W. W. Norton & Co.
New York, 2013
750 pgs. index, extensive
bibliography, endnotes, maps, data table, excellent illustrations .
The book is about both guerrilla warfare and terrorism in
warfare from ancient times to the present, with the emphasis on 20th- 21st
centuries. The author has organized the content into 8 books containing 64
chapters plus a Prologue and an Epilogue and chapter on implications. There is
an interesting appendix containing a data base table of 'insurgencies' since
1775. These are coded according to 4 results:- insurgent victory, draw,
regular's victory, and ongoing. By 'regulars' the author means the government
or rulers or supporting foreign assistance. The data base attempts to be
comprehensive by including even small examples. But it does not include clearly
criminal enterprises of which the author gives examples of Mexican drug gangs
and Somalia pirates. For each entry the fields are: regulars, insurgents, start
date, end date, duration, and outcome. Some of the examples lasted only a few
days while others lasted as long as 41 years.
What is the author's stated purpose? The author seeks to explain the nature of
current 'irregular warfare' and his thoughts on successful methods and failures
by pointing to similarities he sees with other events throughout history. This
is especially evident in his Prologue and Epilogue in which events in Iraq and
Afghanistan are described and tied together. To accomplish this he shows that
both guerrilla warfare and terrorism have been employed as methods for
centuries. And the successes and failures through history may serve as 'lessons
learned' or unlearned.
But his actual purpose is to critique the American government - Army and
Marines - application of 'conventional war' in Iraq and Afghanistan - that is
firepower and lack of focus on "counterinsurgency methods" and
'nation building', at least until it was too late, in other words to engage in
counter guerrilla warfare, plus the 'failure' to understand terrorism. He gives
best marks to General Petraeus and COIN. Moreover, guerrilla warfare and
terrorism will be the wave of the future. His selection of examples from
history, then, is based on establishing support for his conclusion. And
implicit in his choice of examples is the idea that the U.S. will not be
employing guerrilla warfare nor terrorism. But the U.S. will confront and has
already confronted guerrilla warfare and terrorism employed by its enemies. So
the focus of the book is on that one side of the conflicts - It is about how
successfully to defeat guerrilla war and terrorism or why some government
failed to do so, rather than an objective study of guerrilla warfare itself.
For that one might read Robert B. Asprey's two volumes - War in the
Shadows, Doubleday & Company, 1975, which, however, ends with the war
in Vietnam. .
What is his method and organizational structure? Each chapter usually begins
with an account of a specific, representative incident that has a leading actor
- a journalistic precept for effective writing. Much space is devoted to brief
biographies of charismatic leaders. Maximum effort is displayed throughout to
insert comments linking the chapter subject to 'similar' events before or
since. Some of these links are rather stretched. If there was a 'theory'
expressed at the time, he tries to explain it. Many chapters conclude with a
sentence or two that are a preview of the following chapter. There are usually
short chapters that serve as links between the books.
The categories show the author's focus. They are overlapping but also not
comprehensive. But for guerrilla warfare one might distinguish between such
methods employed by one or both governments during an international war and
methods used by one or more parties to an internal rebellion or civil war.
Likewise, as Philip Bobbitt describes 'terrorism' in Terror and Consent,
terrorism has occurred in other contexts than the narrow category the author
employs here. He especially misses or only mentions the critical category of
government sponsored terrorism (such as by Soviet Union, China, and Iran). The
author also does not address well examples of both guerrilla warfare and
terrorism practiced afloat in naval operations and campaigns or by non-state
maritime groups. Another striking omission is the role of Lenin in development
of modern theory of terrorism and guerrilla warfare.
In my opinion a clearer set of categories would be:
1 Guerrilla warfare - Governments:
1a using guerrilla war methods against own people.
1b using guerrilla warfare against opposing governments either as defensive or
2 Guerrilla warfare - Non-governments:
2a using guerrilla war methods against invading governments.
2b using guerrilla war methods against own government forces.
3Terrorism - Governments:
3a using terrorism against own people.
3b using terrorism against enemy governments (and their people).
4 Terrorism - Non-government groups or individuals:
4a using terrorism against own government or its supporters.
4b using terrorism against enemy governments or external groups and
And I do not consider mounted, mobile warfare employed by nomadic societies for
which that is the basic form of warfare as an example necessarily of guerrilla
warfare tactics, it may or may not be at different times and places by the same
Book 1 "Barbarians at the Gate: The origins of Guerrilla
warfare" has 12 chapters relating to ancient and one medieval example.
Book 2 ""Liberty or Death: The Rise of the Liberal Revolutionaries
" contains 7 chapters from 1648 to 1872.
Book 3 "The Spreading Oil Spot: The Wars of Empire" has 9 chapters
about imperial (meaning western only) wars between 1622 and 1902.
Book 4 "The Bomb Throwers: The First Age of International Terrorism"
has 8 chapters with examples ranging from the medieval Assassins to the Irish
IRA in 1919-21.
Book 5 "The Sideshows: Guerrillas and Commandos in the World Wars"
includes 6 chapters about various examples from Lawrence of Arabia to Wingate
in Burma. But notably does not include chapters on Soviet partisan war or
warfare in Africa. However he does mention this sort of activity in passing.
Book 6 "The End of Empire: The Wars of 'National Liberation'" has 6
chapters about conflicts between nationalists and Western colonial governments
or the Chinese Communists versus the National government.
Book 7 "Radical Chic: The Romance of the Leftist Revolutionaries" has
9 chapters about other conflicts between nationalist or leftist movements and
governments, but why some of these, for instance two on Vietnam, are not in the
previous chapter is not clear.
Book 8 "God's Killers: The Rise of Radical Islam" has 7 chapters all
about either Iraq or Afghanistan.
There is an excellent map for each book.
Apart from the example of the Chinese Civil War - Nationalists versus
Communists, there are no examples of guerrilla war or terrorism in Asia, the
Americas, or Africa as methods of conflict between or among the local
Book I - Chapter I - Ambush at Beth Horon - 3pgs. Guerrilla warfare
Chapter 2 - Classical Conflicts - 3 pgs. Guerrilla warfare
Chapter 3 - Uncivilized Warfare - 5 pages
Chapter 4 - Akkad and the Origins of Insurgency -
Chapter 5 - Catch me if you Can: Persians vs. Scythians 512 BC - 2 pgs
Chapter 6 - Create a Desert: The Origins of Counterinsurgency in Assyria and
Rome, 1100 BC - AD 212. - 7 pgs.
Chapter 7 - Rome's Downfall - The Barbarian Invasions AD 370-476 - 5 pgs
Chapter 8 - An Eastern Way of War? Ancient Chinese Warfare beyond Sun Tzu - 3
Chapter 9 - Nomads and Mandarins: Xiongnu vs, Han 200 BC - AD 7 pgs
Chapter 10 - The Guerrilla Paradox - Why the Weak Beat the Strong - 2 pages
Chapter 11 - The Tartan Rebellions: Scotland vs. England, 1296-1746 - 8 pgs.
Chapter 12 - War by the Book: The Counterinsurgents' advantage - 4 pgs.
Book II, Chapter 13 - Irregulars in the Age of Reason: Hussars, pandours, and
Rangers, 1684-1775 - 5 pgs.
Chapter 14 - The American hornets: The Revolution against Britain, 1775-1783
Chapter 15 - War to the Knife: The Peninsular War, 1808-1814 -11 pgs.
Chapter 16 - Black Spartacus: The Hatian War of Independence, 1791-1804 - 9
Chapter 17 - Greeks and Their Lovers: The Greek War of Independence, 1821-1832
- 8 pgs.
Chapter 18 - Hero of Two Worlds: Giuseppe Garibaldi and the Struggle for
Italian Unification, 1833-1872 - 12 pgs.
Chapter 19 - Revolutionary Consequences: The Liberal Achievement - 2 pgs.
Book III, Chapter 20 - The Wars that Weren't: Why did so few Guerrillas resist
the European Advance? - 5pgs.
Chapter 21 - The Skulking War of War: The "Forest Wars" in Eastern
North America, 1622 - 1842 - 9 pgs.
Chapter 22 - Th Winning of the West: Braves vs. Bluecoats, 1848-1890 - 13 pgs.
Chapter 23 - The Winning of the East: The Holy War against Russia in Chechnya
and Dagestan, 1829-1859 - 10 pgs.
Chapter 24 - Dark Defiles: The First Anglo-Afghan War, 1838-42 - 8 pgs.
Chapter 25 - Northwest Frontier: Britain and the Pashtuns, 1897-1947 - 8 pgs.
Chapter 26 - Mission Civilizatrice: Lyautey in Morocco 1912-1925 - 7 pgs.
Chapter 27 - Commandos: Britain's Near-Defeat in South Africa, 1899-1902 - 14
Chapter 28 - High Noon for Empire: Why Imperialism Carried the Seeds of its Own
Destruction - 4 pgs.
Book IV, Chapter 29 - Suicide Knifers: The Assassins, AD 1090-1256 - 6 pgs.
Chapter 30 - John Brown's Body: The Terrorist Who Helped Start the Civil War,
1856-1859 - 7 pgs.
Chapter 31 - The Destruction of Reconstruction: Ku Kluxers and the War against
Civil Rights 1866-1876 - 8 pgs.
Chapter 32 - Propaganda by the Deed: Anarchists, ca. 1880 -ca 1939 - 9 pgs.
Chapter 33 - Hunting the Tsar: The Nihilists on the Trail of Alexander II,
1879-1881 - 5 pgs.
Chapter 34 - "An Uncontrollable Explosion" Socialist Revolutionaries
in Russia, 1902-1917 - 4 pgs.
Chapter 35 - Shinners and Peelers: The Irish War of Independence, 1919-1921 -
Chapter 36 - The Terrorist Mind: Sinners or Saints? - 5 pgs.
Book V, Chapter 37 - The Thirty Years' War: Blood Brothers and Brownshirts,
1914-1945 - 5 pgs.
Chapter 38 - The Evolution of an Archaeologist : "Lawrence of
Arabia," 1916-1935 - 14 pgs.
Chapter 39 - The Regular Irregulars: The Birth of the Special Forces in World
War II - 4 pgs.
Chapter 40 - Wingate's Wars: A "Wayward Genius" in Palestine,
Abyssinia, and Burma, 1936-1944 - 14 pgs.
Chapter 41 - Resistance and Collaboration: Yugoslavia, 1941-1945, and the
Limits of Scorched-Earth Counterinsurgency - 7 pgs.
Chapter 42 - Assessing the "Supersoldiers": Did Commados Make a
Difference? - 4 pgs. Book VI,
Chapter 43 - The World After the War: Slipping European Grip - 7 pgs.
Chapter 44 - The Rise of the Red Emperor: Mao Zedong's Long March to Power,
1921-1949 - 9pgs.
Chapter 45 - Adieu at Dien Bien Phu: The Indochina War, 1945-1954 - 7 pgs.
Chapter 46 - "Convince or Coerce": The Algerian War of Independence,
1954-1962 - 14 pgs.
Chapter 47 - A Man and a Plan: Briggs, Templer, and the Malayan Emergency,
1948-1960 - 11 pgs.
Chapter 48 - "A Distinctly British Approach"? Why the British
Succeeded -or at least Sometimes - 5 pgs.
Book VII, Chapter 49 - Two Sides of the Coin: The Guerrillas Mystique in the
1960s - 1970s - 3 pgs.
Chapter 50 - The Quiet American; Edward Lansdale and the Huk Rebellion,
1945-1954 - 7 pgs.
Chapter 51 - Creating South Vietnam: Lansdale and Diem, 1954-1956 - 6 pgs.
Chapter 52 - The Other War: The Limitations of Firepower in Vietnam, 1960-1973
- 14 pgs.
