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Insurgents, Terrorists, and Militias: The Warriors of Contemporary Combat Paperback – Oct 30 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (Oct. 30 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231129831
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231129831
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 1.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,949,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Some academics can see clearly what military generals and Pentagon civilian planners apparently cannot—that the nature of warfare has changed drastically in the past few decades. Shultz and Dew, of the Tufts University International Security Studies Program, grasp that combat involving nongovernment forces calls for innovative tactics by the U.S. military. Failing to understand the changed nature of warfare can lead to deadly consequences, the authors write, as the Iraq insurgency shows. This scholarly book is grounded in warfare theory, but is easily accessible for generalist readers. Looking at post-1990 conflicts in Somalia, Chechnya, Afghanistan and Iraq, "in which the armies of modern nation-states fought armed groups, often with great difficulty, in traditional societal settings," Shultz and Dew propose new taxonomies, describe the reasons nongovernment combatants wage war, and the nontraditional approaches those combatants use. Government strategists hoping to defeat these nonstate warriors must learn about the cultures and traditions of those groups rather than relying solely on how much firepower they possess, the authors argue. Helpfully moving beyond theory, they suggest ways that Pentagon policy makers and field commanders can mine historical, anthropological and cultural studies to understand shadowy enemies. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


If you are interested in either irregular warfare or counterinsurgency, you should add this book to your reading list.

(Military Review)

Like it or not, the wars of tomorrow will be fought by small units of fighters who will operate unconventionally. Shultz and Dew have written a first-rate primer about these warriors of contemporary combat. Most importantly, they tell all who care―including, one hopes, the decision makers in the Pentagon and White House―a great deal about how to fight in places like Afghanistan and Iraq before things go wrong. Is anyone listening?

(Seymour M. Hersh, author of Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib)

Insurgents, Terrorists, and Militias authoritatively traces the evolution of conflict in the twenty-first century and incisively analyzes the formidable national security challenges confronting both established nation-states and the international system. The concluding section's discussion of lessons learned for policymakers, military planners, and intelligence analysts makes the book an especially valuable contribution to the literature.

(Bruce Hoffman, author of Inside Terrorism and senior fellow, Combating Terrorism Center, U.S. Military Academy, West Point, NY)

This scholarly book is grounded in warfare theory, but is easily accessible for generalist readers.

(Publishers Weekly)

Wise and cogent.

(Robert Kaplan Wall Street Journal)

This is one in a handful of truly important books... It is fresh, innovative and immensely informative.

(Michael J. Bonafield Star Tribune)

[Insurgents, Terrorists, and Militias] should be on every Pentagon reading list.

(Austin Bay Human Events Online)

[They] have done more than write a book on America's new enemies. The two authors have done a public service.

(Rowan Scarborough The Washington Times)

A succinct and well-presented history of the birth and growth of the extremist Muslim fundamentalist political movement.

(Col. Will Holahan Officer)

Thoroughly researched and highly readable.... Examines how non-state armies fight, identifies the patterns and trends of their combat, and recommends how conventional militaries can defeat these irregular... organizations.

(LtCol Charles L. Armstrong Marine Corps Gazette)

Insurgents, Terrorists, and Militias is a useful introduction to the topic of traditional warriors and modern warfare.

(Walter Ladwig Military Review)

[This book] provides valuable insight on what must be considered to set conditions for the commitment of military forces in future conflicts.

(Proceedings Magazine, US Naval Institute)

An excellent primer on the nature of warfare and our likely enemies in the twenty-first century.


This is undoubtedly the single best book written on what has become a true global war on terror.

(Leo J. Daugherty, III, Ph.D. Journal of Slavic Military Studies)

[An] excellent study.

(Depaak Lal The International History)

Highly recommended for all senior policymakers, military planners, and soldiers on the ground who will have to confront traditional warriors face to face.

(Canadian Military Journal)

The book offers an excellent model

(Miliatary Review)

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa555b57c) out of 5 stars 13 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa55db510) out of 5 stars Good book for tribal-based insurgents, terrorist, militia Sept. 20 2006
By R. W. Levesque - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The strength of this book is its attempt to lay out a framework for analyzing tribal-based insurgents, terrorists, and militias in layman's terms. I believe other reviewers have missed the point of the book -- it's not meant to be a description of today's threat, but a methodology for militarily analyzing how and why tribal-based groups fight. The authors recommend the following criteria as a substitute for traditional Military Capabilities Analysis: the tribe's concept of warfare; its organization and command and control; its areas of operations; the types and targets of its operations; its constraints and limitations; and the role of outside actors.

