Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare

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Daniel Marston, Carter Malkasian
Osprey Publishing, 2008 - History - 304 pages
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Through history armies of occupation and civil power have been repeatedly faced with the challenges of insurgency. US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan has highlighted this form of conflict in the modern world. Armies, sometimes reluctantly, have had to adopt new doctrines and tactics to deal with the problems of insurgency and diverse counterinsurgency strategies have been developed. These have ranged from conventional military operations to a combination of military and political strategy including propaganda, Psy-Ops, and other approaches.

InCounterinsurgency in Modern Warfare13 contributors examine developments in counterinsurgency from the early 20th century to the present. Each author, an expert in his field, discusses in depth the conduct and outcomes of operations across the globe, including the Arab-Israeli conflict, Afghanistan and Iraq, and draws out the lessons to be learned from them.

This book is a timely, serious yet accessible survey of a critical facet of modern warfare and present-day global conflict.

1. British Aid to the Civil Power: Ireland 1916-21 to Palestine 1948
2. US Operations in the Philippines 1898-1948
3. The Banana Wars
4. German Partisan Operations 1939-45
5. French Operations from Indo-China to Algeria: 1945-63
6. British COIN in Malaya 1948-60
7. US Operations in Vietnam
8. British Operations in Aden
9. British Operations in Northern Ireland
10. The Rhodesian Experience
11. Israeli Operations
12. Operations in Afghanistan
13. US and British Operations in Iraq

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A useful ‘first’ book giving an unremarkable HISTORY of some selected Counter Insurgencies in the C20. Probably of some interest to orthodox practitioners or fellow travellers of COIN operations as background information, but more so to counter Counter-insurgents as a clear insight into the limitations of current progressive military thinking.
It is ironic that this tome of insight into the now mainstream conventions concerning modern guerrilla warfare was published just as the FARC and Tamil Tiger guerrillas were being emasculated by good old fashioned brute force conventional warfare. There are no hints within the book of these current events that undermine the standard conclusions made in Counter Insurgency analyses for the past 2 generations. The extent of analysis within the book is again very conventional, and there are no surprises, (with the minor exception of the US Philippines campaign chapter which is the most original of the lot) indeed the overall impression is of a somewhat outdated scholastic appraisal. Wood on Rhodesia is as usual a masterpiece of saying nothing much of significance at all. I have read many 'expert' appraisals on COIN in Rhodesia and have yet to gain a concise idea direct from them as to WHY it failed. There are no such answers to be found here.
The positive aspect of this book is that it draws together an intelligent and interesting selection of guerrilla wars, but it doesn’t draw any wider conclusions from this selection. The scholastic minds contained within do not challenge the present and regrettable academic cliché of over referencing and mere data collection and are unsurprisingly not great ones- unfortunately. ‘Unfortunately’ because this book had the potential and expectation to be the first good general appraisal of the subject.
If one is looking for serious insights into COIN success/failure reasons, I would recommend instead moving from this book, away from similar scholarly works of limited insight, and back to the significant (and available) original sources: Kitson, Mike Hoare, Stuart Christie, Mao Tse Tung, Vo Nguyen Giap Reid Daley, Breytenbach, McAleese, and for background on dealing with insurgent morale issues (bizarrely this obvious topic addressing why insurgents win is not mentioned here) Xenophon, Julius Caesar, and for fairly blatant answers (again, not mentioned here); the relevant general population and economic development statistics.
Unconventional warfare should in respect to its protagonists and the present burgeoning demands of asymmetric warfare stimulate unconventional thought; this is not the case here, and a truly regrettable lost opportunity.


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About the author (2008)

Daniel Marston is a Senior Lecturer in War Studies at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. His book Phoenix from the Ashes won the Templer Medal Book Prize in 2003. In addition to teaching, Dr Marston is responsible for overseeing the counterinsurgency modules for Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and the Field Army. He has lectured widely on the principles and practices of counterinsurgency to units of the American, Australian, British and Canadian armed forces, as well as serving as a reviewer of and contributor to counterinsurgency doctrine for all of the above. In 2005 he was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

Carter Malkasian directs the Small Wars Program at the Center for Naval Analyses. Prior to this he was assigned to the I Marine Expeditionary Force as an advisor on counterinsurgency. He deployed with I MEF to Iraq from February to May 2003, February 2004 to February 2005, and February 2006 to August 2006. His writings include several articles and two books, A History of Modern Wars of Attrition (Praeger) and The Korean War, 1950-1951 (Osprey). He completed his doctorate in the history of war at Oxford University.

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