Chapter 53 - M-26-7: Castro's Improbable Comeback, 1952-1959 - 13 pgs.
Chapter 54 - Foco or Loco? Che's Quixotic Quest, 1965-1967 - 10 pgs.
Chapter 55 - The Children of '68 and '48: The Raid on Entebbe and the Terrorism
of the 1970's - 10 pgs.
Chapter 56 - Arafat's Odyssey: What Terrorism Did and Did Not Achieve for the
Palestinians - 15 pgs.
Chapter 57 - Left Out, or Rebels without a Cause: The End of the (Marxist)
Affair in the 1980's - 3 pgs.
Book VIII, Chapter 58 - Fifty Days That Shook the World: Teheran, Mecca,
Islamabad, and Kabul, Nov 4 - Dec 24 1979 - 4 pgs.
Chapter 59 - Russia's Vietnam: The Red Army vs. The Mujahideen, 1980-1989 - 6
Chapter 60 - The A Team: The "Party of God' in Lebanon, 1982-2006 - 14
Chapter 61 - The Terrorist Internatonale : Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda,
1988-2011 - 14 pgs.
Chapter 62 - Carnage in Mesopotamia: Al Qaeda in Iraq since 2003 - 6 pgs.
Chapter 63 - Counterinsurgency Rediscovered: David Petraeus and the Surge,
2007-2008 - 12 pgs.
Chapter 64 - Down and Out? The Failures and Successes of trhe Global Islamist
Insurgency - 4 pgs.
Epilogue: Meeting in Marjah, October 23, 2011
The length and depth of detail contained in the various
chapters are quite different. Some seem to drift into tangential matter, for
instance, the chapter "Evolution of an Archaeologist" about Lawrence
of Arabia digresses into more about Lawrence than about a detailed study of his
approach to guerrilla warfare and its results. He credits John Brown personally
rather more than I would with starting the Civil War in his chapter on
guerrilla war in 'Bloody Kansas'. The chapter "Hunting the Tsar' on the
lengthy and persistent effort of Russian terrorists to kill officials including
Alexander II is excellent. The chapter "An Uncontrollable Explosion"
which continues the story in Russia by focusing on the Socialist
Revolutionaries is excellent also, but the author might have carried it further
to note that an SR attempted to assassinate Lenin. But he does include this
fascinating point - when comparing the actual level of Tsarist counter-terror
police with the popular belief :The full Tsarist secret police, Okhrana, had
only 161 full time employees and the Gendarmes were fewer than 10,000, mostly
doing routine police work. "Russia had over 'one hundred times fewer
policemen' percapita than France. And spread out over an immense territory as
well. Relatively few revolutionaries were executed and exile to Siberia was not
that bad. I might note the difference between Siberia and French Guinea.
An author is entitled to include or exclude in his book
whatever topics he chooses. Mr. Boot carefully explains in his prologue with
definitions he assigns to 'guerrilla' and 'terrorist' his reasons for narrowing
the subject field to exclude examples of terrorism that, for instance, Philip
Bobbitt considers important in his book on Consent and Terrorism. The prologue
also contains some comments about recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The
author establishes his purpose; "This book is intended to serve as a
one-stop destination as it were, for the general reading public interested in
this subject." In this he succeeds very well, by writing in a vivid and
accessible style. It is a fine example of a journalist acting as an historian.
At 750 pages we have to agree with his remark that he did not want to produce
an encyclopedia. Even so, to produce a fuller account he might have included
some examples from Asia, Africa, and South American of indigenous warfare not
related to Western opponents. He does include the Chinese civil war between
Nationalists and Communists for extended treatment. In the text he seeks to
show that his subject includes war as far back as the Assyrians, but the
database begins in 1775. Again, one has to recognize that there must be limits.
In his definition of terrorism he writes, "For purposes of this book
terrorism describes the use of violence by nonstate actors directed primarily
against noncombatants (mostly civilians but also including government
officials, policemen, and off-duty soldiers in order to intimidate or coerce
them and change their government's policies or composition." Fine, but he
acknowledges (in effect) the broader role of terrorism conducted by governments
by including the example of the Assyrians and other examples of terror employed
by governments as well. However, he does not include piracy conducted as
government policy, or against governments and society. He directly excuses his
exclusion of the French Revolutionary terror; "The use of violence by the
state against civilians is excluded from our definition, because the common
meaning of 'terrorism' has changed considerably since the French
Revolution." Perhaps so, but he does include as either guerrilla war or
terrorism the conflict between US government troops and American Indians.
However, he does not include the use of terror by Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao
or other similar government rulers. He does include examples of conflict
between sedentary societies and nomads (such as Xiongnu vs, Han - and Persians
vs Scythians) which to this reviewer does not appear to be quite 'guerrilla
war'. Striking in its absence is a chapter on the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka,
the modern developers of the suicide bomber and one on the Iranian government,
principle author of international terrorism today.
Book I - Chapter I - Ambush at Beth Horon - 3pgs. Guerrilla
warfare - An example of a smaller, Israelite force, defeating a larger Roman
force by conducting an ambush in favorable terrain. - Self explanatory example
of an isolated guerrilla exploit.
Chapter 2 - Classical Conflicts - 3 pgs. - Guerrilla warfare -
Brief examples from Peloponnesian War, Alexander the Great, Maccabees and
Bar-Kokhba Revolt - The author notes that there were many low level battles by
'irregulars' during the Peloponnesian War, and one of the numerous internal
civil wars involving 'unconventional war'. He mentions Alexander's difficult
campaign in Central Asia against mobile war staged by nomads. He also mentions
the Maccabees and the bar Kokhaba uprising. The 'regular' forces of government
eventually won these but they are examples of inferior military forces
conducting sustained operations. Whether Alexander was 'drained by his
exertions' leading to his death may be questioned. He had as many or more
'exertions against less mobile enemies in India. And to my mind the Scythians
were neither terrorists nor guerrilla insurgents. But the examples are merely
mentioned without analysis as to how they pertain to modern warfare. However,
the author then is able to mention Alexander frequently throughout succeeding
chapters as some sort of relevant example.
A fuller description of warfare not only in Europe and the Middle East but also
Asia and Aztec and Inca America is in The Ancient World At War, edited
by Philip de Souza.
Chapter 3 - Uncivilized Warfare - 5 pgs. - A general discussion
on the pervasive nature of 'guerrilla war' in prehistoric and ancient eras.
"Guerrilla warfare is as old as mankind. Conventional warfare is, by
contrast, a relatively recent invention." (Well, considering that polities
organized as 'states' are new, and only such polities can conduct conventional
warfare (according to the author) the point is obvious. Yet, whether much of
this can be termed 'counterinsurgency' is questionable as the following quote
indicates.) "Battles among nonstate peoples have often consisted of
nothing more than two lines of warriors decked out in elaborate paint shouting
insults at each other..." Further - "What such critics overlook is
that battles constitute only a small part of primitive warfare." Very
true. "Primitive warfare has been consistently deadlier than civilized
warfare..." True, in my opinion, but controversial among some
Chapter 4 - Akkad and the Origins of Insurgency - Mesopotamia,
2334-2005 BC. 2 pgs. -The author briefly describes wars of Sargon of Akkad. The
point seems to be that with the development of a formal political structure -
government - conflict took on the nature of government forces versus internal
and external enemies. The author usually connects his examples from other eras
to today, In this case the wall built by Ur against the Amorite nomads with the
Great Wall of China, and the Morice Line - all of which failed.
The author leaves out what might be the most significant example of warfare in
ancient times - the destruction of established empires and polities by the 'sea
peoples' and others during the 'Iron revolution'. And some examples of
guerrilla warfare involved external enemies, not insurgents.
Chapter 5 - Catch me if you Can: Persians vs. Scythians 512 BC
- 2 pgs.- The author describes Persian efforts to prevent raids by nomads by
invading Scythia. He notes. "The Scythians and Massagetae were cut from
essentially the same cloth as all of the horse-riding nomads or seminomads -
Huns, Xiongnu, Avars, Bulgars, Magyars, Seljuks, Mongols, Tatars, Manchus - who
would terrorize the Eurasian plain until the eighteenth century AD. They also
had more than a bit in common with the Sioux, Cheyenne, Apache, and other
tribes that would attack American settlements ...' He points to the Persian
failure under Darius and also to the death of Cyrus several centuries earlier.
But it seems to me that mobile warfare conducted by a nomadic people, not only
against sedentary polities but between each other, is not exactly either
guerrilla war nor insurgency.
Chapter 6 - Create a Desert: The Origins of Counterinsurgency in
Assyria and Rome, 1100 BC - AD 212. - 7 pgs. - The author begins by asserting -
"Most ancient empires responded to the threat of guerrilla warfare,
whether waged by nomads from the outside or rebels from the inside, with the
same strategy. It can be boiled down to one simple word: Terror." Lets
read the examples. First the Assyrians. They did indeed conduct terror
campaigns on a broad scale and with great ferocity. But the major campaigns
were neither against external nomads nor rebels but as part of expansionary
imperial campaigns waged by regular government forces against those of other
governments. Moreover, in his introduction the author explicitly defines
terrorism as a method of non-state actors. He continues with the Romans.
"The Roman Empire, which faced and suppressed more rebellions than most of
its predecessors or successors, developed a more sophisticated approach to
counterinsurgency." Very true, but:. For starters, he mentions without
detail the destruction of Carthage and Jerusalem as insurrections when they
were conquests of enemy polities. He writes in more detail of the victory of
Arminius over the Roman legions in AD 9. But this also was not an insurgency
but a temporary failure of the Roman conquest, which the Romans avenged and
later opted to abandon. The famous slave revolt led by Spatacus might be termed
an insurrection, if stretching the definition. Viriathus was not so much
conducting an insurrection as defending against a Roman campaign of conquest.
The author conspicuously omits the Roman conquest of Gaul during which they
employed just as much terror as elsewhere, also Scipio's campaigns in Spain,
Marius against Jurgatha and others. He again is crediting the Roman government
with employment of terror on a wide scale, correctly, but not in keeping with
his original definition. Naturally he does not note that the most significant
Roman military skill that enabled their expansion was not set piece battle, nor
counter guerrilla war, but siege warfare in which terror of the civilian
population is often a major component..
