What I have for you today dear Readers is a most unusual and irreverent book by Geoff Demarest. It is not a novel, it is not “entertrainment” in the Max Velocity way, it is not a traditional academic paper or policy paper... it is sui generis.
It is about 520-ish pages comprised of 144 individual sections, all focused upon some aspect of insurgency, what insurgents do and what anti insurgent forces should consider. It is not a book that is written to be devoured at one sitting, it is a non stop buffet of thought provoking discussion
Amazon Purchase Link To: Winning Insurgent War: Back to Basics
To make it easier to find what I am reviewing here, I will post the link to Amazon. However, what I am reviewing here is the Second Edition, ISBN # 978-0-9832883-1-2, which apparently is NOT available on Amazon. The author is Geoff Demarest and is published by Fort Leavenworth's (yes, that Fort Leavenworth) own Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO). The Second Edition is billed as “slightly improved” over the First edition. The author's claim of “This edition is .021% better than the first” is unverifiable, as I don't have the 1st edition on hand. I'll take his humble statement at face value, and please recognize that this was found on page ii, even before the dedication... it should give you an inkling of the literary style that Geoff Demarest brings to the table. Personally, I find his style like a welcome 5 course meal after reading so many government studies and reports that have been bled of any personality.
Per the Author (again, see page ii of 2nd edition), the differences between 1st and 2nd editions: “includes corrections made until 17 August 2011. In addition to typographic fixes, sections 110 and 143 were reorganized, flourishes were placed after the Restatement and the Synthesis, and several entries were added to the index. The names and orders of sections are unchanged...”
To discuss what makes the Demarest work so interesting is difficult due to the vast range of material, the style and method used to convey ideas and the way that he relates them to experiences that all may be able to identify with. It is not designed to be read in any particular order, which leads one to always worry about missing something good. No fear, as quite tellingly the entire work is good, there is value in every section. The approachable style will allow the layman who never set foot in a Staff College to grasp the essence of the topic, yet it is dense enough if the professional Reader chooses to peel the onion a bit to provide additional satisfactions.
Although space limitations (and probably copyright laws) prevent me from giving you a verbatim list from the index of what is to be found between the interesting artistic designs on the covers, I will give you a smattering here. Just keep in mind that Demarest manages to write about ALL of them as a cohesive whole, as mentioned by Dr. Kevin Benson, Col USA in the foreward. By section number, here are a few sample section titles:
4- Defining Enemy
7- Nonlinear Warfare
16- Keeping Secrets
30- Control Technology
99- Post Modern and Post Structural
105- Genocide Geography
129- Nerd Globe
Note that this is a mere smattering of what you'll find within. It is like walking by an unexpected, hidden Texas Barbecue and instantly realizing how hungry you are. Fittingly, the sections are tidy enough that you can squeeze them in to otherwise pointless, wasted parts of your day, like riding the subway, waiting for a plane or sitting on a bus. To keep the odd glances at bay, maybe make an old school paper bag book cover, or even go to a used bookstore and tape the cover form a benign book matching the size of this one on to stay incognito.
It is said that the difference between training and education is that in training, you instruct people in “how to do...X”. In education (which this book sure is!), one is taught how to think, as a process and as a discipline. This book provides the layman as well as the experienced military leader a resource to keep his thoughts fresh and irreverent, ensuring that you are not falling into groupthink. It is my personal opinion that Demarest either has HEAVY top cover, or FMSO takes academic freedom seriously. Maybe both, otherwise in the risk averse world of DoD, he'd be canned and proverbially burnt at the stake – most likely in the Pentagon courtyard. Refreshing and bracing, it is.
To pull a snippet out of here is a challenge. Not only due to the number of sticky, colored Post-It tabs that keep me on track to find what I want, but for the embarrassment of wealth the author lays on you. To illustrate my point, in section 24, Ruthlessness and Resolve right out of the gate Demarest lays waste to the entire PC/Marxist orthodoxy that rules American “warfighting” (aka silly bitch slapping contests) in ONE sentence:
“if you are not willing to kill someone, you won't win your armed conflict”.
There, he said what we all know and no General Officer and staff will acknowledge, certainly not in practice. Pretty harsh, but the unvarnished truth.
This section was of great interest to me, as I study the future and how potentially the next American Civil War will erupt and be conducted and eventually terminated. It is instructive that America's 1st (The Revolution) and 2nd (THE Civil war) may have “officially” ended, but they really burn like unextinguished coals in the psyche and very soul of America. I suspect that a number of Readers are similarly interested in this topic. To illustrate this concept, Demarest mentions Guatemala and in passing, illustrates his point.
“I was told in Guatemala that the Communist guerrillas and the Guatemalan army each had to prove to the villagers of the mountain tribes that their opponents could not protect them. In other words, the guerrillas argued that the army could not protect a tribe from the guerrillas and the army would argue to the same tribe that the guerrillas could not protect it from the army. Each side would present their version of the argument by graphic example”
The mind easily fills in what those examples were and are. Take a moment and ponder how that applies to contemporary America. The gangs and urban thugs show citizens that the police and government cannot protect you from their depredations, while the regime forces hold the population in sway by showing how the lunatics, militias and urban thugs cannot save you from its clutches.
Section 26, “How Violent Groups Form” is another example that many Americans are either interested in directly or are asking “how in Hades did THAT come to be?”. This is a beautifully distilled, 4 page EXSUM of the makings of insurgency. The factors that go into it are thoughtfully worded and I guarantee that you'll recognize this. It echoes of the oldest organizational unit of mankind, the tribe and its dynamics.
This book presents the challenge of picking a start point in what is a cohesive whole, an integrated seminar on multiple points that cannot be ignored. Perhaps the best answer is to read it once in the normal fashion, then go back to the intellectual buffet and nourish your minds. In a world of tactics, this is needed. It is imperative to understand how to create the environment for the successes to be linked to the strategic goals. I can think of no better book to get a reasonable foothold on the firmament of Insurgency. I recommend it for undergraduate students, graduate students, professionals and even Congresscritters. ESPECIALLY Congresscritters.
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Written by StopShoutingBlog contributor and #FAB50 Blog Award Winner Partyzantski, coolest cat on teh inner webs, retired Mustang, former FID embedded military Advisor, SASO trainer and scenario developer, Electronic Warfare Aviator, PME instructor, certified Force Protection and Anti-terrorism officer and combat seasoned USMC (0202) field grade intelligence officer. When not blogging or maintaining weapons proficiency at the range, he enjoys cat herding and travel to off-the-beaten-track locales.
You can follow him on Twitter @Partyzantski
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