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Jungle of Snakes : A Century of Counterinsurgency Warfare from the Philippines to Iraq
A gripping history of a new kind of warfare, with sobering lessons for America's future.
The end of the cold war promised a new era of international peace. But instead, violence has proliferated across the globe, not in the form of a superpower arms race or a clash of armies, but in bitter local conflicts marked by terrorism, insurgency, and guerrilla warfare. Former Central Intelligence Agency director James Woolsey likened the post-cold-war world to "a jungle full of snakes." The emergence of this new, potentially never-ending struggle has forced our military to reevaluate strategies or risk losing hearts, minds, and soldiers the world over.
James Arnold delivers a gripping narrative of a century of counterinsurgent warfare, from the Philippine War to present-day Iraq, analyzing wars won and lost: the British in Malaya, the French in Algeria, and the United S tates in Vietnam. Arnold explains the tug-of-war for civilian support and illustrates the high stakes of any counterinsurgency effort. The epilogue examines the occupation of Iraq, where America, to its cost, ignored the lessons of previous conflicts.
A veteran military historian, Arnold combines storytelling ability with strategic insight. Jungle of Snakes will be essential reading for those who want to understand the ongoing series of struggles that the Pentagon calls "the Long War."
This is a thoughtful history of two successful counterinsurgency campaigns (the Philippines after 1898 and Malaya 1948-1960) and two failures (Algeria 1954-1962 and Vietnam). According to Arnold (Tet Offensive 1968), in the Philippines, the entire U.S. army of 70,000 spent a decade brutally suppressing a poorly equipped, almost leaderless rebellion. The British campaign in Malaya enjoyed the priceless advantage that the insurgents were Chinese, a minority and traditionally hated by the majority Malays. Despite this, victory took 12 bloody years. French forces had overwhelmed Algerian rebels when French President De Gaulle ordered a withdrawal, having decided the political cost of remaining in a hostile country was too great. And American troops in Vietnam killed so many Vietcong that North Vietnamese troops took over most of the fighting, but the civilians never trusted the government to protect them--and all insurgencies feed off this failure, notes Arnold. The author makes a convincing case that killing insurgents never defeats an insurgency. That happens when a nation's population feels safe, a painful lesson that America is relearning the hard way in Iraq and Afghanistan. B&w illus. (June)
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June 07, 2009
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