Chapter 7 - Rome's Downfall - The Barbarian Invasions AD
370-476 - 5 pgs.- The chapter is about the invasion by the Huns and 'assorted
other barbarians' not identified. The author writes: "Thus Rome, as much
of ancient Mesopotamia, was a victim of the type of hit-and-run warfare
practiced by nomadic guerrillas." There are many intermingled longer-run
and shorter-run causes for the collapse of ONLY the Western part of the Roman
Empire, but 'hit-and-run' warfare was not one of them. The Huns were defeated
in regular battle and their direct impact was relatively brief , especially in
comparison with the Goths, Franks, Vandals, Alans, Burgundians, Lombards and
others. The author makes too much out of the contemporary authors' description
of 'terror' generated by the Huns. Actually, they were a recognized political
entity to which the Romans sent regular ambasadors and who were on occasion
employed as auxiliary units with the Roman Army itself. The author's discussion
is somewhat jumbled or garbled, adducing various domestic and foreign problems
without describing their cumulative effects. His conclusion: "For
centuries to come the continent would be at the mercy of sanguinary raiders who
fought for the most part in guerrilla-like fashion." Well, to be
'guerrilla-like' is not to be a guerrilla. Raiding from outside a region is not
guerrilla warfare either. And, ultimately, the invasion by all those folks
listed except the Huns, were migrations not raids (hit and run warfare) by
guerrillas or even military campaigns such as the Romans accomplished, but
movements of entire peoples seeking new homelands. Plus, a big plus, the major
military threat the Roman Empire faced was from the successive Persian
Chapter 8 - An Eastern Way of War? Ancient Chinese Warfare
beyond Sun Tzu - 3 pgs. - This is a brief 'overview' chapter. The author
begins: "The Roman legions often fought guerrillas but did not practice
guerrilla tactics themselves." - Excellent point (but they did practice
terrorism). But the main and very important point of this chapter is to debunk
the unfortunate popular image of a 'Western way of War' - promulgated by John
Keegan in his terrible book on Warfare. Mr. Boot ascribes this to popular
belief that the writing of Sun Tzu epitomized Chinese (by extension Eastern)
methods of warfare. The chapter should serve as a central lesson to take from
the book. He writes: "In sum, any attempt to suggest that Europeans have
an inherent predilection toward infantry battle in the open field, whereas
Asians prefer to fight in guerrilla-like ways, does not stand up to
- Moreover, "Guerrilla warfare, then, is not the product of an 'Eastern
(or Oriental) culture' - itself a misnomer, since Asia had more than one
culture. It is the last resort of all those over time, who whatever culture,
forced to fight a stronger foe." Again, great, but this., then, leaves out
the mobile warfare practiced by powerful nomadic peoples as the style of
warfare dictated by their steppe environment and not from weakness. So lets
leave them out of the earlier chapters. I mention here that Mr. Boot,
unfortunately, leaves out centuries of Asian warfare conducted by Indians,
Central Asians, or South-east Asians, (and also Chinese versus other Chinese)
that could have been included in his examples.
In addition to The Ancient World At War, for an important book on Chinese
warfare one should read Ralph Sawyer's Ancient Chinese Warfare.
Chapter 9 - Nomads and Mandarins: Xiongnu vs, Han 200 BC - AD 7
pgs. How to deal with this chapter? The major part is a good summary of the
diplomatic and military relations between the Xiongnu and Han Chinese. In this
chapter the author first indulges in a tangent we find more and more in later
chapters - that is digression into the biography of a major actor, in this case
the Han Emperor Wu. The conflict between the nomadic Xiongnu and the sedentary
Han indeed lasted for centuries. Mr. Boot writes, "Thus professional
armies may be said to have arisen in both Europe and Asia in response to the
threat posed by guerrillas". And "The failure of the mighty Chinese
Empire to decisively defeat the relatively small number of "Mountain
Barbarians' demonstrates once again the difficulties that guerrilla style
tactics caused for armies in both East and West.'
OK, first, The Xiongnu, again, were a nomadic society conducting mobile warfare
dictated by their physical environment and cultural adaptation to it. They were
not guerrillas, insurgents, nor terrorists. They were often a very powerful
society as our author notes. They did not conform to his definition. The
conflicts consisted mostly of isolated raids by small parties of nomads and
occasional major set-piece battles between large Han armies and the major
forces of the Xiongnu. Next, the Chinese did not need to nor expect to
'decisively' defeat them any more than the Xiongnu expected to conquer any part
of China. The Chinese had two major objectives - to reduce the drain (impact)
of raids on the northern frontiers and to protect commercial expansion across
the Taklamakan to India and Central Asia. Further, the development of
professional armies by ancient Greek cities and the Roman Republic was not a
response to threats from guerrillas - far from it. It was the expanded scale of
warfare in time and space created by expansionary warfare conducted against
other equally well organized polities that were conducting the same kind of
'conventional' warfare. Likewise, the Chinese development of professional
armies, supplemented by militias, was not for the purpose of fighting the
Xiongnu but for waging war on other Chinese polities. For a full description of
nomadic warfare read Jon Coulston's chapter "Central Asia from the
Scythians to the Huns" in The Ancient World at War.
The last section of the chapter briefly discusses the real and significant
insurrections (some of them) that plagued the Chinese government centuries
later, such as those of the Yellow Turbans, Taipings and Boxers. This involved
real guerrilla warfare and remains a serious political - social consideration
of Chinese government today. It is a subject our author might have devoted
considerably more space to describe.
Chapter 10 - The Guerrilla Paradox - Why the Weak Beat the
Strong - 2 pgs. - This is one of the author's chapters devoted to a summary and
general conclusion rather than detailed analysis of specific case studies. In
this chapter he attempts to link his descriptions of nomadic versus sedentary
warfare with modern guerrilla warfare. In my opinion this is quite a stretch.
He begins with citation from Hugh Kennedy about the 'nomad paradox'. Kennedy
claims that "nomads going back to the days of Akkad managed to bring down
far richer and more advanced empires, ...." Kennedy claims that despite
being considered weaker, nomads had significant 'military advantages'. Perhaps
a bit of an exaggeration, but no matter. However, Mr. Boot then writes: But
impressive as the nomads' military success was, it was hardly unique. The
nomads' victories become less mysterious and more explicable if they are seen
as part of the long continuum of guerrilla warfare." He then links to
various 19th- 20th century examples. "Thus the 'nomad paradox' is really
the guerrilla paradox; how the weak can defeat the strong. The answer lies
largely in the use of hit-and-run tactics emphasizing mobility and surprise,
which makes it difficult for the stronger state to bring its full weight to
As I have tried to show, the successful nomadic societies were not the weaker
nor were they guerrillas. From a comparative military analytic point of view it
would be better to focus on mobile versus position warfare and compare various
nomad style campaigns with modern examples of mobile warfare. But then Mr. Boot
switches gears completely. In several paragraphs he notes that both early
nomadic societies and modern guerrilla forces did switch to more conventional
tactics when the environment and social situation demanded it and their
objectives also expanded. He concludes with a kind of "Parthian shot'
himself, writing: "In the end, no one chooses to fight as a guerilla, a
life-style that has always come with great hardships, if there is any
alternative." Very well said as far as warfare goes. But who is to say
that the life-style of a nomadic society living freely in a vast unbounded
region is of greater hardship than that of peasants tied to the soil in a
But I have always challenged this concept of the 'weaker defeating the
stronger' as it is still exemplified in current simulations and war games.
Strength and weakness are relative terms and specific in time and place. By my
definition victory itself is the proof of strength and loosing is the
definition of weakness. In other words the stronger always defeat the weaker -
Chapter 11 - The Tartan Rebellions: Scotland vs. England,
1296-1746 - 8 pgs. - Once again the author begins with a very much needed
corrective - a debunking of the popular vision of 'medieval' warfare as an
activity mostly of knights on horseback. He writes (wonderfully) Siege warfare
was more important. BRAVO again. Plus, "So was the raid". Indeed. Mr.
Boot rightly links the resort to raiding to the expansion of castles (and
fortified cities) but limited capability to capture them. This was guerrilla
warfare. As the author notes "If guerrilla warfare is the war of the weak,
then during the Middle Ages practically every European polity was weak enough
to resort to it." Well, correct that many resorted to it, but can they all
be weak on both sides of a conflict? But note that we have here the example of
guerrilla warfare conducted by established political governments (not,
non-state actors) and the accompanying terror generating psychological effects
employed by professional armies. Might the raid and counter raid phenomena that
appears as guerrilla war be caused by the political - economic environment
itself and the potential objectives it enables for the actors?
In the second section the subject turns to warfare on the English-Scot border.
This is a concise description of centuries of struggle. Our author mentions
many of the principal actors. He concludes with the interesting observation:
"That is one of the most enduring dynamics in the history of warfare: as a
state becomes more capable in its defense, so guerrillas become more capable in
their offense." This point is similar to Philip Bobbitt's contention that
the nature of terrorism also corresponds in each age to the different
government (state) and social organization.
What about examples from English versus Welsh and Irish?
Chapter 12 - War by the Book: The Counterinsurgents' Advantage
- 3 pgs. Another chapter in which the author draws general comparisons and
conclusions. It is a conclusion for Book I. The content is one observation or
contention after another, some valid, some not so much. He throws in many names
not previously mentioned. "A look at the ancient and medieval worlds
suggests yet another paradoxical conclusion; the most primitive guerrillas were
the most successful" (No names provided). "But such successes were
rare, in no small part because ancient rebels lacked the ability to appeal to a
hostile population over the head of its leader." OK, but which it is? And
we have been discussing many more examples that 'rebels'. "Most insurgents
suffered the fate of Viriathus, Qintus Sertorius, Spartacus, Vercingetorix,
Boudicca, and others who died battling Roman power." I leave it to the
readers to decide which of these leaders were really 'insurgents'. "The
most successful guerrillas of the ancient world were the nomads who brought
down the Roman Empire and seized large chunks of the Chinese Empire and other
:Well, again, the nomads were not guerrillas - but more important, The Roman
Empire was not brought down by nomads. Not by the Huns, - but the Goths,
Vandals, Franks, Burgundians, Saxons, Lombards, Alans and all were not nomads,
they were sedentary peoples who migrated in search of better places or to
escape the Huns. And the only 'nomads' who seized large chunks of the Chinese
Empire were the massive, formal government armies of the Mongols and Manchus.
The remainder of the chapter discusses advantages of modern guerrilla
movements. Mostly fine. But then we read "Counterinsurgency manuals have
been common at least since the Byzantine emperor Maruice produced his
Strategikon around AD 600. It offered advice on how to battle Slavs,
Avars, and other 'undisciplined, disorganized people...." But these were
not insurgents but foreign invaders or the defending military in places the
Byzantines wanted to conquer. He concludes with a transition comment: "The
Enlightenment ushered in a new epoch not only in the history of the West but
also in the history of guerrilla warfare." Book II.
Book II - Chapter 13 - Irregulars in the Age of Reason: Hussars,
Pandours, and Rangers, 1648-1775 - 5 pgs. This is another transition chapter.
The author explains very well the change in European military organization and
tactics between the end of the 30 Years War and the American Revolution. He
notes that the differences between conventional warfare conducted by regular
armies and sometimes irregular war also conducted by government forces, but of
a more 'irregular' type - such as pandours (that is Austro-Hungarian border
troops) and rangers. By the time of the American Revolution the British had
experienced considerable 'irregular' war on frontiers in America and even in
Europe, but seem to have forgotten much previously learned. The most important
change, according to Mr. Boot, he expresses in his concluding sentence.
"The redcoats' difficulties were compounded because in the war to come
they would encounter not only the kind of traditional hit-and-run tactics
employed by tribesmen but also a new factor in guerrilla warfare - the power of
public opinion. This new weapon was to prove even deadlier and harder to cope
with than a tomahawk in the back." A very cogent observation.
Chapter 14 - The American Hornets: The Revolutions against
Britain, 1775-1783 - 16 pgs. - Note how the chapters become longer. This is the
best chapter so far. The author first presents a short but comprehensive
account of the details of military actions in the Revolution starting with
Lexington and Concord. He notes the importance of the effective militia, but
also George Washington's disdain for militia and preference for conventional
troops fighting in standard European style. It was the synergy of the two
acting in concert that made the difference. Interspersed he cites more and more
comparisons with American actions in Vietnam and later. Included are many
interesting factoids that liven the text. The role of irregular warfare in the
south is considered important, as is the support by the French army and navy.
Both were essential in the combined Franco-American victory at Yorktown. But
that did not end the war. Mr. Boot writes, "What get overlooked in most
accounts of the American Revolution is that even after Yorktown the British
could have continued fighting. They had lost only eight thousand men. Their
remaining troops in North American, more than thirty-four thousand strong,
still outnumbered the combined Franco-American forces and more could always
have been raised... If the Americans had been resisting the Roman Empire, there
is little doubt that a fresh army would have been raised and George Washington
and other leading insurgents would have been crucified." Great point well
described. But, he continues, "This was a new and hugely important
development in the long history of guerrilla warfare: a parliamentary
government could not prosecute a war that did not enjoy popular backing.
