Reviews for Invisible Armies : An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present


Booklist Reviews 2012 December #1
Characterized by stealth, raids, and retreats, irregular warfare is a strategy of the weak against the strong, and has been, according to military-affairs writer Boot, ever since Alexander the Great was stymied in modern Afghanistan. Cataloging unconventional wars by the dozens, Boot considers factors that led to victory or defeat, factors common to rebels, whether motivated by tribal loyalty, nationalism, political ideology, or religious militancy. Ultimately distilling his massive historical survey into several precepts for analyzing insurgency, Boot concludes that a rebellion will most likely succeed if its irregular fighters cooperate with its conventional units; if it receives foreign assistance; and if it produces effective propaganda. Boot cites the American Revolution as a template and, likewise, Garibaldi's unification of Italy and Ho Chi Minh's Communist victory in Vietnam. Receiving Boot's equal attention are strategists who defeated twentieth-century insurgencies in the French and British Empires. Few but specialists know of Louis Lyautey; that his counterinsurgency ideas are ancestral to current U.S. military doctrine illustrates the current-affairs importance of Boot's presentation, which is impressively researched, astutely synthesized, and eminently readable. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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Choice Reviews 2013 July
An author who interrupts his text to indicate the correct pronunciation of "Sinn Fein" or "dachas" clearly views his audience as general readers or lower-level undergraduate students looking for an introduction to the topic. In reaching this group, Boot (Council of Foreign Relations) has succeeded, producing a thorough, well-written, chronological narrative (and diachronic analysis) of non-conventional warfare. More advanced (and more critical) readers, however, will find frustrating the lack of a serious discussion of what "guerrilla," "terrorist," "irregular," "insurgent," "rebels," or "special operations forces" mean--to indicate just a few of the terms and phrases loosely sprinkled throughout the text and treated as synonymous. Specialists will also cringe at anachronistic generalizations based on comparisons of ancient and medieval conflicts (whose primary source material is understandably limited) with modern conflicts that, if not better understood, are at least more fully documented. These caveats aside, the author's attempt to elucidate how technology, public opinion, forms of government, media, and culture, as well as the presence (or absence) of external aid have impacted asymmetric warfare is valuable for beginning students of military and political history. Summing Up: Recommended. General, public, and undergraduate libraries. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Two-year Technical Program Students. R. T. Ingoglia Felician College Copyright 2013 American Library Association.

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Kirkus Reviews 2012 October #2
Wall Street Journal contributor and Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Boot (War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History: 1500 to Today, 2006, etc.) follows the long, quirky history of insurgency, from Bar Kokhba to Bin Laden. The slippery definition of guerrillas (Spanish for "little wars") underscores the challenging task faced by the author. In this systematic though not always chronological study, Boot examines how guerrilla forces have always "employ[ed] stealth, surprise and rapid movement to harass, ambush, massacre, and terrorize their enemies while trying to minimize their own casualties through rapid retreat," tactics that have proven highly effective throughout history, especially as the fight moved into the realm of winning public opinion. The author divides his narrative into various epochs, beginning in Mesopotamia and continuing through the long-running struggle against the Roman Empire, warfare in China around the time of Sun Tzu, the centuries of battles between England and Scotland, the Haitian and Greek wars for independence, the struggle for Italian unification, the ascent of Mao Zedong and present-day battles with terrorist organizations. He also examines the many examples of guerrilla warfare in America, including the revolution against Britain, the "forest wars" of the eastern U.S., the battles of the Ku Klux Klan and civil rights agitators. The creation of the "guerrilla mystique" in the 1960s and '70s, thanks to Castro, Guevara and Arafat, emphasized radical ideology as the guerrilla motivation, paving the way for the next deadly wave by parties of God, jihadists and suicide bombers. An expansive nuts-and-bolts historical survey from a keen military mind. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews Newsletter
Insurgency and counterinsurgency are nothing new; terrorism and guerrilla warfare have existed for thousands of years. In Invisible Armies, Boot (senior fellow, Council on Foreign Relations; The Savage Wars of Peace) emphasizes the evolution of these methods of warfare over time, with a focus on the past two centuries. Following a prolog, Boot presents case studies of various conflicts throughout history that illustrate his points. He ends with an epilog and an essay on the 12 lessons learned over the past several thousand years. VERDICT While other books on guerrilla warfare and terrorism exist, they tend to emphasize specific conflicts, regions, or militant groups. Although devoted to a popular audience, Invisible Armies is one of the only longitudinal comparative studies of both guerrilla warfare and terrorism. Fans of military history will want this, while students and scholars should find some useful information here as well.--MW (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 August #4

A military historian and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Boot (The Savage Wars of Peace) presents a sweeping, well-written, and comprehensively documented history of guerilla war. For Boot, guerrilla warfare and terrorism are distinct but synergistically linked. Terrorism is the use of violence, primarily by nonstate actors, against noncombatants. Guerrilla, which means "little war," is the organized use of hit-and run tactics against governments. What they have in common is their use by fighters "too weak to employ conventional methods," although these unconventional methods may have higher prospects of success. Boot begins by tracing their roots, from prehistoric tribal war to the medieval grappling on the Anglo-Scottish frontier. He goes on to address terrorism and guerrilla warfare through the centuries and around the world, from medieval assassins to irregulars' operations during 19th century the liberal European revolutions between the 1770s and to the 1880s to guerrilla movements generated by imperialism, terrorism, from the medieval Assassins to the IRA, and guerrilla operations in the world wars. He concludes with an analysis of national liberation movements, recent Leftist revolutionary upheavals and Islamic terror. The result is a compelling narrative and perceptive analysis: a must read in today's world. Agent: Glen Hartley and Lynn Chu, Writers' Representatives. (Jan.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

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