Archive for August, 2009

Counterintelligence: Winning battles but losing the war?

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

The Accidental Guerrilla
Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One
by David Kilcullen
Oxford, 384 pp., $27.95

In the dim red glow of the crowded C130 transport aircraft, my soldiers’ faces were guarded and withdrawn. We were minutes away from landing, and all expected a serious firefight before the day was out. Some retched from turbulence or checked their rifles.

And so on, for a few hundred words. Is David Kilcullen about to assault Falluja? No–Connecticut-sized East Timor, which was down to about 200,000 wretched inhabitants at the time the Australian army faced the fearsome challenge of “invading” it. Kilcullen, “one of the few Indonesian linguists in the force,” took the “gamble” of walking over to the Indonesian airfield commander and asking for his handover of control. Looking up at the “continuous stream of aircraft stretching all the way to Australia,” the commander sagely agreed.

There are too many silly, pretentious, self-regarding moments like this in The Accidental Guerrilla, and they nearly overwhelm Kilcullen’s often sensible observations, and undermine our confidence in his mainstream if not particularly original views of best-practice, population-centric counterinsurgency.