Insurgents' ability to manipulate popular sentiment - to break the enemy's will
to resist - helped to offset some of the advantages enjoyed by an incumbent
regime...." "Public opinion would play an even larger role in future
wars...." Mr. Boot describes in detail usually overlooked in our school
books the specifics of the downfall of the North government and Whig desire to
end the war. He continues with analysis and conclusions. "Besides
highlighting the new found importance of the struggle for 'hearts and minds'
the American success in winning independence from the world's most powerful
empire offers a number of other lessons about the nature of guerrilla
First, "it demonstrates the heavy toll of taking on a superpower."
(statistics on losses provided)
Second, 'major lesson is the importance of such (French) outside support."
Third, 'the outcome of the American war demonstrated the importance of
partisans operating in close conjunction with a regular army." Neither
mode alone would have sufficed.
Fourth, "is the need for counterinsurgents to have a suitable strategy and
unity of command to execute it.' "This failure was closely related to
another: the inability or unwillingness to send enough troops to pacify 2.5
million Americans spread over more than 1200 miles. "But none of these
failings need have proven fatal if the British public had retained the desire
to continue fighting, no matter the cost." British public opinion was the
Chapter 15 - War to the Knife: The Peninsular War, 1808-1814 -
12 pgs. - In this chapter the author displays his ability to describe warfare
in vivid prose. This war is well known as the epitome of guerrilla warfare.
Again, he views it as a fine example of the results from a combination of
regular conventional forces and widespread guerrilla actions. His conclusion is
to quote Jomini. "The Peninsular war should be carefully studied, to learn
all the obstacles which a general and his brave troops may encounter in the
occupation or conquest of a country whose people are all in arms.'
Chapter 16 - Black Spartacus: The Haitian War of Independence,
1791-1804 - 9 pgs. Another vivid narrative of a particularly bloody 'war' -
actually slave rebellion. The author devotes considerable space to description
of Toussaint Louverture, who was one of the initial leaders, but who died in a
French prison. The principal lesson from this horendeous event is that extreme
brutality in the effort to suppression rebellion is likely to be counter
productive. Still, the author notes that there were many other factors
including the climate, location, preoccupation of France with European war and
What about the continuation of slavery on the British West Indies
Chapter 17 - Greeks and their Lovers: The Greek War of
Independence, 1821-1832 - 8 pgs. - The 'lovers' were the British and other
romantics who took up the Greek cause against the perfidious Turk. Mr. Boot
notes that most of the liberal and national revolts in Europe triggered by the
American and French Revolutions failed - he mentions several such as in Ireland
and Poland. However the Spanish colonies in Latin America succeeded due to
particular circumstances. He then focuses on the 'more interesting' case of
Greece. Right off, he comments: that it would "showcase for the first time
the importance of 'humanitarian intervention' in deciding the outcome of a
guerrilla war." Both sides resorted to atrocities, but only those of the
Turks received public approbation in Western Europe. The author contrasts the
failure of a small Greek effort to form a 'regular' type army with the
guerrilla methods of the klephts. In his typical way he notes that the Greek
fireships were - "a nautical car bomb'. The results of the philhellenes
such as Lord Byron were "negligible", but their propaganda value was
immense. "Only the intervention of Britain, France, and Russia saved the
Greek cause." "There was nothing novel about outside powers' helping
a rebellion." The author (as usual seeking links) comments that this
intervention was similar to those in Bosnia and Kosovo and Libya. "Byron
and Delacrox performing the galvanizing role that television networks and
human-rights groups would play in the latter conflicts." He mentions
Navarino Bay, but I didn't see any comment about the Acropolis. He does stress
the naval aspect - As in the Spanish American War, "The Greek revolution
would be secured primarily by naval might - specifically by the U.S. Navy's
successes in sinking the Spanish squadrons at the battles of Manila Bay and
Santiago de Cuba."
Chapter 18 - Hero of Two Worlds: Giuseppe Garibaldi and the
Struggle for Italian Unification, 1833-1872. - 12 pgs. - Again the biography of
an individual fills much of the chapter. We do learn quite a bit about
Garibaldi in addition to his participation in events in Italy. Boot remarks at
the outset that the unification of Italy "was only partially the result of
a guerrilla war, but it would give rise to the most famous guerrilla leader of
the nineteenth century -one who would remain a prototype for self-styled
freedom fighters up to the present day." This is his unstated rationale
for devoting so much space in the chapters on modern warfare to descriptions of
the leading revolutionaries and, where applicable, their written doctrines. The
biography of Garibaldi here is interesting and well told. Manzzini is given
credits also. Mr. Boot concludes of Garibaldi, "He was the forerunner of
all the twentieth century guerrillas who would become international
Chapter 19 - Revolutionary Consequences: The Liberal
Achievement - 2 pgs. - Another transition chapter leading to book III. Boot
writes an overall summary of the successes and failures of liberal 'revolts' in
Europe and America in the first half of the 19th century.
Book III - Chapter 20 - The Wars that Weren't :Why Did So Few
Guerrillas Resist the European Advance? - 4 pgs. - The author wonders why so
few local rulers in Africa and Asia failed to use guerrilla tactics against the
colonizing Europeans. For one thing they did not realize the power of the
Europeans and for another, when they did try too late, they resorted to
conventional military methods. But there were exceptions, such as Chechens,
Pashtuns, Moroccans, Filipinos and Boers - and North American Indians.. These
are the topics of Book III - The Spreading Oil Spot.
Chapter 21 - The Skulking way of War: The 'forest wars' in
Eastern North America, 1622-1842 - 9 pgs. - This is about Europeans versus
Native Americans - it starts with Braddock's famous defeat. "The acme of
guerrilla skill is to spring an ambush on a completely unsuspecting foe".
Next is Powhatan's earlier surprise attack on Jamestown. Then Boot mentions
several of the conflicts between colonists and Indians along the east coast.
Actually, some involved guerrilla war and some did not. And the French use of
Indians against the British - then the British use of Indians against the
Americans (which Boot does not discuss) are examples of both guerrilla warfare
waged by those for whom it was normal practice and of terrorism employed by a
Chapter 22 - The Winning of the West: Braves vs Bluecoats,
1848-1890 - 13 pgs. - The author rightly contrasts the earlier conflict between
colonists along the eastern seaboard with the warfare on plains and mountains
west of the Mississippi. He particularly rates Generals Cook and Miles as the
best of the Army commanders. His start date is 1848 but he skips the Great
Sioux war of the 1860's, The chapter content is mostly a few vignettes about
specific battles. Several are Army attacks on Indian villages rather than
guerrilla war. Good to see he mentions that Custer had a battery of Gattling
guns left at post and that the Indians had better rifles than the Cavalry. He
considers these ' counterinsurgency campaigns' but I don't consider the Indians
to be insurgents. They were natives defending their homeland from an invastion,
like the Britons and Celts defending against the Romans.
Chapter 23 The Winning of the East: The Holy War against Russia
in Chechnya and Dagestan, 1829-1859 - 10 pgs. The chapter opens with a passing
reference to the Roman siege of Masada. Then the author shifts to the Caucuses
and the Russian campaign there in 1832. Of course the chapter title is a clever
play on words, since Chechnya was south of central Russia, not east of it. It
seems to me, again, that the Chechens and other tribes were defending a
homeland against invaders and were using guerrilla tactics to do it. As he
frequently does, Mr. Boot draws parallels between this campaign and the
American Army versus Indians; and between Toussaint Louverture and Shamil.
Another parallel he creates is between Russian general Alexander Bariatinsky
and American general David Petraeus. And Shamil was enforcing a fanatical
version of Islam similar to Al Qaeda in Iraq. The author's assessment;
"Like all great counterinsurgents, even the most liberal, Bariatinsky did
not limit himself to such 'hearts and minds'; appeals. "Rather than
undertake futile punitive expeditions, he launched a systematic reduction of
all rebel strongholds in Dagestan.' And, "The civilizational strife
pitting Muslim raiders against countries full of unbelievers may not be new,
but it has changed shape over the centuries." Now the Islamic fanatics are
worse in many ways. But the author also calculates that 'the pacification of
the Caucasus was twenty-one times more costly than the pacification of the
trans-Mississippi West." The chapter ends with a preview sentence about
the first Afghan war.
Chapter 24 Dark Defiles: The First Anglo-Afghan War, 1838-1842
- 8 pgs. The chapter, as expected, begins with a graphic description of the
British retreat from Kabul. The author comments rightly, "Yet Afghanistan
is far from unconquerable. It was overrun by invaders from Alexander the Great
in the fourth century BC to Genghis Khan in the thirteenth century AD and Babur
(founder of the Mogul Empire) in the sixteenth century." Moreover, he
notes that the British still held Jalalabad and Kandahar and soon mounted a new
invasion. Mr. Boot then mentions the two subsequent Anglo-Afghan wars 1878 and
1919. And he notes that occupation or even significant control of Afghanistan
was never the British objective, rather it was to keep Russia out, and they
succeeded. The First Anglo-Afghan War was much more complex in origin and
outcome than B. Boot describes - read William Dalrymple's Return of the
But during the centuries from before Alexander to well after Babur, Afghanistan
was not a country anyway - it was a geographic region sometimes split between
its neighbors to north, south, east and west and sometimes actually the
political center of an expanding domain that might include Iran and/ or India
as far as its east coast. So it could not be 'overrun'.
Mr. Boot's appraisal, "The British had shown another important attribute
for this type of conflict; willingness to settle for minimalist rather than
maximalist goals." They compromised.
Chapter 25 Northwest Frontier: Britain and the Pashtuns
-1897-1947 - 5 pgs. Quite correctly Mr. Boot points out that the Pashtun's
inside the Raj domain were a more troublesome and dangerous lot than the
Afghans. Never under full British control, the area remains today a source of
problems for Pakistan. The author compares the British methods of local control
with those of the Romans. He focuses on Colonel Sir Robert Warburton as an
extremely effective administrator. He mentions the Malakand Field Force and
campaigns into Swat Valley.
Sir Aurel Stein was there and subsequently made three expeditions through the
region as far north as the Russian and Chinese borders which he crossed. The
many photographs in his published reports are striking views of the local
people and their environment between 1900 and 1914.
Mr. Boot considers that Churchill's first hand observation of this campaign led
him to conduct the bombing of German and Japanese cities in WWII. He notes also
the changes in technology - on one side the increased power of the British
enabled them to exercise better control, but on the other side now it is
technological improvements that have enabled the Pashtuns to become, 'the hub
of a world wide terrorist network.'
Chapter 26 Mission Civilisatrice: Lyautey in Morocco, 1912-1925
- 7 pgs. So how did the Europeans do it? control huge populations and vast
areas. "Like the ancient Romans, nineteenth-century Europeans combined a
harsh response to native revolts with benign measures designed to win
acquiescence to their rule." "The great theoretician of these
policies, which came eventually to be called the 'hearts and minds,' or
'population-centric', school of counterinsurgency, was the French marshal Louis
Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey.' Boot provides a thumbnail bio. and a brief summary of
the European colonial race. Lyautey was stationed in Indochina, where he met
Colonel Galliene, his mentor in pacification methods. They both then went to
Madagascar, where they practiced what they were preaching. Then it was on to
Algeria and the border with Morocco in 1903. From there he became the French
resident general exercising their control of the country. The author provides
more examples from Africa. He writes, :"Civil action', has to be a part of
any successful counterinsurgency. That does not mean, however, that it can be a
substitute for military action.'.
Chapter 27 Commandos: Britain's Near-defeat in South Africa,
1899-1902 - 14 pgs. We are only one third through the book and the chapters and
content are becoming more focused on our contemporary conditions. Again, the
chapter begins with a story, reports of heavy British losses in the first
months of the Boer War - in three battles. The British soon increased their
forces from 20,000 to 250,00 and drove the Boers out of their capital towns.
