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4.04  ·  Rating details ·  489 ratings  ·  31 reviews
David Kilcullen is one of the world's most influential experts on counterinsurgency and modern warfare, a ground-breaking theorist whose ideas "are revolutionizing military thinking throughout the west" (Washington Post). Indeed, his vision of modern warfare powerfully influenced the United States' decision to rethink its military strategy in Iraq and implement "the Surge, ...more
Paperback, 251 pages
Published May 19th 2010 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 2010)
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4.04  · 
Rating details
 ·  489 ratings  ·  31 reviews

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Aug 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: military
The most fascinating part of counterinsurgency to me is how it is essentially a war fought with ideas more than violence. It is a propaganda war and he who has the most compelling message and ideas wins. In fact indiscriminate violence is more like using gasoline to put out a fire. Unless you literally want to burn everything down until there isn't anything left it is a poor choice for fighting a counter-insurgency. The use of brute force to counter insurgency is akin to a frontal assault on a m ...more
This collection of articles from an Australian advisor to General Petraeus presages a number of points he makes in his later work, The Accidental Guerilla. It's an important part of the dialogue in dealing with the asymmetric struggle with radical Islamists, although many of its points are broader.
Aug 05, 2010 rated it liked it
This is apparently the prevailing thinking among military and security decision-makers in Washington right now. The proposed counterinsurgency strategy seems sound, intelligent, and impossible to execute. Cheering thoughts.
Jacob Frank
Erudite and insightful. The author's background is with the Australian military, and so he brings a wealth of knowledge about Indonesia and the rest of the Southeast Asian/Pacific theater. Interestingly, on the subject of the Vietnam war, he echoes the diagnosis of former CIA director Colby, whose biography I just finished, i.e. that the U.S. won the counterinsurgency against the Vietcong, and then withdrew, allowing North Vietnam to conduct a conventional military invasion. On the subject of th ...more
Peter Phillips
I just do not believe COIN is an effective strategy, especially since it was designed for use by colonial powers, not liberal democracies engaged in nation building. He cites his battle experience in East Timor but I found little in the description that was actually about COIN or even dealing with civilians. I also do not agree that a population can be bought off by providing government services but I know that it is an appealing argument to those who want to avoid violence. If you think terrori ...more
Christopher Westman
Feb 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: physical
Like Kilcullen's other books, this work is well thought out and insightful.

Unlike Kilcullen's other books, the articles collected here are mostly dry and dull.

It's of interest if you're a professional, perhaps, or for context in 20th century military history, but it is certainly not worth reading for pleasure or casual interest.
David Watts
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Although published in 2010 and a bit dated, a phenomenal look at counterinsurgency theory in its application to both the global war on terror and advice at the company level. Both the bottom up versus top down approaches used in reducing the threat of insurgency and the approach of insurgencies as a complex system proved to be highlights of the book for me.
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm learning that I should read every word Kilcullen writes. A bit dated considering this largely contains pre-ISIS material, but his review of insurgency and counterinsurgency theory alone is concise and invaluable.
Ailith Twinning
Jul 12, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2017
My politest comment to this book is to flip it off.
Aug 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, politics
Interesting viewpoint on the winning hearts and minds to battle insurgency.
Lars Lofgren
Jul 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Following the success and praise of his previous book, The Accidental Guerilla, David Kilcullen has released a compilation of his previously published articles on counterinsurgency that have impacted and evolved the theoretical understanding of the field. From the "Twenty-eight Articles" that initially went viral to a summary of his doctoral dissertation, Kilcullen's analysis can now be located in one book. Kilcullen, one of the leading counterinsurgency analysts, provides a wealth of informatio ...more
May 20, 2013 rated it liked it
A themed collection of articles published in 2009/2010 by counterinsurgency thinker David Kilcullen, following up on ideas previously outlined in his 2006-era Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-Level Counterinsurgency, as well as incorporating concepts and updates from later works, including The Accidental Guerrilla.