The authors make their argument by first discussing the differences between the western way of war and "primitive warfare," and then assessing the way wars have evolves since the end of the cold war. The third chapter specifically discusses tribes, clans, and groups based on lineage and kinship.

They then use the "case study" approach to test their analytical construct with chapters on Somalia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, and Iraq. At the end of each chapter they analyze those conflicts based on the analytical criteria noted above. Finally, in the last chapter, they again use their analytical criteria to establish analytical lessons-learned.

All-in-all this is an excellent book for those who are interested in the analysis of tribal-based military threats. It makes the point very well that conventional analytical approaches are not suited for the analysis of tribes and clans, and recommends a different approach.
31 of 41 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa5716d14) out of 5 stars A good overview of Muslim fighters and methods of dealing with the problems July 20 2006
By Bill Hensler - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Insurgents, Terrorists, and Militias: The Warriors of Contemporary Combat (Hardcover)

4 Stars

This isn't a bad book. I rated it four stars. Why? There are a lot of reasons. The biggest reason is Robert Kaplan has covered the subjects much more in depth in his series of books on the newly emerging post Cold War era. Indeed, a typical reader of "The Atlantic Monthly" will see that authors of Schultz and Dew are mostly giving their versions of the observations that Robert Kaplan has already written. So, the typical reader is left with a choice. They can either read this book or read Kapan's book, the best of the lot is "Imperial Grunts".

Authors Schultz and Dew give a fine break down of the typical militia command structure most nations face when fighting against Muslims. However, the militia breakdown is much better covered in "Tactics of the Crescent Moon: Militant Muslim Combat Methods" by H. John Poole and Ray L. Smith. So, the results are Authors Schultz and Dew give sort of a Cliff notes version of militia structure, combat methods, weapons and equipment.

The biggest problem that the West faces is a second guessing American media that has a never ending demand for news. The fact of the matter is the USA loses over 10,000 citizens per year in traffic accidents and has another 40,000 injured. Hardly anything is written in the by-lines of the local papers. Conversely, there is much hand-wringing over approximately American 2,500 war dead since 9-11 fighting. It should be noted that the Soviet Union was engaged in a series of savage civil wars from the time of its revolution in 1917 until the early 1920s. The Soviet Union united all the various states of that social republic under an iron willed fist. Conversely, when the Russian media was permitted to act like the American media in the mid-1980s then the Soviets quickly lost Afghanistan, lost their nation, and quickly become involved in warring in Chechnya. The fact of the matter is the old steel willed Soviet Union would have quickly cut off the Muslim terrorists, taken the territory back, and executed any and all who were involved with the rebels. A way must be found to get a nation's media to realize the problem the long term problem of insurgency and support the steps against insurgency. The Soviet Union could not get their media to support a war against Afghanistan. The result is they lost the war, their nation, and are now involved in fighting on their soil.

Perhaps that is the biggest shame of this book. The West wants to have civilized meeting with the terrorists. However, terrorism is guerilla warfare. Guerilla warfare is done until conventional forces grain strength to attack using normal means. Note, in Vietnam the Viet Cong used hit and run tactics against the USA and the Army of the Republic of Vietnam during the 1960s. In 1975 the North Vietnamese Army took Saigon using normal Soviet block military tactics. The point is Guerilla war is done from weakness. Conventional war is done through strength.

"Insurgents, Terrorists, and Militias: The Warriors of Contemporary Combat" will give a causal reader a good introduction to the problems of modern insurgency warfare. I would recommend it to that type of reader. For a better US over view of the problem then read "Imperial Grunts". To learn of specific militia combat tactics then read "Militant Muslim Combat Methods".

This book does have good information and can inform the typical reader of the problems encountered with fighting modern insurgents and militias.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa5b2d270) out of 5 stars Sometimes rather dry, but also provides interesting perspectives Jan. 6 2007
By Graham - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book's thrust is that in all wars you need to know your enemy and many of the US's current and likely future enemies are very different from those of the cold war. Unfortunately the text can be a little slow going: it is sometimes rather dry and repetitive. But there is also a lot of interesting material and analysis, so it is worth persevering.

The thesis is that in many traditional societies males are raised to be warriors. They are part of a culture of clans and tribes, where no man can stand alone, so solidarity with one's family and clan is essential to survival. And you demonstrate that solidarity by being willing to fight for your clan. These are cultures where fighting is regarded as a natural and manly activity and as a normal way of settling disputes. So regarding peace as a norm just strikes people as odd. But at the same time fighting is limited, and primarily comprises hit-and-run raids rather than conventional battles. There is a very strong emphasis on personal honour and on avenging insults or injuries to one's group.