But that is when the 30,000 Boers began serious guerrilla warfare that lasted
for 2 more years. The leading Boer commander was Christian de Wet who built on
his experience fighting Africans to develope effective. mobile and guerrilla
tactics. Another successful leader was Jan Smuts. British Lord Roberts began
burning Boer villages and crops, a policy Lord Kitchener expanded into a
systematic destruction of the Boer economic base. They the British set up
'concentration camps' and put over 150,00 Boer women and children in them. This
method was not a new one - but similar to American Indian reservations. But a
new situation was - the British Liberal press and politicians soon denounced
the whole affair as 'barbarism'. The Boer tactic of guerrilla raids depended on
mobility. The author notes that preventing this is an important objective of
counterinsurgency. The British built block houses and barbed wire
entanglements. They employed armored trains and massive round ups. Boer leader
De Wet considered the most effective British policy was recruiting Africans and
Boers into the fight. These provided the essential intelligence in support of
British long range patrols. Once the Boers surrendered the British began
reconstruction and assistance. The Boers went on to fight against the Germans
and Axis powers in WWI and WWII.
Chapter 28 High Noon for Empire: Why Imperialism Carried the
Seeds of Its Own Destruction 4 pgs.- another Transition chapter - The Boer War
and insurrection in Philippines both were excellent examples of guerrilla war
and demonstrated all the advantages of these methods. But in both cases the
guerrillas lost. But they did get the attention of military professionals. And
the wars generated attention by growing public opinion and liberal political
policies that forced new constraints. "Imperialism carried the seed of its
own destruction in other ways. By setting up schools and newspapers that
promulgated Western doctrines such as nationalism and Marxism, Western
administrators inadvertently spurred widespread resistance to their own rule
starting in the 1920's". Plus, the potential insurgents got new weapons.
Kipling was more correct in his predictions than he realized. The next section
changes themes to terrorism.
Book IV - Chapter 29 Suicide Knifers: The Assassins, AD 1090 -
1256 - 6 pgs. The author rightly comments that "so far terrorists have
been largely absent from this narrative. Partially this is a matter of
terminology." (Lets say definitions.) He mentions several examples of use
of terrorism but insists that those so engaged were not 'terrorists' because
they were not 'non-state' actors. "Terrorism, as defined here, MUST be
carried out by substate groups." He refers back to the Prologue and 'a
restrictive definition, admittedly, but one that makes sense lest, as too often
happens, this term is employed so indiscriminately that it becomes devoid of
Here is claims justification for what I consider a major flaw in the book.
Terrorism has been a policy of organized governments frequently throughout
history. And Mr. Boot's definition excludes IRAN, the major identified source
of terrorism today. Iran is pointedly excluded from the book. Philip Bobbitt's
book "Terror and Consent" has a much more important discussion of the
role of state supported terrorism in the future.
He continues; "The relative absence of terrorists up to this point,
however, is due less to semantics than to the inescapable fact that prior to
the nineteenth century there were very few terrorist groups." Well, yes,
since you exclude government terrorists. Granted individual assassins are not
He nevertheless here jumps back centuries to discuss the famous Assassins with
a dubious effort at relevance. "The most successful premodern group to
systematically employ terror was found, appropriately enough considering that
regions' centrality to modern terrorism, in the Middle East. Why is this
obvious coincidence 'appropriately enough'?
He follows with a good, brief, overview of the activities of the Assassins. But
he has to note that their 'terrorism' was not directed at the masses, without
mentioning that ancient government terrorism was directed at civilian society.
Then he writes, "Unlike guerrilla warfare, the most ancient form of
warfare, terrorism is strikingly modern. It has been made possible by the
spread of four phenomena; destructive and portable weaponry, the mass media,
literacy, and secular ideologies."
Well, I dispute this notion and refer again to Philip Bobbitt's book in which
he shows the role of terrorism throughout history. Some terrorists (according
to Mr. Boot's definition) failed and other succeeded. He asks, "Why, then,
did some terrorists succeed where others failed? He then writes a typical
transition sentence to introduce us to someone 'who helped spark the bloodiest
conflict in U. S. history." A bit of an overstatement in my
Chapter 30 John Brown's Body: The Terrorist Who Helped start
the Civil War, 1856-1859 - 7 pgs. - Again, the chapter begins with a narration
of an event - this one the Pottawatomie Massacre. This is one of the chapters
in which the author devotes extra space to one individual, in this case John
Brown. He dismisses the minor guerrilla operations of Confederate officers such
as John S. Mosby. But places inordinate significance on John Brown and
"Bloody Kansas' in general, but most of the chapter is about Brown's raid
at Harper's Ferry, VA. although he does note that Brown was 'not much of a
I disagree with Mr. Boot that he was much of a terrorist also either. And
readers of Thomas Fleming's detailed historical study of the origins of the war
(Disease in the Public Mind) will consider that John Brown was a symptom
and result of the broader causes of the war, on the northern side the hatred of
the abolitionists who financed and urged him on.
Chapter 31 The Destruction of Reconstruction: Ku Kluxers and
the war against Civil Rights, 1866-1876 - 8 pgs. - The chapter opens with
another narration of an event - a May 1871 attack on Elias Hill. This leads to
a summary of the origin and activities of the KKK. Mr. Boot believes that
"the KKK was a rural group, and it was one of the largest and most
successful terrorist organizations in history. Because of its ruthless campaign
of murder and intimidation, the promise of Reconstruction would not be realized
for another century."
Well, lets just say that I think there was much more involved as causations for
the deplorable status of Blacks in America until the Civil Rights' Movement of
the 1960's. Southern white society did not create 'Jim Crow' laws and other
suppressive measures as a result of the KKK alone. The northern abolitionist
demand to destroy Southern culture generated significant reaction. Actually,
the Jim Crow laws weren't passed until the 1890's after the Populist -
Progressive movement embraced 'racism'.
Chapter 32 Propaganda by the Deed: Anarchists, ca. 1880-ca.
1939 - 9 pgs. - Another opening incident, a bombing in Paris in 1880. Mr. Boot
focuses on the perpetrator, Leon Martin- Emile Henry. Then he mentions
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Mikhail Bakunin, and Sergei Nechaev and Peter
Kuropatkin. All these fellows and thousands more were anarchists - people
determined to overthrow government itself. Some of the more famous victims are
mentioned as well. Mr. Boot lists some statistics - between 1880 and 1914
anarchists hit 16 countries, killed 160 people and wounded at least 500. But
they failed. I recommend that the author discuss in more detail the philosophy
and objectives of the anarchists and why they fit into the social - political
environment of their times.
Chapter 33 Hunting the Tsar: The nihilists on the Trail of
Alexander II; 1879-1881 - 3 pgs. Another date, August 26, 1879, "the day
the Tsar (Alexander II) was sentenced to death". The chapter is a good
summary of the People' Will campaign to kill the Tsar and other Imperial
Chapter 34 "An Uncontrollable Explosion" Socialist
Revolutionaries in Russia 1902-1917 5 pgs. The author continues with his
Russian theme with Vera Figner's reaction to success in the assassination of
the Tsar Emancipator. He continues with further activities of the Socialist
Revolutionary Party. Among the useful facts he presents is the actual (versus
propaganda) facts about the extent of the Russian police and prison system. For
instance: "In 1895 the Okhrana had only 161 full-time employees and the
Gendarmes fewer than 10,000 most of whom did apolitical policing, to watch over
136 million people spread over eleven time zones. Russia had over 'one hundred
times fewer policeman per capita than France. He gives much more detail on
actual police versus terrorists in Russia prior to 1914. He quotes experts to
the effect that, yes, the revolutionary terrorists did have a significant
effect in bringing down the Tsars.
Chapter 35 Shinners and Peelers: The Irish War of Independence,
1919-1921 - 14 pgs. The opening anecdote narrates the Irish revolutionaries'
ambush of British police. It continues with the failed Irish terrorist attack
in April 1916, then other attacks. The chapter focuses mostly on Michael
Collins, whom the author declares, Irish eventual independence 'was due in no
small part to the genius of one man: Michael Collins." - a professional
revolutionary. He was the organizer of "Bloody Sunday" in 1920 when
14 of the British special agents were murdered followed by a British killing of
Irish spectators at a soccer match. This led to the IRA widespread attacks on
police and British military and brutal retaliation. Soon the British had 50,000
troops and 14,000 police fighting 5,000 active Irish terrorists. Britain was
suffering from the impact of World War One. Liberal Prime minister, David Lloyd
George was not willing to employ Lord Kitchner's methods from the Boer War not
British methods in Iraq in 1920. Political limitations. In subsequent
negotiations the southern 26 counties became the Irish Free State and the
northern 6 counties remained in the United Kingdom. The IRA continued to wage
terrorism in Northern Ireland unsuccessfully. His analysis of terrorism and
guerilla war would have benefited from inclusion of the IRA efforts in Northern
Ireland and England into the 1970's.
Mr. Boot effectively uses these different outcomes to point to their causes,
among them the role of good intelligence for both sides. He considers that IRA
operations in the country side were of the guerrilla mode, while operations in
urban areas were terrorist mode. Terrorist operations continued for years after
but their excesses led to failure. The author concludes; "His (Collins)
experience shows that the most successful terrorist campaigns are waged for
causes, usually nationalist, which have widespread acceptance among the
population and are supported by political parties and regular or irregular
military forces - just as must successful guerrillas are supported by
conventional military forces." "Terrorists do better, moreover, if
they fight a democratic nation with a free press whose coverage will help to
magnify their attacks while restraining the official response."
"There is not much terrorism in totalitarian states, because the secret
police can ruthlessly snuff it out"
His conclusion is based on his definitions for guerrilla war and terrorism.
What about the terrorism that the totalitarian government itself is using to
'snuff out' all political dissent?
Chapter 36 The Terrorist Mind: Sinners or Saints? 5 pgs.- This
is the concluding chapter of this book on the "Bomb Throwers" - that
is, a previous era of terrorism. Thus the title alludes to two opposing
attitudes taken about them.
But, did the KKK actually have 'hundreds of thousands of members"? I don't
have any idea. But I don't believe the imposition of 'Jim Crow laws and
segregation in general was an exclusive result of successful KKK actions. The
author assesses the strengths, weaknesses, victories and losses of the examples
from prior chapters. He also adds several other groups such as the Internal
Macedonian Revolutonary Organization and the Serbian Black Hand. He points out,
"The terrorists of yesteryear pioneered most of the techniques employed by
present-day extremists, from car bombings to suicide bombings." Note how
19th century terrorists become today's 'extremists'. Boot mostly discusses the
literary and academic depictions of terrorists and terrorism and whether or not
there is such a thing as 'terrorist mentality'. He cites opinions of Jerrold
Post and Alan Krueger but does not offer a final conclusion.
Book V - Chapter 37 The Thirty Year's War: Blood Brothers and
Brownshirts, 1914-1945 5 pgs. This chapter opens a new book about guerrilla
operations in the World Wars. It begins with a narration of the assassination
of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The author jumps to World War II and
asserts that those wars also originated in internal terrorism, that of German
and Japanese militarists used terror to size power. This is the first I have
read that Hitler was a militarist. He writes, "From then (Reichstag fire)
on terrorism in Nazi Germany was to be a state monopoly"
Excellent, but I thought terrorism by definition was a method of non-state
actors. "Terrorism worked in Japan because the terrorists represented a
significant and influential constituency, including a large portion of the
armed forces." Again true, but what about that definition? Boot accepts
Philip Bobbitt's view of the "Long War' of the 20th century 1914 - 1989
without acknowledgment. But he persists in the popular concept that the Nazis
were 'right wing' totalitarians. He previews the following chapters that will
discuss some of the isolated guerrilla campaigns of the 20th century.
