The Kilcullen Doctrine

Dr. John Nagl, president of CNAS, lead author of The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, retired lieutenant colonel and top COIN expert, has penned an important review of Accidental Guerrilla by Col. David Kilcullen, in the prestigious British journal RUSI. Unfortunately, at present no link is is available, but my co-author Lexington Green is a subscriber and sent me a copy of the review, which I read last night. I now look forward to reading Kilcullen firsthand and have put Accidental Guerrilla near the top of my summer reading List.

I state that Nagl’s review is important because beyond the descriptive element that is inherent in a review, there is a substantive aspect that amounts to an effective act of policy advocacy. First, an example of Nagl’s descriptions of Kilcullen’s arguments:

We do not face a monolithic horde of jihadis moti vated by a rabid desire to destroy us and our way of life (there are some of these, although Kilcullen prefers to call them takfiris); instead, many of those who fight us do so for conventional reasons like nationalism and honour. Kilcullen illustrates the point with the tale of a special forces A-Team that had the fight of its life one May afternoon in 2006. One American was killed and seven more wounded in a fight that drew local fighters from villages five kilometres away who marched to the sound of the guns – not for any ideological reason, but simply because they wanted to be a part of the excitement. ‘It would have shamed them to stand by and wait it out’, Kilcullen reports

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