Invisible Armies

Invisible Armies

An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare From Ancient Times to the Present

Book - 2013
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Beginning with the first insurgencies in the ancient world--when Alexander the Great discovered that fleet nomads were harder to defeat than massive conventional armies--Max Boot, best-selling author and military advisor in Iraq and Afghanistan, masterfully guides us from the Jewish rebellion against the Roman Empire up through the horrors of the French-Indochina War and the shadowy, post-9/11 battlefields of today. Relying on a diverse cast of unforgettable characters--not only Mao and Che but also the legendary Italian nationalist Giuseppe Garibaldi, the archaeologist-turned-military commander T. E. Lawrence, and the "Quiet American" Edward Lansdale, among others--Boot explodes everything we thought we knew about unconventional combat. The result is both an enthralling read and our most important work on nontraditional warfare.
Publisher: New York : Liveright Pub., c2013.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780871404244
Branch Call Number: 355.0218 BOO
Characteristics: xxix, 750 p., [24] p. of plates : ill., ports., maps ; 25 cm.

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TOH Jun 07, 2013

SEBoiko, I agree with your comments on insurgency and terrorism. You don't see many open-field battles between conventional armies anymore. (e.g., South Ossetian War, invasion of Iraq and Zaire/DRC). A lot of people dislike the concept of small scale unconventional wars. Those are the same people who grew up with a Cold War mentality of open field battles (e.g., WWII). Sorry folks, but insurgencies and terrorism is here to stay, with a rare conventional war here and there.

s
SEBoiko
May 20, 2013

Many liberals were disappointed that Obama had not gone far enough in rolling back Bush policies; many conservatives wereequally upset because they thought he had gone too far.

s
SEBoiko
May 20, 2013

Many revolutionaries have discovered, along with San Martin and Bolivar that ideals are simpler to fight for than to implement.

s
SEBoiko
Apr 16, 2013

Thus Rome exemplified the yin and yang of successful counterinsurgency warfare - chastisement and attraction.

s
SEBoiko
Apr 16, 2013

Since World War II insurgency and terrorism have become the dominant forms of conflict- a trend likely to continue into the fore seeable future.

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dnk
Feb 04, 2018

Invisible armies *are* the regular armies.

That's not an attempt at cheek; that's from the author himself, both in the beginning chapters of the book and from his Twelve Articles at the end. If most conflicts aren't guerilla warfare (the concept is only 5000 or so years old) or terrorism (which wasn't fully developed until the 19th century), most wars aren't fought by conventional state-run armies. If anything is irregular, it would be those engagements.

Over 550 pages, Boot provides a thorough overview of not only how guerilla and terrorist techniques evolved and where they were used, but why some such engagements are going to be more successful than others. Throughout the volume, the book makes clear the tension inherent in guerilla insurgent warfare: it is the preferred method of the weak adversary, and it's dependent on avoiding being drawn into the kind of conventional battles guerillas are unable to handle. Such warfare is a war of attrition. However, while it can be successful against a conventional enemy (particularly if guerillas can spin media communications against their enemy), the already weaker side has more to lose and usually can't afford the losses they incur over an extended period of time. Although not the rule, most such engagements will be more successful if they receive outside help. (Surprisingly, Boot makes a convincing argument that Mao falls into this category.

Although frequently coupled with guerilla insurgency, terrorism is a different animal. While it doesn't coalesce in the popular imagination until the Anarchists of the 1880s, it was actually pioneered in the United States, both before the Civil War (John Brown at Harper's Ferry) and after (the Ku Klux Klan). From the start, terrorist operations have been successful when they have shaped the narrative; in general, terrorists aren't going to be successful at winning wars outright. While they're seen by many as having enjoyed incredible success since the 1970s, much of that is due to their ability to manipulate the popular media. Further, there has been a disturbing tendency of many terrorist groups to overreach, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. To paraphrase a quote from the book, terrorism is theater and you want to minimize the dead; personally involving too much of the audience will turn them away from the cause quickly.

One of the longer books I've read for review, it flows pretty quickly over about 65 chapters. His scope is extensive, but most of his chapters are short vignettes about various military (or paramilitary) engagements as well as the circumstances leading up to it; it doesn't presume an expertise in any theory of warfare or history. Having said that, I would recommend the last few chapters to anyone who wanted a brief overview of the post-9/11 wars the US became entrenched in.

m
mammothhawk229e
Aug 20, 2017

It's long on five thousand years of condensed history, but it a good start for beginners & intermediates.
It even have twelve lessons on last chapter & a scorecard from past insurgencies from 1775 onward in appendix.

s
stedder
Jan 01, 2016

LRS1969
Well, that got off topic pretty quick!

LRS1969 Mar 04, 2015

Very good on historical accounts, but dies in current affairs.

Like every other militant conservative Boot has a Petraeus bromance. Yet Petraeus, while personally intelligent, in fact was not militarily brilliant nor particularly savvy... though he indeed was one of the Perfumed Princes who believes absolutely in the Three Ps: Power, Perks, and Privileges!

EVERYTHING that Petraeus did in his military and post military life has had one and only one agenda - to do what is right for Petraeus and his personal benefit. Entitlement is an expectation of his (which he got even in "the end"... a deal that converts multiple severe felonies demanding decades of imprisonment down to one misdemeanor that carries no jail time and allows him to maintain his oligarchic and highly wealthy post treasonous career!).

So much for his oft repeated claims of innocence. And this is the deal if the century. He should have been prosecuted for every count and once convicted, sentenced to life without parole in Leavenworth!

"Petraeus Takes Plea Deal"

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/04/us/petraeus-plea-deal-over-giving-classified-data-to-lover.html

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