Chapter 38 The Evolution of an Archaeologist: "Lawrence of
Arabia," 1916-1935 - 14 pgs.- The chapter again opens with a narrative,
the meeting of the British - Egyptian Camel Corps in 1918 with Arab Emir Feisal
and T. E. Lawrence. The reader then finds a summary biography of Lawrence. Then
follows a summary of some of Lawrence's application of Arab guerrilla tactics
against the Turkish garrisons. The rest of the chapter is about Lawrence's
influence after World War I. We could do with a lot more about the guerrilla
tactics and less about Lawrence.
Chapter 39 The Regular Irregulars: The Birth of the Special
Forces in World War II 4 pgs.- The chapter begins with Capt. Teodore von
Hipple's Brandenburg commandoes in May 1940 attacking into Netherlands and
Belgium. The Germans also had a 'forerunner of today's SEALS". But most
special forces in WWII were in the Allied armies. Churchill established the
British Army Commandoes in 1940 and the civilian Special Operations Executive.
Soon came the Long-Range Desert Group and the Special Air Service and Popski's
Private Army. The leaders of these organizations had studied the Boers (from
whom the name commandos came), the IRA, and Lawrence.
Chapter 40 Wingate's Wars: "Wayward Genius' in Palestine,
Abyssinia, and Burma, 1936-1944 - 14 pgs. - The story continues with that of
Orde Charles Wingate, who conducted irregular operations in Palestine,
Abyssinia and Burma during World War II. His biography begins the chapter. Then
come his exploits culminating in Burma, where he led the Chindits, who suffered
fearsome losses on their first campaign in Burma. Despite this he became a hero
and met with Churchill and Roosevelt in 1943. From this came the NO.1 Air
Commando, a glider force. But he led the second Chindit campaign which Boot
describes in more detail than some other events. Wingate died in an air crash.
The Chindits fell under Stilwell's disastrous control, along with Merrill's
Marauders, both of which forces were virtually destroyed by Stilwell's
animosity. This is clearly included as an example of conventional generals
failure to appreciate (even disdain for) effective unconventional
Chapter 41 Resistance and Collaboration: Yugoslavia, 1941-1945,
and the Limits of Scorched-Earth Counterinsurgency - 7 pgs. Mr. Boot mentions
that the OSS continued the irregular warfare in Burma. He quotes a CIA report
"Japanese terrorism... roused the whole people to a general
anti-imperialistic feeling." But I thought governments didn't conduct
'terrorism', according to Mr. Boot. He briefly mentions guerrilla forces in
Asia, such as 225,000 in the Philippines. He shifts the scene then to Europe.
He considers that guerrilla resistance in Western Europe was less impressive.
But it was different in Eastern Europe. He writes that Hitler ignored the
examples of the British and Romans in their policies. Initially thousands of
East Europeans entered the German army. But Nazi methods turned the people
against them. Boot mentions the Soviet partisan movement. And he includes the
French Resistance assisting Jedburgh teams. But he devotes most attention to
guerrilla operations in the Balkans, specifically Yugoslavia. He credits Tito
with effective use of printing presses, propaganda, and communist
indoctrination. He quotes, "Yugoslavia," notes Mark Mazower,
"was the only place in Europe where a partisan movement seized
control." But Boot's summary conclusion is "Still, for all of Tito's
undoubted cunning, ruthlessness, and fortitude, if the Nazi high command had
been free to concentrate its resources in Yugoslavia for a prolonged period of
time, the Partisans in all likelihood would have been crushed."
Chapter 42 Assessing the "Supersoldiers" Did
Commandos Make a Difference? - 4 pgs. - This chapter concludes this book with
an appraisal of results. They made "dramatic contributions".
Especially , it seems, to movies. The author notes that questions about
cost-effectiveness and morality might be raised. Allied guerrilla operations in
occupied areas resulted in mass deaths and destruction of innocent civilians
inflicted by Germans and Japanese who accused the Allies of 'terrorism'. He
notes that Field Marshal Slim believed the special units were not worth it.
Allied governments disbanded most special units after the war. There was
considerable skepticism about the effectiveness of special units. There were
some successes and numerous failures. He concludes that one result of Allied
distribution of weapons to peoples was to increase the arms of those soon to
fight wars of 'national liberation" the subject of the next book.
Book VI - Chapter 43 The World After the War: The Slipping
European Grip - 6 pgs. - This is the opening chapter of the book on "The
End of Empire" The chapter opens with a description of how bad off the
British were after World War II. The author then points out, "It is vital
to underscore how weak the two biggest colonial powers were by 1945 in order to
understand why decolonization swept the world in the next few years and why
anti-Western guerrillas and terrorists appeared to be ascendant." The
chapters will discuss Mao Zedong's and Ho Chi Minh's victories, the FLN victory
in Algeria and the British success in Malaya. But, "It would be more
accurate to say that the empires were beaten from within. Nationalist uprisings
contributed to the end of the imperial age, but seldom were they the decisive
factor." Boot also notes that the American Government pressured the
European colonial powers to give it up. It was the French who attempted the
most strenuously to hold on to their colonies, particularly Indochina and
Algeria , and also for a time in Syria and Madagascar. However, the Portuguese
held out the longest in Guinea Bissau, Angola and Mozambique, until a coup in
Lisbon resulted in rapid withdrawal..
Chapter 44 The Rise of the Red Emperor: Mao Zedong's Long march
to Power, 1921-1949 - 19 pgs. - The chapter opens in Shanghai in the 1920's
with the creation of the Chinese Communist Party. Some biographical information
about Mao follows, as well as information about Chiang Kai-shek. The chapter
contains a narrative of their struggle. Mr. Boot credits Edgar Snow and his
book, Red Star over China, with great influence over the public,
especially Western. The author explains Mao's theories, but notes that their
wide spread publication and influence was due to Mao's dictatorial control over
the publishing process. He also notes. "Ironically Japan did as much as
any power to aid the Communist takeover even though its leaders had no sympathy
for communism." This of course is due to the Japanese invasion and
diversion of the Nationalist government from fighting the Communists for years.
Plus the Japanese withdrawal enabled the Communists to acquire significant
abandoned military resources in Manchuria.
Chapter 45 Adieu at Dien Bien Phu :The Indochina War, 1945-1954
- 17 pgs. - The chapter begins on 20 November 1953 in Muong Than, Vietnam. The
day saw the arrival by parachute of two French Colonial battalions led by Major
Marcel Bigeard. "A modern day cavalier whose lack of fear and love of
combat were reminiscent of warriors as disparate as Shamil, George Armstrong
Custer, and Orde Wingate." We read Bigeard's biography, then about the
French Far Eastern Expeditionary Corps fighing in Indochina since 1953, and a
brief biography of Nguyen Tat Thant (Ho Chi Minh). Ho's field commander was Vo
Nguyen Giap. Boot narrates the main events in the long war. The siege of Dien
Bien Phu is described well. Its loss only counted 3% of the French forces in
country, just as the British could have continued after Yorktown. But the war
was too unpopular in France. The loss was "a crippling psychological blow
and one that resonated far beyond Southeast Asia. The worst defeat suffered by
a modern Western empire in a colonial war - the equivalent of Custer's Last
Stand fifty-seven times over - it confirmed the lesson of Singapore's fall by
showing that 'black,' 'brown' and 'yellow' combatants were no longer inferior
to the Caucasians who had dominated them on the assumption that they were a
'superior race'." "That the French lost despite having considerably
more resources than the Vietminh should hardly be surprising." The French
were using conventional, heavy firepower, tactics against an elusive foe. Most
important, they could not cut off the Vietminh from outside support. Next up -
Chapter 46 "Convince or Coerce" :The Algerian War of
Independence, 1945-1962 - 13 pgs.- The chapter opens with "The use of
torture is older than civilization itself, but its form has changed over the
centuries." This is an assertion without much evidence. But the author
continues with a graphic description of some modern torture methods. These are
then being applied to one Henri Alleg by French paratroops in Algeria. In true
journalistic style the author likes to present stories of individuals for
effect. The Algerians Muslims, led by Ramdane Abane, began a war of terror
against the million French colonists to drive them out by psychological
warfare. Similar campaigns were being waged in Keyna and other colonies. Soon
it was terror wielded by both sides. Then came the Battle of Algiers in which
the French paratroops took over the Casbah and some 4000 Moslems disappeared.
We find Marcel Bigeard, now a Lt. Col. in the thick of the action again. Mr.
Boot writes, "In recent years the myth has become prevalent that torture
doesn't work, that suspects simply tell their interrogators whatever they want
to hear. If that were the case, the prevalence of harsh interrogation methods -
used by both insurgents and counterinsurgents throughout history - would be
inexplicable. in fact few detainees are able to hold out as Henri Alleg
did." The use of torture in Algeria was effective. The paratroops were
able to dismantle the FLN in Algiers and captured one leader, Yadcef Sasdi
while the other, Ali la Pointe, died. "The French were winning the war not
only in Algiers but also in the rest of the country. The author backs his
assertion up with details. The FLN was driven out of Algeria and launched
attacks from Tunisia, which were blocked by a French border fortification
system employing also helicopters. "This unrelenting pressure prevented
the FLN from making the transition, as the Vietnamese and Chinese Communists
had done in accordance with Maoist teaching, to conventional warfare."
"By 1959, with the number of FLN attacks rapidly falling, the French armed
forces had all but won the war militarily. Yet they were about to suffer a
crushing political defeat." "The instrument of the French army's
undoing was its own hero- Charles de Gaulle."
Meanwhile the FLN was winning the diplomatic and propaganda war at the UN and
in the US and inside France as well. "Its worldly envoys succeeded in
winning international recognition despite their fighter' lack of success on the
ground - a feat that would inspire the African National Congress, the Palestine
Liberation Organization, and other 'national liberation' movements that were to
substitute public relations prowess for traditional measures of military
This is one of the most important insights the author makes.
So de Gaulle opted for his own prestige to "enhance France's
grandeur" and grant independence. This triggered an opposite war of
terror. The French inhabitants attempted several coups, then resorted to a
terror campaign worse than that of the FLN. They were finally destroyed when
the French Army remained loyal to de Gaulle.
The author cannot resist making another comparison. "In some ways it (the
campaign above) resembled the post-Civil War Ku Klux Klan, another
white-supremacist terrorist group, with with a decisive difference: the KKK had
the tacit support of the majority of the Southern population (59 percent white)
whereas the OSS acted on behalf of a European minority outnumbered almost nine
I believe this is stretching a point quite far.
Once independent, the FLN killed and tortured at least 30,000 Moslems who had
supported the French. Boot's final conclusion:
" The Algerian War was the most dramatic example since the Greek
Revolution in the 1820's of how a guerrilla organization defeated on the
battlefield could nevertheless prevail by winning 'the battle of the
narrative'". "From now on Western soldiers would have to pay
increasing attention to an aspect of warfare - information operations -
"that had not unduly troubled their predecessors who had fought colonial
conflicts in centuries past."
Chapter 47 A Man and a Plan: Briggs, Templer, and the Malayan
Emergency, 1948-1960 - 11pgs. - The chapter begins on February 7, 1952 in Kuala
Lumpur when General Sir Gerald Templer arrived. Readers learn a bit about
Templer's background and about the origins of the guerrilla uprising in Malaya.
