in a smarter way, today, in Iraq or Afghanistan. He seems a bit biased when 3 of 10 rules talk about mercenaries, since he was one. In those 3 rules it gets a bit repetitive.
I get he wants to be disruptive, but at times he is too sharp. Everyone else is wrong, all the time, about
Nicky Lim
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
McFate begins somberly that the West current ways of thinking about warfare is outdated; Too much investment in conventional technologies that will never be deployed, failure to see strategic goals despite tactical success, etc. An example he cites frequently is the investments on F-35s that have not flown a combat mission. McFate subsequently organizes the book along 10 "new rules":
1. Conventional War is dead
2. Technology will not save us
3. There is no such thing as war or peace -- both
John Nimmons
Mar 02, 2019 rated it liked it
A mixed bag. While offering up some fresh and innovative ways to tackle modern problems, there were a lot of inconsistencies in this book. First, I’m not convinced the author has read or studied Clausewitz with any sort of depth. He states that Clausewitz is a dinosaur to be left in the 19th century. But then he uses Clausewitz’s main thesis that war is politics by other means to justify many of his rules. So which is it? I feel like he cherry-picked Clausewitz to attack but offered nothing of ...more
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was ok
You know the adage that if you want someone to truly hear and remember your message, you: tell them what you are going to tell them, you tell them, and then you tell them what you told them. Sean McFate must have decided that three times was not enough to make certain. Also that it would be more effective if it was delivered in a drill sargant's voice. I felt ranted at as I read this book that should have been so much shorter (see sentence 1). Furthermore, I expected that a book written by a ...more
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
War in Context

An essential read for anyone concerned by the West’s chronic failure to maintain itself in competition with rising powers. The failure of the West is more than a failure of military strategy: it is a failure of culture reminiscent of the failure of the Roman Empire. Firstly; the West lives Christian morality that is a crumbling theology exploited by its opponents. Secondly; the West does not understand the nature of man despite its biological academics being experts on the topic.
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is illustrating a lot of the new ideas of war and how the recently some groups and countries adapted these new methods and strategies and why the west lose the war although they win the battles.
This book was so obvious to me because I live in Iraq and I see how USA lose the war . they win approximately all their battles but they lose the war USA won military but in politics they lose they made Iran gain huge control in Iraq ISS take control in a lot of area in Iraq in previous few
Stefan Shirley
Overall 3.5 stars -- War is complex. The idea that we can sum up war in a book is utter delusion. Dr. McFate does not try to do this but instead talks about the 10 New Rules of War. While many reviews of this book are on opposite spectrums, for various reasons, it's worth considering these ideas. In simplistic terms, what I gathered from this book are that 1) countries need to evolve in the way they fight, 2) warfare evolves before fighters do, 3) embracing a Foreign Legion will help win and ...more
David James
If controversy is the beginning of conversation then this book is sure start many. Dr. McFate presents an alternative understanding of the current state of affairs as we enter an era of "durable disorder". I agree that strategic thinking has atrophied in the U.S. and this book present one possible approach.

He relies heavily on the writings of Sun Tzu and his own experience to present an argument were the nation state is weakening, enabling the rise of non-state actors who do not play by the
Rob Kumpf
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Dr. McFate offers a unique and wildly interesting view of what the future of war may look like. I believe his hypotheses are correct, and I have long drawn some of the same conclusions as Dr. McFate. Where McFate takes these hypotheses in the book is where things get really interesting. His suggestions for how the west might “win” under these new rules of war are both radical and thought-provoking. There are ideas in this book that are rather commonplace to many and there are some that are so ...more
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.6 stars. Exceptionally well thought out set of new rules. A sharp dose of geo-reality. Lots of poignant historical examples to support his argument and provide context. Clearly makes the point that we are not producing efficacious strategists who have studied military thought from all sources, including our adversaries. Given his discussions about hard work, study, adaptability, and cunning I would like to see included comments on Musashi Miyamoto and even Bruce Lee ("take what is useful and ...more
Christopher Speer
Sep 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
While the author brings up valid points in certain areas, especially when it comes to inflexibility and resistance to change, the solutions don’t add up for me. While, I’ll admit I’m by no means an expert in this field, there were several questions that arose that I felt weren’t answered throughly and left too much room for interpretation. Now when discussing mercenaries, narco-states, and deep states I was able to grasp the ideals and solutions presented much easier. Overall, a very good read ...more
Ron Shaw
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
McFate offers a new view of how the world is heading that is worth reading. He has over-emphasized SunTzu to the detriment of the broader and more versatile Dao De Jing. He has missed a couple of important things such as the British success in Malaysia and Singapore in seeing off the Indonesians and William Rees-Mogg's writings about non-state actors, particularly billionaires, acquiring their own armed forces. And there is no mention of Van Riper and the Millenium Challenge 2002 war game. But ...more
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: policy, mil-history
Long on what doesn't work, short on what might but all light on analysis. Many of these ideas have been floated throughout the Blob and Military heretical circles for a while, most center on the danger of reflecting your enemy onto you own position- thus becoming them.

Has the ring of a book written by a graduate professor, which it is. This book would serve well as a great source to research about, but not necessarily to teach adherence to.
Chase Metcalf
Apr 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an enlightening and informative read addressing the complexities of conflict in the future. The author describes a world where conflict is continuous and looks more like Somalia or Yemen then World War II. This is an important book for security professionals to consider but will require getting past some of the authors intentionally provocative language and sometimes distorted views on past events.
Bob Goedjen
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Clearly a possible controversial position but it is needed to get some entrenched thinking out of the way.... Strong points about building new aircraft carriers at huge price tags versus better preparing troops and mercenaries to fight and win battles against political/terrorist organizations. He makes very good points on a great number of areas. This is the type of discussion we should be having instead of just spending money.
Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great read. Critical of the current US strategy with support evidence-based on cited studies. Speaks authoritatively on the topic of the current state of global affairs as they relate to conflict and the tension between technological advances and maintaining security and stability despite mal-actors whether state or non-state affiliated. Loved it, a must-read for anyone who works in the field.
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Insightful look at the changing nature of warfare. McFate voices very strong unpopular opinions on warfare, but has the chops and arguments to back them up. I thought it was an especially interesting read after the Edward Lansdale (The Road Not Taken) for its stance on counter intelligence effectiveness.
Matt DeSabio
Nov 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
McFate's New Rules is an analysis of features of the western paradigm of warfare that no longer apply to the new character of war. Some you've heard before, some are more original, but both he describes with good explanation and takes a stern approach with regard to the unpreparedness and future outcome of US warfare if we do not change our understanding of and approach to warfare.
Peter Phillips
There is so much in here that helps explain the changing nature of war. I just don't know if democracies are actually compatible with shadow warfare. It seems that kind of war is successful when one does not have to answer for what they do and democracy is supposed to be about transparency.
Sep 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Makes some interesting points but beats up a bit too much on the decisions made by the incumbent defence leadership. Defence problems are serious and decisions taken are sometimes unfairly trivialised by the author.
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I’ve been a paratrooper in the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. A para-military contractor. An operative in the private intelligence world (think: Wall Street meets CIA). I’ve dealt with African warlords, raised armies for U.S. interest, rode with armed groups in the Sahara, conducted strategic reconnaissance for oil companies, transacted arms deals in Eastern Europe, and helped prevent an ...more
“The last time the United States won a conflict decisively, the world’s electronics ran on vacuum tubes.” 0 likes
“Our strategies and weapons are deadly—to us.” 0 likes
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