The Accidental Guerrilla


The nice people in G7 loaned me a copy of David Kilcullen’s Accidental Guerrilla to read on the promise that I would give them a book review in return – fair trade, I think, and one which provides me an opportunity to assess the actual time required to review and read a book for future jobs. I missed David Kilcullen’s briefs when he visited in October, having been required to save the free world at the CLAW in the UK that week. While I enjoyed that professionally and personally, I would much rather have had the afternoon listening to him talk…

First impressions of Accidental Guerrilla are that the author has not been well served by his editor…the sections where he talks about his own experiences flow very well; where he launches into more academic discourse, he becomes verbose and complex – if in doubt, use short sentences and don’t be shy to bullet lists – some parts so far (have just finished Chapter 1) are like playing literary Where’s Wally? when trying to filter out key points and themes. I’ve noticed the same in the other book I am struggling with at the moment, Brain Taafe’s The Gatekeepers of Galatas, a great story that deserves to be told – but told better than Taafe does…I track a number of writing blogs and I think it was John Birmingham who couldn’t emphasise enough not only the importance of a top editor but also the need for writers to retract their egos and take aboard the value an editor provides to a successful product…

I have no problem with the concept of the accidental guerrilla but do debate that it is anything new – almost by definition most guerrillas are accidental, born when the outside world, usually brutally, intrudes into their lives….the little people = the little war…Nor is the concept of global terrorist/guerrilla networks that new either…as far back as the American Revolution, global communications have been adequate to support international networks and the Great Game of international espionage and intelligence has been played across the known globe since that time. I agree with Rupert Smith that there are those who might be best described as the ‘franchisers of terrorism’ who target the disaffected and essentially sell their brand of terrorism, with commensurate training, networks and support. These are the people who need to be tracked and targeted a la Michael Scheiern’s ‘individual-based tracking’ concept – manage them and you open up a range of alternate approaches to mitigate potentially accidental guerrillas.

One of the problems I have with The Accidental Guerrilla to date is that it describes Al-Qaeda as an aberration, an exception, to the rules of guerrillas and terrorism, but keeps drawing upon AQ-based examples to support arguments in the book. While it is true that Islamic terrorism has a firm base in the tribes of Afghanistan and Pakistan that includes strong family links as well and that this extends back over a number of generations, I think it is a big leap to state this as standard practice for these type of organisations. This weakens the Infection, Contagion, Intervention, Rejection cycle that Kilcullen proposes, again relying on an AQ example. I agree with the takfiri model and think this would be a better one to promote over specific groups  like Al-Qaeda – more so since his definition of takfir lends itself to causes beyond those based upon an interpretation of Islam…takfir holds that those whose beliefs differ from the takfiri’s are infidels who must be killed. Takfir might apply to ANY hate-based xenophobic cause around the planet and if The Accidental Guerrilla achieves nothing else beyond bringing this phrase into more common usage, it will have achieved something.

In all fairness, I am only at the end of Chapter 1 and should suppress of any feelings of ‘old brass for new‘ and ‘publish or perish‘ til I get into the meat of it…onwards into Chapter Two…

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  1. Pingback: Identity | The Daily Post | The World According to Me…

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