The Communists were waging a terror war against the British and other Europeans
in Malaya. Templer was sent as 'the man' but the 'plan' had already been
prepared by Sir Harold Briggs based on his experience in jungle fighting in
Burma. Among other measures it included settling the Chinese into
'reconcentration' camps. The author discusses the special strengths of the
British versus the Chinese insurgents in Malaya
Chapter 48 "A Distinctively British Approach"? by the
British Succeeded - at Least Sometimes 5 pgs. - This is a summary chapter in
which the author draws some conclusions. The questions is about the possible
lessons to be learned from the British experience in Malaya versus the French
in Indochina and Algeria. Some critics cite the special advantages the British
had in Malaya. But Boot notes that the British did have an effective strategy
in Malaya based on 'close civil-military cooperation, a search for a political
settlement, and the avoidance of large scale 'search and destroy' missions in
favor of 'clear and hold' operations designed to control the population
combined with targeted raids on insurgent lairs utilizing accurate intelligence
and minimal firepower." He cites the opinions of various other
commentators. He notes that similar tactics were employed in Morocco (by the
French) and the Philippines (by the Americans). The chapter includes mention of
a number of other British campaigns, some unsuccessful. He notes that the
French in Indochina and Algeria faced very much larger opponents. Still, the
British had more success with a 'minimalist' tactic than the French had with a
'maximalist' tactics. He continues, "In no small part this was because the
British paid greater attention to the political side of the business".
Meanwhile, he notes, Mao and HO Chi Minh also stressed the political side of
conflict. He concludes with another 'look ahead'. "The potency of this
one-two punch, political and military, would be demonstrated anew not only in
the second Vietnam War but also in countries as far-flung as Cuba and
Book VII - Chapter 49 Two Sides of the Coin: The Guerrilla
Mystique in the 1960s-1970s - 3 pgs. - The chapter is an introduction to the
content of this 'book' in which Mr. Boot has selected a few out of the many
conflicts of the 1960's, many of which he notes involved guerrilla warfare or
terrorism or both. He comments, "Never before or since has the glamour and
prestige of irregular warfare been higher." But he gives very poor marks
to most of these 'movements' despite their having been extolled by the likes of
Robert Tabor. "Some governments had considerable success in suppressing
'resistance movements'". A number of experts such as David Galula and Sir
Robert Thompson, wrote excellent studies of counterinsurgency. But, the author
believes, this kind of conflict was either ignored or depreciated by
establishment military organizations. He closes with another 'look ahead'.
"A hand full of counterinsurgency experts tried to get the American
military to use very different tactics to fight a very different foe. None was
more innovative, more famous, and ultimately more frustrated than Edward Geary
Lansdale, the 'Quiet American'".
Chapter 50 The Quiet American: Edward Lansdale and the Huk
Rebellion, 1945-1954 - 6 pgs. - This chapter begins with a short professional
bio. of Lansdale and his association with Ramon Magsaysay. At Lansdale's advice
Magsaysay instituted a program in which his troops were 'goodwill ambassadors',
but also effective raiders. Military methods were accompanied by psychological
warfare, public relations and 'civil action' methods. And the army protected
the 1951 legislative election and the 1953 presidential election. Finally the
Huk's were defeated. But Magsaysay died and Ferdinand Marcos took power as a
dictator. Nevertheless, the Lansdale-Magaysay campaign was a model for
Chapter 51 Creating South Vietnam: Lansdale and Diem, 1954-1956
- 6 pgs. - Lansdale's success in the Philippines led to his posting to Vietnam
in 1954. There he advised Diem on counter insurgency. Mr. Boot recounts some of
Lansdale's exploits and failures. Again, his central policy was 'nation
building and civic action'. But Diem was opposed not only by the armed sects
(such as Cao Dai and Hoa Hao), the gangster Binh Xuuen and the French - and
even the American ambassador. Lansdale warned that Diem was the best choice to
create a new democratic country. He predicted that, if Diem was replaced, the
new leaders would be corrupt. But Diem was overthrown and killed in 1963 with
American 'connivance', read urging, and engineering.
I remember this disaster, as I was teaching at West Point, and also predicted
Boot writes that, "By the time Lansdale left Saigon at the end of 1956,
South Vietnam had defied the Cassandras to become a functioning state."
But by 1957 cadres of Communist insurgents were beginning a campaign of terror.
Edward Lansdale's role in both the Philippeans and Viet Nam is more fully
described in Robert Asprey's - War in the Shadows.
Chapter 52 The Other War: The Limitations of Firepower in
Vietnam, 1960-1973 - 14 pgs. The chapter begins with the point that Lansdale
was effectively kept out of action in Vietnam by his posting to the Pentagon.
Boot claims he was by then the most famous military adviser since Lawrence and
similarly was also the target of bureaucratic opposition. He writes that
President Kennedy proposed to send Lansdale to Vietnam as ambassador but the
idea was vetoed by Secretary of State Dean Rusk. Lansdale brought such
animosity and disapproval on himself by being too much a 'lone wolf'. He also
opposed the Bay of Pigs operation and wanted to create real opposition inside
Cuba. But he was over ruled on that also. His efforts to work internally to
disrupt the Cubans and North Vietnamese failed. President Kennedy's efforts to
expand 'special operations' also was made ineffective by the conventional
warfare minded senior Army officers. At most there was an effort to prepare to
conduct guerrilla warfare rather than to counter it. Mr. Boot writes,
"Low-intensity conflict necessitates an emphasis on policing and
controlling the population. The application of indiscriminate firepower can be
counterproductive if it results in unnecessary civilian casualties and thereby
drives more civilians into the rebels' arms."
In a very cogent remark, Mr. Boot points out that "no American
representative after his own (Lansdale) departure was able to establish that
kind of rapport with the prickly president. Similar woes would plague future
generations of American officials who had to deal with Jose Napoleon Duarte in
El Salvador, Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan and Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq."
In South Vietnam the most promising counterinsurgency initiative enacted
post-Lansdale was the Strategic Hamlets program set up at the urging of Sir
Robert Thompson. This was modeled on the New Villages in Malaya and kibbutzim
in Israel. Boot continues with narration of the events under President
Johnson's control. More previously learned lessons were ignored. Not only by
President Johnson and his inner circle, but even more by General Westmorland,
whose 'firepower' tactics were so fatally wrong. Boot, comments, "Like
Kitchner in the Boer War, Westmorland was indifferent to civilian suffering -
he measured the progress of the campaign by compiling highly suspect 'body
How well I remember from being there in 1967-68.
Lansdale was sent once more to Saigon in 1965, at the urging of Vice Presdent
Hubert Humphrey, but by then it was too late, since the American methods were
in full swing. He left again in 1968. Lansdale warned and warned, to no avail.
The Communists launched a premature regular offensive in January 1968 but were
so badly defeated that the Viet Cong was destroyed. Even so, this TET offensive
turned out to be a propaganda victory in the U.S. Westmorland became Army Chief
of Staff and Johnson declined to run for reelection. In 1972 Giap began another
premature regular offensive.
But he ignores the Role of William Colby and that he also was pressing for a
counterinsurgency program. Read Randall Wood's book Shadow Warrior.
Colby recommended the same concepts that Mr. Boot credits to Lansdale and faced
the same opposition and he was at one point the CIA's deputy station chief. But
that opposition came not only from American military but also from the
Vietnamese. Colby also opposed the American effort to oust the Diems.
Mr. Boot's summary conclusion, "Fickle political leadership undoubtedly
contributed to the worse military defeat in American history - but so did the
obtuseness of a military establishment that tried to apply a conventional
strategy to an unconventional conflict." Next, on to Cuba.
Chapter 53 M-26-7: Castro's Improbable Comeback, 1952-1959 -
13pgs. - This relatively long chapter begins with Fidel Castro's landing on 2
December1956 to initiate his 'revolution'. The usual biography follows. Like
other revolutionaries of the 1960's Castro had his American front man in
Herbert Matthews whose 'reporting' in the New York Times boosted Castro's
image. (Boot mentions Edgar Snow, from China days.) In December 1958 Castro
attacked with multiple groups. By then the US had practically abandoned
Batista, who fled the country. So Castro took over a country with a remarkably
tiny revolutionary group. That was the end of it. And the beginning of
Chapter 54 Foco or Loco? Che's Quixotic Quest, 1965-1967 - 10
pgs. This is about Che Guevara's efforts in Congo and Bolivia. Failure, but
Boot has to find a comparison. Like Che, John Brown was a darling of
progressive opinion in his day and a practitioner of focoism avant la
letter. Whether the American abolitionists were 'progressives' may be
questioned. But no question Che became a famous mythical hero. In two pages
Boot summarizes the unsuccessful efforts of revolutionaries in Latin American
during the 1960's.
Chapter 55 The Children of '68 - and '48: The Raid
on Entebbe and the Terrorism of the 1970's - 9 pgs. - Another incident, the
chapter begins at 12:20 on June 27, 1976 with the high-jacking of Air France
flight 139. A fine example of terrorism. Interestingly Boot has found the
earliest air piracy was in 1931 and the first air line bombing was in 1933. But
it was in the 1970's that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,
PFLP, made attacks on air liners a major tactic to generate terror. Mr. Boot
describes the Israeli response including a detailed narration of their rescue
mission to Entebbe. Boot continues with examples of other terrorist groups such
as Baader-Meinhof Gang, Red Brigades, Communist Combatant Cells, Japanese Red
Army, Provisional IRA, Basque ETA, and Greek Revolutionary Organization, Black
Panthers, and Weathermen plus more. He notes (good for him) the influence and
encouragement by radical philosophers such as Herbert Marcuse, Regis Debray and
Frantz Fanon "who provided them with justifications for their acts."
He describes some specific Symboinese Liberation army efforts and those of the
West German Red Army Faction.. His summary conclusion: "Through their
wanton cruelty the New Left terrorists, much like the anarchists, forfeited
whatever public sympathy they might have generated." "Terrorist
groups with a nationalist appeal, such as the ETA, IRA, and PKK, proved more
enduring". "Under its longtime chairman, Yasser Arafat, the PLO
proved to be a study in resiliency if not statesmanship". On the
Chapter 56 Arafat's Odyssey: What Terrorism Did and Did Not
Achieve for the Palestinians - 15 pgs. We learn Arafat's true background, his
creation of Fatah (not the PLO) with help from the Moslem Brotherhood, his
expulsion from Jordan and then Lebanon. Mr. Boot notes the numerous Arab
attacks into Israel from the 1930's on, including those by Egyptian and Syrian
governments, not Palestinians who, rather, were being used by the Arab
governments. "Fatah was a terrorist, not guerrilla organization." Its
primary power was an excellent public relations and propaganda machine. And it
became very rich. Arafat created 'Black September' which, among other exploits,
killed Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games. Boot describes the Israeli
retaliation. Then he narrates the long history of Arafat and the PLO. Another
apt conclusion. "The biggest victims of Palestinian terrorism in the final
analysis, were the Palestinians themselves. More than 3,200 of them died in the
Second Intifada alone - and without winning statehood."
Chapter 57 Left Out, or Rebels Without a Cause: The End of the
(Marxist) Affair in the 1980's - 3 pgs. - The author comments, "Like
everyone else, guerrillas and terrorists are subject to popular moods and
intellectual fads." The chapter is a summary of some of these waves of
fads and the associated guerrilla or terrorist campaigns. "By the 1980's
the bankruptcy of Marxism was apparent even to Marxist rulers. (Yes, but not to
American academics.) "The end of the old regimes in Moscow and Beijing
also had a more direct impact on insurgent groups by cutting off a valuable
source of subsidies, arms and training." "Although leftist insurgency
was on the wane, guerrilla warfare and terrorism were hardly disappearing. They
were simply assuming different forms as new militants shot their way into the
headlines motivated by the oldest grievances of all - race and religion".
End of book VII - opening transition for book VIII.
