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Counterinsurgency has staked its claim in the new century as the new American way of war. Yet, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have revived a historical debate about the costs – monetary, political and moral – of operations designed to eliminate insurgents and build nations. Today's counterinsurgency proponents point to 'small wars' past to support their view that the enemy is 'biddable' if the correct tactical formulas are applied. Douglas Porch's sweeping history of counterinsurgency campaigns carried out by the three 'providential nations' of France, Britain and the United States, ranging from nineteenth-century colonial conquests to General Petraeus's 'Surge' in Iraq, challenges the contemporary mythologising of counterinsurgency as a humane way of war. The reality, he reveals, is that 'hearts and minds' has never been a recipe for lasting stability and that past counterinsurgency campaigns have succeeded not through state-building but by shattering and dividing societies while unsettling civil-military relations.Read more
- An important and timely challenge to counterinsurgency's claims as a formula for strategic success in the twenty-first century
- Historical case studies show that every insurgency is shaped by unique ethnic, geographic, resource, ideological and strategic factors that defy a formulaic approach
- Shows the roots of counterinsurgency as a nineteenth-century legacy of empire whose uniqueness and impact was mythologized in its own day as continues to be the case today
Reviews & endorsements
"In this brilliant volume master historian Douglas Porch shatters the myth of contemporary counterinsurgency by exposing its raw historical roots. American counterinsurgents often preach moralistic sounding bromides like 'protect and serve the local populations'. Porch deconstructs the mythical universe of counterinsurgency and lays bare the historical truth that they are ultimately wars of death, destruction, and often brute conquest."
Colonel Gian Gentile, United States Military Academy, West PointSee more reviews
"Douglas Porch has written one of the single most outstanding reviews and critiques of the modern theory of counter-insurgency. It fully exposes the myths and legends behind a fundamentally flawed and pernicious approach to conceptualising human conflict. This book should be essential reading for military students, scholars and laymen alike."
Alex Marshall, The Scottish Centre for War Studies, University of Glasgow
"… [an] illuminating and feisty book."
The Chronicle Review
"This is a rich, well supported study of a tendentious topic … it pulls together material on a remarkable variety of cases to make a powerful point that is valuable in the undergraduate and graduate classroom as well as for broader practitioner and public audiences."
Jacqueline L. Hazelton, H-Diplo
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- Date Published: August 2013
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9781107699847
- length: 445 pages
- dimensions: 228 x 151 x 20 mm
- weight: 0.7kg
- contains: 16 b/w illus. 7 maps
- availability: In stock
Table of Contents
1. A 'happy combination of clemency with firmness'. The small wars prologue
2. The road from Sedan
3. The paroxysms of imperial might in the shadow of the Great War
4. From Tipperary to Tel Aviv: British counterinsurgency in the shadow of World War II
5. From small wars to La Guerre Subversive. The radicalization and collapse of French counterinsurgency
6. Vietnam, counterinsurgency, and the American way of war
7. 'A conspiracy of heroes' – revolution and counterinsurgency in Latin America
8. Building the 'most successful counterinsurgency school' – COIN as the British way of war
9. Britain's thirty years' war in Northern Ireland
10. Vietnam with a happy ending – Iraq and 'The Surge'
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