Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present (Book review from Gian Gentile)

Gian is not happy with Max's book but does like some parts, e.g.:

At times Mr. Boot brings out some worthwhile observations and criticisms. For example at the end of the book there is a section titled “Implications: Twelve Articles, or the Lessons of Five Thousand Years” in which Mr. Boot offers his suggestions for timeless lessons on guerrilla warfare drawn from history. 
One of his observations is that Petraeus’ Surge in Iraq in 2007 did not “bring about a lasting political settlement.” Or in other words, the Surge ultimately failed because it did not accomplish political objectives 
In this sense Mr. Boot is spot on. Yet after making this crucially important observation he spends much time making the argument that Petraeus is one of the greatest generals in the history of guerrilla warfare. 
If the military means applied by Petraeus during the Surge failed to achieve political ends, how can he be considered a great general?

Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present

by Max Boot
Reviewed by Gian P. Gentile | Released: January 15, 2013
Publisher: Liveright (784 pages)

“Historical accuracy and truth, . . . take a second place in Invisible Armies to the book’s highly politicized point of view . . .”

In an interview shortly after the publication of his book Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present, Max Boot claimed that he did not make a “particular point” in the book, but aimed “simply to tell a story that has never been well told before.”
After reading Invisible Armies, however, it is hard to take Mr. Boot’s remarks in this interview seriously.

The story of guerrilla warfare actually has been told quite “well” before. Historian Robert Asprey’s still useful and relevant multivolume work War in the Shadows tells the story well and effectively with a level of embedded primary, archival research that Mr. Boot’s new book does not come close to.

But the more fantastic remark by Mr. Boot, that his book does not make a “particular point” is pure moonshine. In fact the book does just that: It makes one big whopping point for current American politics and more importantly foreign policy: that guerrilla warfare has been around for thousands of years, as his tome quite aptly chronicles, and since it has been around for thousands of years—here comes the political point he is making—the United States should accept the fact that it must commit itself to fighting numerous guerrilla wars in the future.

Never mind whether or not American strategy and security interests in the world demand fighting such wars. Instead for Mr. Boot simply because they have been fought in the past, America should keep fighting them in the future. For those American experts and policy wonks like Anne-Marie Slaughter who have been stridently advocating for American military intervention in places like Syria with a “responsibility to protect” local populations, Mr. Boot’s book will read like a policy prescription gussied up with the dash of history.

A nakedly didactic tutorial by the many Counterinsurgency (Coin) experts who have popped up over the years since David Petraeus supposedly made Coin work during the Surge in Iraq, is that the United States “may not want Counterinsurgency, but Counterinsurgency wants it.” Or in other words the United States has no strategic choice at all in these matters except to face the facts, accept the wisdom of the experts and plan on fighting Coin wars well into the future.

Mr. Boot’s Invisible Armies fully supports this tutorial by offering up a history of guerrilla warfare from the ancient Romans and Greeks up to the present American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is in the book an impressive sweep of history.

And it is definitely a ripping read to be sure. Mr. Boot if nothing else is an exceptionally strong writer with a gift for engaging storytelling. And in this respectInvisible Armies does not disappoint.
(Continued at the link below)

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