Book VIII - Chapter 58 Fifty Days That Shook the World:
Teheran, Mecca, Islamabad, and Kabul, November 4 - December 24, 1979 - 4 pgs. -
The chapter opens thusly, "The transition from politically motivated to
religiously motivated insurgence - from leftist to Islamist extremism - was the
product of decades, even centuries, of development. It could be traced back to
the writings of the Egyptian agitator Sayhyid Qutb in the 1950's - 1960's; to
the activities of Hassan al-Banna, who founded Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood in
1928; to the proselytizing of Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahhab, who in the eighteenth
century created the puritanical movement that would one day become the official
theology of Saudi Arabia; even to Iban Taymiyhya, the fourteenth century
theologian who laid the foundation for declaring fellow Muslims to be takfir
(apostates) and thus subject to attack; and to the seventh-century Kharijites
who believed that only the most fundamentalist Muslims were fit to rule."
Then comes the opening example - the 50 days starting on November 4, 1979. This
was the Iranian attack on the US embassy in Teheran. Then came the terrorist
attack on the Grand Mosque in Mecca. The terrorists were all killed, but the
Saudi regime instituted more strict Islamic regulations and provided funds to
spread Islam. Next was the attack on the American embassy in Islamabad. There
were also many ethnic conflicts, but these have been of lesser interest to
Chapter 59 Russia's Vietnam: The Red Army vs, the Mujahideen,
1980-1989 - 16 pgs. - The relatively lengthy chapter is a clear narration of
the Soviet war in Afghanistan with special attention to Massoud and the
Panjshir Valley. The author notes that eventually American military aid was
channeled through Pakistan, Zia ul-Hug, an Islamist, and thus armed the
Hizb-i-Islami created by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar - as anti-American as one could
I remember that in the 1980's my Afghan friends continually warned about
Hekmatyar and wished the USG would not arm him.
Boot claims that the Soviet decision to withdraw preceded the arrival of
Stinger missiles. The Soviet army was mostly driven out by Massoud's Tajiks and
Abdul Dostrum's Uzbeks. But then government corruption and chaos enabled the
ascendancy of the Taliban. Boot notes that the Pakistani government supported
the Taliban, but does not mention that they were and are Pushtun - the largest
ethnic group in country and jealous rivals of the Tajiks and Uzbeks.
During this time there were warning signs in Lebanon, the subject of the next
Chapter 60 The A Team: The "Party of God" in Lebanon,
1982-2006 - 14 pgs. - The opening incident is the attack on October 23, 1983 on
the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. The author then describes the creation of
Hezbollah by Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps members sent into Lebanon to
train Shia to fight Israel and 'infidels' inside Lebanon. A leading military
commander was Imad Mughniyeh. (Until he was killed in Damascus by an Israeli
car bomb.) Boot describes some of the worst Hezbollah terrorist attacks,
especially the suicide bombings used extensively prior to 1999. Hezbollah's
objective was to drive Israel out of Lebanon, and in this they were successful.
The author then turns to the war between Hezbollah and Israel. With new leader,
Nasrfallah, Hezbollah entered more into Lebanese politics and provide more
'civil action' type support for the Shia population.
The author digresses briefly to mention that there were guerrilla conflicts
elsewhere. But he considers Huntington's theory of a 'clash of civilizations to
be "overstated since there were as many classes within civilizations as
between them." He returns to describe the full- scale warfare between
Israel and Hezbollah in which the latter used both conventional and
On to Al Qaeda "a terrorist group that would soon eclipse Hezbollah in
noteriety, if not in effectiveness.".
Chapter 61 The Terrorist International: Osama bin Laden and Al
Qaeda, 1988-2011 - 14 pgs. - The chapter begins with the Arabic language
newspaper in London publishing in 1998 the al Qaeda declaration of war. But
this was not the first emergence of al Qaeda or bin Laden - the CIA was already
tracking him. A few of the author's comments:
"Bin Laden was hardly novel in his determination to use asymmetric means
to fight a more powerful foe. Nor was his religious fanaticism rare among
"The trend toward trans-national terrorism had already been evident among
the anarchist groups of the late nineteenth century and the leftist groups of
the 1970's, but Al Qaeda took this tendency to new heights thanks to its skill
in utilizing common yet sophisticated technologies."
"Osama bin Laden's rise to become the global face of terror - eclipsing
earlier celebrities such as Carlos the Jackal, Abu Nidal, and even Yasser
Arafat - was to say the least, improbable."
The author provides the usual brief biography focused on how bin Laden became a
He notes that 'the first terrorist attack came in Italy in 1991 when one of bin
Laden's followers attacked the exiled king of Afghanistan. Then there were two
bomb attacks in Aden.
Chapter 62 Carnage in Mesopotamia: Al Qaeda in Iraq since 2003
- 6 pgs. - The chapter begins with another mind-catching incident, the August
2003 bombing campaign in Baghdad and Najaf in the author's reportorial style
with gruesome details. Next come a background bit on the leading perp - Abu
Musab al-Zarqawi - The author's purpose ( which he uses throughout) is to
personalize the terror campaign and increase reader interest. Interestingly, he
comments: "Although the political scientist Robert Pape claims that
'suicide terrorism is mainly a response to foreign occupation,' most of the
suicide bombers in Iraq were not Iraqis and their targets were not foreign
Boot claims that al Zarqawi 'hated Shiites'. But his personal view served a
much larger objective, to generate warfare between Shiia and Sunni, in which
the Shiia would be the stronger, thus enabling AQI to interveen as the defender
of the Sunnis. Boot notes that the 'counter productive nature of Zarqawi's
attacks was clear even to his nominal superiors in Al Qaeda." Whatever,
the result was the start of a potential civil war, with the U.S. military
observing from the sidelines. Boot notes that the situation began to improve in
late 2006, when the Sunni tribes around Ramadi became fed up with AQI
infringements and extortions and began cooperating with the U.S. military. He
ties this tribal change and response to their belief that the U.S. military was
not on the point of leaving. Thus President Bush's commitment of 30,000 MORE
troops, over the objections of American military brass, and American public
opinion, was critical.
In this assessment Mr. Boot both gives credit to President Bush and also
implicitly points out that the initial defeat of AQI had nothing to do with
COIN. Mr. Boot has critical comments to make about Rumsfeld, Abizaid and Casey.
He finds a tie to the performance and reporting (the 'blithe assurances' ) of
McNamara and General Westmorland in Vietnam. The transition sentences: "To
implement this 'surge', the president called on a general with a professorial
air and mild manner that only partially masked a fierce will to win. If Osama
bin Laden had become the leading insurgent of the early twenty-first century,
David Howell Petraeus was about to become the leading counterinsurgent."
We will see in the next chapter.
Chapter 63 Counterinsurgency Rediscovered: David Petraeus and
the Surge, 2007-2008 - 12 pgs. Another chapter focuses on a well-known
personality given much? credit with implementing his personal theories. It
begins directly; "Before he could conquer Iraq, Petraeus first had to
conquer the U.S. Army, an institution famously resistant to intellectuals such
as this Princeton Ph.D."
Several questionable thoughts wrapped up in this one. Did General Petraeus
'conquer' Iraq? Did he 'conquer' the U.S. Army? Is the U.S. Army 'famous' for
being anti-intellectual? For that matter, was the U. S. Army responsible for
the whole set of failed policies that had contributed to the situation in Iraq
The rest of the chapter builds on the popular public relations story about
General Petraeus, begining with the usual, detailed background story, in which
he (similarly to the book 'All In') actually provides a picture of a
very, even hyper, ambitious personality. Boot comments: "Few American
commanders were well prepared for the chaotic post-invasion phase of Operation
Iraqi Freedom. Too many officers neglected nation-building and instead, like
the Israelis in Lebanon or, two centuries earlier the French in Spain, chased
after elusive insurgents in heavy-handed combat operations that killed or
incarcerated too many Iraqis and thus would up alienating the population."
In my opinion the fault was in even thinking of a 'nation-building' operation
in Iraq let alone assigning the Army to do such a thing. Much worse than the
failure in Iraq has been the detrimental result on the U.S. military.
So, anyway, Mr. Boot describes how Petraeus went to the USC&GS in between
tours in Iraq and supervised the writing of the new Army bible for COIN, FM
3-24. His opinion, "Field Manual 3-24, as it was known in military
circles, would become the most influential official publication on guerrilla
warfare, at least in the English-speaking world, since C. E. Callwell's
Small Wars (1896) and the Marine Corps' Small Wars Manual
(Note that inserted remark 'as it was known in military circles - a clear pitch
to the public claiming 'I am an insider too')
"It was not, however, uncontroversial within the military." He
elaborates on this theme while disapproving of criticism of COIN. He follows
with Petraeus' implementation of his concept for COIN as the new commander in
Iraq, which he considers a success. His transition to the following chapter is
a pre-apology for why Petraeus and COIN have not been such a success so
Chapter 64 Down and Out? The Failures and
Successes of the Global Islamist Insurgency - 3 pgs. - The chapter is an
assessment of Jihadist setbacks from the death of Osama bin Laden to various
uprisings from Libya to Bahrain. He also comments on American policy. But there
is no data driven analysis of the American campaign in Afghanistan.
Epilogue - 4 pgs. - This chapter is a clever closing of the
circle with a direct tie back to the Prologue - Here we accompany Lt.Col.
Daniel Schmitt to a meeting with local tribal leaders in Marjah, southern
Afghanistan on 23 October 2011. Mr. Boot ties this to his opening description
of Captain David Brunais on the streets of Baghdad 4.5 years previously. Boot
cannot resist another stretch, "Meetings with elders like him had been a
part of the routine for counterinsurgents since the days of Alexander the
Great, and indeed, aside from an expensive watch on his wrist, he did not look
as if he would have been out of place in a sit-down with the Macedonian
conqueror." The initial 'him' does not refer to the same antecedent as the
several 'he' in the sentence, but we can sort out the players. Boot's point
follows: "Little, it seemed, had changed during the preceding four and a
half years. Not withstanding the considerable differences between Iraq and
Afghanistan, American forces were conducting counterinsurgency using roughly
the same set of tactics, techniques, and procedures, and experiencing many of
the same frustrations and joys. But then by some measures little had changed
over the past five thousand years. Brunais and Schmitt were walking in the
footsteps of counterinsurgents going back to Sargon of Akkad, while Al Qaeda in
Iraq and the Taliban were spiritual descendants of the tribes from the Persian
highlands that had bedeviled Akkad and other Mesopotamian states. Both sides
had much to learn from the past about how to wage insurgency and
counterinsurgency - how to overthrow governments and how to safeguard
Read my book.
Implications; Twelve Articles or the Lessons of Five Thousand years -
Mr. Boot references T. E. Lawrence's 27 Articles and then provides his own
1. Guerrilla warfare has been ubiquitous and important throughout history.
2. Guerrilla warfare is not a 'Eastern Way of War", it is the universal
war of the weak.
3. Guerrilla warfare has been both underestimated and over estimated.
4. Insurgencies have been getting more successful since 1945 but still lose
most of the time.
5. The most important development in guerrilla warfare in the last two hundred
years has been the rise of public opinion.
6. Conventional tactics don't work against an unconventional threats.
7. Few counterinsurgents have ever succeeded by inflicting mass terror - at
least in foreign lands.
8. Population-centric counterinsurgency is often successful, but it's not as
touchy-felly as commonly supposed.
9, Establishing legitimacy is vital for any successful insurgency or counter
insurgency - and, in modern times, that is hard to achieve for a foreign group
10. Most insurgencies are long-lasting; attempts to win a quick victory
11. Guerrillas are most effective when able to operate with outside support -
especially with conventional army units.
12. Technology has been less important in guerilla war than in conventional war
- but that may be changing.