(This all seems very reminiscent of Scottish clan feuding of only a few centuries ago!)

Much fighting is local, with clans squabbling over resources. But the clans unite if faced with an external threat, and at a larger scale the tribes will unite to fight a foreign oppressor. And all of Somalia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, and Iraq have a history of facing foreign invaders. As the fight gets bigger and uglier, many of the traditional limits are discarded.

So at a high level, an invader such as the US may see a traditional society as militarily weak, lacking an organized army or heavy weapons. But at another level almost every male regards themselves as a warrior, who will fight in a decentralized way, using hit-and-run tactics to fight off an invader. So the country can easily mobilize in lots of small guerilla bands.

One minor weakness of the book is that it has focused on four tribal societies. It might have been interesting to include a non-tribal insurgency example, such as Malaya or Vietnam, for comparison. However, there are still many variations between the four cases studies. Iraq is more urbanized and less tribalized than Afghanistan. The Chechnyans were very successful at organizing urban guerilla warfare in Grozny. The Somalia military leadership was surprisingly sophisticated.

The book is better at analysis than at suggesting solutions. The authors freely criticize US planners for not understanding the cultures they were facing. But even knowing the cultures, it isn't clear how the US military could or should have behaved differently in Somalia.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa5d8f24c) out of 5 stars good book, but has several shortcomings. Aug. 15 2006
By D. A. Leonard - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As a fomrer US Force Recon Marine with service in Kosovo and Sierra Leone, my unit spent a great deal of time studying various terrorist/insurgent.guerilla organizations. This book makes some very good points, but not all of it is accurate. the book (along with a recent article by Mr. Shultz) makes the claim that

Consider the British experience during the 1980's and 90's in Northern Ireland. By working hand-in-glove with the Special Branch of the local police force, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, British intelligence agents penetrated the ranks of the Irish Republican Army, eventually capturing and incarcerating a legion of its leaders and operatives.

A former top-ranking I.R.A. commander who later became an informer told us that, when he was imprisoned with higher-ranking I.R.A. officials, they lamented over and over that the British strategy was so effective and their ranks were so depleted by the end of the 1980's that "the boys can't move, can't operate, always have to be looking over their shoulders." As a result, Britain was able to negotiate a relatively successful end to hostilities and to contain most of the splinter groups that refused to abide by it. (end).

The above analysis by Mr. Shultz, is highly innacurate. Military analysts have concluded that the IRA was able to uncover and kill 60% of the informers withing their ranks. Also, the fact that the IRA launched a devestating and highly effective commercial bombing camapign against Britian from 1990-1997, refutes the idea that the IRA "was so infiltrated, it couldn't move". In fact the IRA continued to move and basically bomb and assassinate at will far into the 1990's. It is widely believed that this bombing campaign forced the British to negotiate a peace deal with Sinn Fein and the IRA. This is one of several highly speculative conclusions that makes this book a decent, but far from perfect analysis of modern "Assymetrical warfare"
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa55db4f8) out of 5 stars History Notes Aug. 5 2006
By ofs guy - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As Vizzini says in _Princess Bride_, "Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia." Well, America is not exactly in an Asian land war, but it's close.

Afghanistan and Iraq have ancient histories of fighting invaders. In Afghanistan's case with bloody success against the British and the Russians. The authors of ITM track the histories of Afghanistan and Iraq as well as Somalia and Chechnya up to the present battles they have waged or are waging against foreign invaders. These countries are peopled by tribes, clans, ethnic groups, and religions that all fight amongst themselves - never quite for conquest, but for the glory of a good raid. Heroics and stolen camels become the stuff of legends and vendettas. The only time all these little groups band together is when a larger group attacks them. The parable of "my tribe against the world, my clan against the tribe, my family against the clan, my brother and I against the family, me against my brother" is their motto.

As hit and run raiders, they don't present themselves in the field of battle the way a trained army would. They attack, disappear, ambush, decoy, and blend in. It doesn't take many of them to tie down a modern army. The added mixture of Islam with its eternal rewards for fallen "martyrs" and a multi-generational commitment to the battle makes fighting the ITMs facing America very difficult.

If fact, that difficulty is the main weakness of the book. The authors do not discuss the lessons of history for defeating tribes/clans/family warriors. It may be that the way to do it is far too horrible for western countries to consider, but we need to know our options.

Other than that, the book is quite good. Although, there tends to be a lot of repetition because the case study peoples are so similar, but repetition aids learning in my tired old brain. The book also lacks and sorely needs a bibliography.