Understanding Counterinsurgency?

Some time this week a new book will become available, Understanding Counterinsurgency, edited by Tom Keaney and myself. Routledge has decided to go into paperback directly, making it available at the discounted price of £22.79, or $31.95 in the US. Still expensive? For Routledge that’s a bargain.

But this post is not an ad. I’d like to preemptively answer two questions about the book.

First, Why now? — Well, counter-insurgencies take a long time, certainly longer than planned. The same is also true for edited volumes about counterinsurgency. Particularly when some of the authors had or have a role in those campaigns. But this is a good thing. It gave us time to include great authors and valuable feedback. Even General David Petraeus himself took an interest in the book and reviewed one of the chapters — the one about US doctrine by Conrad Crane. And we were able to include more recent events and literature. Finally this blog’s fine readers were able to contribute to the book’s “suggested further reading” list by recommending films and fiction. The credit and our thanks go to everybody involved.

And secondly: Why at all? Don’t we understand COIN by now? — Not sure. It’s very difficult to understand the effects of an ongoing campaign, to write a serious book on a moving target, even if the target is moving slowly. It remains unclear for now how future historians will judge the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, what they will “understand.” Even those who are traded as the best experts today might have to rethink some of their dear positions ten or fifteen years down the historical road. Certainly, the defense establishments of various NATO countries have vastly improved their grasp of counterinsurgency over the past years. And America led the charge. Yet the phenomenon remains better understood on a tactical level than on a strategic one. Go to the political level, and the confusion thickens.

The book tries to come to terms with some of these issues. But it does so with modest expectations and in a conservative, cautious fashion. Understanding Counterinsurgency is not designed for pundits at the cutting edge of the debate, but for students, including professionals, academic as well as military, who would like to — well — understand counterinsurgency. In this sense the book does, we hope, what it advertises. But not more. Note that the book’s title is not Counterinsurgency 2.0, or something silly like that.

Here’s the lineup:

1. Understanding Counterinsurgency
Thomas Keaney and Thomas Rid

Part I: Doctrine

2. France
Etienne de Durand

3. Britain
Alexander Alderson

4. Germany
Timo Noetzel

5. United States
Conrad Crane

Part II: Operational Aspects

6. Army
Peter Mansoor

7. Marine Corps
Frank Hoffman

8. Airpower
Charles Dunlap, Jr

9. Naval Support
Martin Murphy

10. Special Operations
Kalev Sepp

11. Intelligence
David Kilcullen

12. Local Security Forces
John Nagl

Part III: Challenges

13. Governance
Nadia Schadlow

14. Culture
Montgomery McFate

15. Ethics
Sarah Sewall

16. Information Operations
Andrew Exum

17. Civil-Military Integration
Michelle Parker and Matthew Irvine

18. Time
Austin Long

19. Counterinsurgency in Context
Thomas Rid and Thomas Keaney

Suggested Further Reading

To request a copy for review, please contact:
Jessica Plummer, jessica.plummer@taylorandfrancis.com, +1 212 216 7897

* Cover image courtesy of the U.S. Army.


7 thoughts on “Understanding Counterinsurgency?

  1. Guy says:

    I laughed at Chapter 3’s author. As Mr Alderson wrote the current British doctrine it should be pretty accurate!

    • Thomas Rid says:

      Our editor at Routledge, it turns out, is also reading the comments at KoW. He contacted me to say this:

      “One point to note is that Amazon only list the hardback price for most of our books on the main search page, but if you go into that record, you can see that the book is also available at the paperback price.”

      If you do that, the actual price still doesn’t show. But I understand that’s a database problem that is being fixed.

    • Thomas Rid says:

      Good point. But you have to make a cut somewhere. We tried to chose the four countries according to their current importance as well as their historical contribution to doctrine and operations. A more comprehensive list, you’re right, would include the Netherlands, Poland, Australia, Israel, and others. But that’s for another book.

  2. Chris H says:

    It looks like a great book for someone like me who is just about to embark on a career in the military. I have added it to my “wishlist” on Amazon.

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