John Nagl: Review of Max Boot's "Invisible Armies"

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Mr. Nagl, a retired Army officer, is the author of "Learning to Eat Soup With a Knife" and helped write "The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual."

In 2003, I deployed to Anbar Province in Iraq with my armored battalion to conduct counterinsurgency operations. I had spent nearly a decade studying the subject academically, and my reading had convinced me that counterinsurgency was the hardest kind of war, much more intellectually and emotionally difficult than the tank warfare I had seen in Iraq in 1991. Even so, I was unprepared for the blind-man's-bluff challenge of fighting an enemy I could rarely see. I would have been on firmer ground if I had read Max Boot's "Invisible Armies" before I had deployed to Iraq. The prolific journalist and military historian has taken on no less a task than presenting the "epic history of guerrilla warfare from ancient times to the present."...

In between these personal glimpses into counterinsurgency campaigning is a definitive survey of the long history of irregular warfare, beginning with the Jewish uprising against the Romans in 66 A.D., running through the rising tide of rebellion against colonial powers—including the one that freed this country from the oppressive tax policies of imperial England—that reached a crescendo in the wake of World War II, and finishing with our long war in Iraq and a chapter on the "Failures and Successes of the Global Islamist Insurgency."...

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