Small Wars Journal

The Defense of Jisr al Doreaa

The Defense of Jisr al Doreaa by Captains Michael Burganoyne and Albert Markwardt.

This is another type of war new in its intensity, ancient in its origins - war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins; war by ambush instead of by combat; by infiltration, instead of aggression, seeking victory by eroding and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him... it requires in those situations where we must counter it... a wholly different kind of force, and therefore a new and wholly different kind of military training.

--President John F. Kennedy, 1962

The advent of the War on Terror and t e evolution of guerilla tactics into a decisive form of warfare in its urban and rural form s have impacted the way western forces conduct warfare. The US deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have created a plethora of lessons learned and adjustments to doctrine. However, harking back to officer training and the simple but effective "Defense of Duffer's Drift" by E.D. Swinton we believe that this short story will be of value to any young officer or small unit leader engaged in the complexities of counterinsurgency warfare.

The following story embodies the recollection of things done and undone in Iraq between 2003 and 2008. We hope that this fictional example will promote the application of the critical fundamentals of counterinsurgency and prevent their absence due to ignorance, arrogance, or misunderstanding. As the forces of liberal democracy continue to face the challenge of radical extremists, it is hoped that this simple text will provide a basis for additional study and discussion on counterinsurgency tactics.

Captain Michael L. Burgoyne

Captain Albert J. Marckwardt



Fri, 04/03/2009 - 1:08pm

<i>Unlike "Duffers Drift," "Jisr al-Doreea" requires theory to link cause and effect.</i>

I don't know about that Gian. You may be overly harsh in your condemnation. As I read though Jisr Al-Doreaa I find very little, if anything, that requires a theory to tie together cause and effect.

The lessons themselves are straight forward and reasonable. They do not reflect a dramatic shift in theory or doctrine. They do not come with the requirement to understand a link between cause and effect.

I'll recap a few for emphasis.
<i>1. Security is the number one priority. Units must maintain 360-degree security no matter what the situation.
2. The fundamentals still apply. Counterinsurgency operations and low-intensity conflict do not negate the values of systems time tested in countless conflicts. When establishing an outpost, it is critical to employ fundamentals of defense, the seven steps of engagement area development, and the priorities of work.</i>
etc etc..

I see the book as a means to pass on TTPs much as Swinton did in his historic work. In that regard Jisr Al-Doreaa succeeds. It is well written and entertaining while at the same time informative. It is not a book on theory, nor should it be categorized as such. It reflects the reality in which the young captains lived.

<i>The new American Way of Counterinsurgency has become a religion.</i>

That's entirely debatable and it's certainly not as a result of this book. Thus, to me, the comment seems strangely out of place and mis-directed.



Wed, 04/01/2009 - 10:03pm

<I>"But in "Jisr al-Doreea" in order for the effects to come about one must accept the counterinsurgency theory that underpins the entire book to produce most of the important effects that the authors say happen."</I>

I don't buy that at all. One can understand the theory without accepting it. I do not accept much of the gobbledygook that I am taught in law school and did not accept much of it in business school or in many Army schools/courses. But I could still understand the concepts and discuss their merits, pick out what was important, disregard what was not useful, and keep the rest in the back of my mind to re-evaluate at a later time. If one must accept a theory in order to understand it, then by now I would be a far-left leaning, anti-business, anti-globalization, pacifist nutbar. But that is not the case. I'm a very different type of nutbar than that.

Gian P Gentile

Wed, 04/01/2009 - 9:04pm

Unlike "Duffers Drift," "Jisr al-Doreea" requires theory to link cause and effect.

In the original "Duffers," tactical action produced immediate, knowable, and logical results. When Forethoughts men fired their weapons the enemy died, when the enemy fired at them they died, when he adjusted his tactical defense, it caused the enemy to react, and in order to keep the locals from speaking to Boer commandos, he basically locked them up so they couldnt provide information to the commandos.

But in "Jisr al-Doreea" in order for the effects to come about one must accept the counterinsurgency theory that underpins the entire book to produce most of the important effects that the authors say happen. And to believe the theory is in place and works, well, in the end, it requires a leap of faith.

The new American Way of Counterinsurgency has become a religion.

rodrigjrr (not verified)

Tue, 03/31/2009 - 8:35am

This book is an essential "must read" for any small unit leader who is going to his first assignment or has never deployed. It is a quick and easy read which provides all elements that a soldier will face in the operational environment. This truely focuses on the "how to think" versus "what to think". The authors did an outstanding job of deliberatly incorporating the Army's operational concept of full spectrum operations (FSO) in the story and how that translation is made down to the soldiers at the lower level. Military leaders today face a myriad of complex situation on the battlefield. No longer can junior leaders just focus and be well rehearsed in offensive operations but, he must be able to transition to any of the other two concepts (Defense or Stability)and be just as well versed. In the new era of technological advances and modern weapons it is still the human dimension and the decision making process that is still the critical piece on the battlefield. This book captures the importance of the human dimension through LT Connors and his platoon as the key centerpiece in the continuing struggle for freedom.

Jason Fritz

Mon, 03/02/2009 - 2:32pm

Mike - sounds great and I live in the area. I'm still up on AKO so send me a note and we can get together.

Mike Burgoyne

Sun, 02/22/2009 - 6:38pm

We saw you on CSPAN the a little while ago. If your still in the DC area we should have a beer.

Jason Fritz

Sat, 02/21/2009 - 5:18pm

Mike and Jim -

Great work and GarryOwen!

Mike Burgoyne

Fri, 02/20/2009 - 5:32pm

As an update, The Defense of Jisr al-Doreaa has been published by Chicago University Press and is available now as a paperback. John Nagl has written the foreward and the original Defence of Duffers Drift has been reprinted with Jisr al-Doreaa. Jim and I are donating royalties to the Fisher House.

Also we have created a website ( to provide instructors, students and readers with an opportunity to utilize color maps and products with the book as well as expand on the scenario with professional development tools. In the book we attempted to focus as clearly as possible on the counter-insurgency fundamentals while also touching on leadership and tactics. On the website you can use the professional development materials to pull out and think through the finer points of the book.

Mike Burgoyne

Good post.

Duffers drift has many valuable lessons.

I am just getting into this, I take it this is a fictionalized account of actual events or lessons?