The article on the insurgencies in Western Java and East Timor was very informative, as I did not know much about them. Particularly notable was the look at the success (
Martin Dunn
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
Kilcullen provides a a fascinating view of the problem of insurgency (which has gained prominence in the last two decades) from the perspective of an army officer, a policy adviser and a theoretician. While in my youth I had read classic works such asDefeating Communist Insurgency: Experiences from Malaya and Vietnam and Counter-Insurgency Operations: Techniques of Guerrilla Warfare, these are now quite dated. The nature of insurgency has changed since the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Communism has been ...more
Jun 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
Kilcullen presents really interesting, well-reasoned theory about dealing with modern insurgency. Several of the articles were engaging & well organized. I paricularly enjoyed the "28 Principles" and his battle report from Motain Bridge. A couple of the articles were, for me, text-book dry. I would liked to have seen the same quality of writing and level of reader-engagement throughout, but because it is a collection of individual articles that span more than 10 years of study and experience ...more
Jun 19, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: military-theory
Not only does this book illustrate what is being done to put down resistance to american imperialism overseas in Iraq and afghanistan, but it also shines light on what we see happening here in our country against supposed "eco-terrorists". It was not in any way an exciting read, especially if you don't already geek out on military history/ theory but it is an important book anyway. The author is one of the most respected and influential military thinkers currently influencing american policy. Hi ...more
This book is more is a random assortment of pieces by Kilcullen, ranging from articles published on disaggregation theory, to COIN in general, as well as monographs and combat briefs based on personal experience in the field. Although the collection seems quite random at times, ranging from personal experiences of conflict in East Timor, to Indonesian COIN, to how to measure success in Afghanistan, it is all interesting stuff. The most useful chapter by far for most readers is likely to be the l ...more
Kilcullen fought insurgents in Indonesia, Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a collection of his essays on counterinsurgency. Pulled from a variety of sources, Kilcullen added notes to clarify his thinking before publishing it 2009.

Why I started this book: I'm working my way thru the military's recommended reading list, reading and listening to whatever I can get my hands on.

Why I finished it: Very interesting to see this from an Australian perspective.
Oct 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Fascinating book thought provoking and extremely relevant to the whole "war on terror". Especially interesting analysis of Iraq and consequences/experiences/lessons learnt which should be applied in Afghanistan as well as dealing with godal Jihadism. Not the easiest book to read but one of the most thought provoking.
Dec 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very informative and interesting. The updated footnotes were very helpful. The main drawback is that it is more of a collection of previously published articles instead of a coherent and connected text. Everyone interested in foreign relations should read this book, especially those who want to be informed on the current landscape of US military operations.
Jansen Wee
Aug 03, 2011 rated it liked it
A book that takes a pragmatic look at counter-insurgency; and grounded in both research and reality. The author makes many useful points that are worth serious pondering. His final chapter on treating global extremist terrorism as a global-level insurgency makes sense, as would his suggestions on how to tackle the issue.
Aug 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A really good collection of essays on counterinsurgency. Kilcullen has a bit of a pretentious writing style, but there is some serious substance here. I especially liked the section on counterinsurgency metrics counterinsurgency activity besides SIGACTS - e.g. freight prices to rural Iraqi cities, the existence, the existence of imported fruits in villages, etc.
Jan 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
A good book that provides a lot of insight about modern COIN in the global insurgency sense. I've heard that The Accidental Guerrilla is better, so I'll be reading that shortly, but this is a useful book that adds onto the US Army Field Manual on Counterinsurgency with a more tactical, on-the-ground-level point of view to it.
Calvin Sun
Apr 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
There are many organizational strategy and insights from both the insurgency and counterinsurgency perspective that can be applied outside the theatre of war. Especially when you are instigating change from a bottom up approach, this book provides a paradigm for ways through large organizations and complex cultural & human dynamics.
Jun 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: military
A great read, begins to drift toward the end. His reflections on counterinsurgency reveal a healthy respect for same processes of bottom-up development that Bill Easterly emphasizes in his economic work. It's unfortunate that there has not been more dialogue.
William J.
Jun 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Excellent book if you are interested in the subject matter. The author gives examples of successful and failed counterinsurgency actions and makes recommendations for an approach to fighting a worldwide insurgency rather than fighting a war on terror alone.
Jul 12, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
I didn't actually finish reading this book, and have no desire to ever do so. It's the first in a long time that I have to say that about, fiction or non-fiction. There was some good information presented, but it just rubbed me the wrong way.
Nicholas Callahan
Aug 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Counterinsurgency provides a well-rounded view of insurgencies and how to defeat them from the view of a persona actually in the battle. Very good book, makes very strong arguments.
Christopher Sanderson
The last chapter is brilliant, the rest has become outdated, really. Still a brilliant analyst. Worth reading the latter parts in light if current events. Lots of good background throughout.
Oct 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Four Stars
Oct 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
Not much new information
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“Thus counterinsurgency is at heart an adaptation battle: a struggle to rapidly develop and learn new techniques and apply them in a fast-moving, high-threat environment, bringing them to bear before the enemy can evolve in response, and rapidly changing them as the environment shifts.” 0 likes
“Insurgents tend to ride and manipulate a social wave of grievances, often legitimate ones, and they draw their fighting power from their connection to a mass base. This mass base is largely undetectable to counterinsurgents, since it lies below the surface and engages in no armed activity” 0 likes
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