Waging Insurgent Warfare: Lessons From the Vietcong to the Islamic State

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Waging Insurgent Warfare: Lessons From the Vietcong to the Islamic State
By Seth G. Jones
Oxford University Press, 2016
328 pp.
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Most recent books on insurgencies have concentrated on how to counter them. Jones turns this around by instead asking what it takes for an insurgency to succeed. This allows him to look at recent conflicts, including those in Kosovo and Libya, in which Western powers supported insurgents. He combines quantitative data with careful observations to craft a thoughtful, original, and comprehensive analysis of how insurgencies start; the strategies, tactics, and organizational approaches they adopt; and their need for foreign support. Not surprisingly, the most successful insurgents tend to be those who can challenge the state on its own terms by using conventional force with support from an external power. Guerrilla warfare is a less promising option, since it relies on exhausting one’s enemies rather than defeating them. One slightly misleading element of Jones’ analysis is the firm distinction he draws between some of the communist-inspired insurgencies of the Cold War era and the Islamist ones that have arisen since the early 1990s, which has the effect of obscuring the essentially anticolonial character of both kinds of movements. 

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