Small Wars Journal

USSOCOM Commander's Reading List 2016

Tue, 11/03/2015 - 6:35pm

The Joint Special Operations University Library posts multiple reading lists.


Geoffrey Demarest

Thu, 11/05/2015 - 3:29pm

In reply to by Dave Maxwell

Fine riposte, very useful, thanks.

These lists can get long fast, and I'd like to wrangle a list down to, say, the ten best titles (imagining a nominal one-semester graduate seminar on whatever it is that is not regular war and not nuclear war) that would cover the most useful range of phenomena and theories, lead to the most insightful and interesting authors' bodies of work, touch on the most profitable histories, most increase geographic familiarity and inspire to read on. Could you list TEN irregular war titles? -- however you want to define irregular war, with the detail that a book would not necessarily be read cover-to-cover, but only that much as you might highlight to extract the most points from that title. I suspect an oppression in some government hallways, maybe born of academic self consciousness, that equates 'rigor' with the number of pages of homework reading. To me, fifty pages a week is enough if the portions are carefully selected. Maybe ten titles is just too small a number? All I can do for you in return is to advocate back in favor of other titles on the basis of specific reasons, and when I cannot I'll at least try to make my arguments as personally offensive as possible, for interest's sake.

Dave Maxwell

Wed, 11/04/2015 - 9:02pm

In reply to by Geoffrey Demarest


Excellent list.I would add a few from my special warfare/UW presentations (some overlap below)

In addition to Clausewitz, The Sun Tzu, ARIS, Mao, The USMC Small Wars Manual, Sam Sarkesian, Jack McKuen, and Military and Civilian Reading Lists:

John McCuen - The Art of Counter-Revolutionary Warfare, 1966
Sam Sarkesian - Unconventional Conflicts, 1993
Max Boot's Invisible Armies (I think he has improved on Robert Asprey's book)
Ted Gurr – Why Men Rebel, 1970
Eric Hoffer – The True Believer, 1951 (23d ed., 2002)
Crane Brinton – Anatomy of a Revolution, 1965
Anna Simons – “21st Century Cultures of War: Advantage Them,” (FPRI, April 1013)
China’s Unrestricted Warfare (1999)
Gene Sharp – From Dictatorship to Democracy, 2002
Saul Alinksy – Rules for Radicals, 1971
Current USAJFKSWCS UW doctrine

Geoffrey Demarest

Wed, 11/04/2015 - 8:31am

Geoff’s 30 most profitable books to read on irregular warfare strategy:
(Focusing on didactic usefulness in English. This is the short list. For a longer bibliography, see Winning Irregular War. Geoff’s most impressive irregular warfare strategists list appears below this bibliography.)

Alinsky, Saul. Rules for Radicals, New York: Random House, 1971.

Asprey, Robert. War in the Shadows: The Guerrilla in History (Volumes One and Two) New York: Knopf Doubleday, 1975.

Brierly, J.L. The Law of Nations: An Introduction to the International law of Peace (Sixth Edition) (Sir Humphrey Waldock, ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963.

Callwell, C. E. Small Wars: Their Principles and Practice (reprint, Third Edition, 1906, His Majesty’s Stationery Office). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996.

Carr, Caleb and Peters, Ralph. The Book of War: Sun-Tzu The Art of Warfare & Karl von Clausewitz On War. New York: The Modern Library, 2000.

Chaliand, Gerard, ed. Guerrilla Strategies: An Historical Anthology from the Long March to Afghanistan. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982.

Condit, D. M. Case Study in Guerrilla War: Greece During WWII. Washington, D.C.: American University Special Operations Research Branch, 1961.

Dangl, Benjamin. The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia. Edinburgh: AK Press, 2007.

Davis, Mike. Planet of Slums. New York: Verso, 2007.

Demarest, Geoffrey. Winning Irregular War. Ft. Leavenworth: FMSO, 2015.

Denis Judd. Someone Has Blundered: Calamities of the British Army in the Victorian Age. Gloucestershire: Windrush Press, 1999.

Griffith, Samuel B. Mao Tse-Tung On Guerrilla Warfare. New York: Praeger, 1961.

Hilberg, Raul. The Destruction of the European Jews. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1985.

Joes, Anthony James. Resisting Rebellion: The History and Politics of Counterinsurgency. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2004.

Kent, Edward Allen, ed. Law and Philosophy: Readings in Legal Philosophy. New York: Meredith Corporation, 1970.

Lettow-Vorbeck, Paul Emil von. My Reminiscences of East Africa.
Nashville: Battery Press, 1990, reprinted from 1920 edition.

McDonald, Forrest. Novus Ordo Seclorum: the Intellectual Origins of the Constitution. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1985.

O`Ballance, Edgar. The Algerian Insurrection 1954-1962. Hamden, Connecticut: Archon Books, 1967.

Olivera, Oscar and Lewis, Tom. Cochabamba!: water war in Bolivia. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2004.

Sharp, Gene. Waging Nonviolent Struggle. Boston: Porter Sargent Publishers, 2005.

Shrader, Charles R. The First Helicopter War: Logistics and Mobility in Algeria, 1954-1962. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 1999.

Spencer, David E. Colombia’s Road to Recovery: Security and Governance 1982-2010. Washington, D.C.: Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, 2011.

Tapper, Jake. The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2012.

US Army. Field Manual 31-15 Operations against Irregular Forces. Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 1951 and 1961.

US Army. Field Manual 100-20, Military Operations in Low Intensity Conflict. Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 1990.

US Army. Field Manual 3-05.130, Special Forces Unconventional Warfare Operations. Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, 2008.

US Marine Corps. Small Wars Manual. Washington, D.C.: US Marine Corps, 1940.

Volckmann, Russell W. We Remained: Three Years Behind Enemy Lines in the Philippines. New York: W. W. Norton, 1954.
(yeah, I know, that’s only 28)

Geoff’s 10 most impressive irregular warfare strategists (practitioners):
Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba
Hernán Cortés
George Washington
Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck
Russell W. Volckmann
Álvaro Uribe Vélez
Percy Mahendra Rajapaksa
(yeah, I know, that’s only 7

Hey Dave -- My list is better than your list. So...

Dave Maxwell

Tue, 11/03/2015 - 9:31pm

I wish the action officers who recommended these books to the commander for his reading list included the ARIS project which provides the intellectual foundation for understanding operations in the Gray Zone between peace and war (revolution, resistance, insurgency, terrorism, and civil war). Every special operator should be well versed in the publications in the project to understand these phenomena. The Assessing Revolution and Insurgent Strategies (ARIS) project is pasted below and all the books can be downloaded at this link. The ARIS project should be a permanent entry for every reading list by and for special operators.

Assessing Revolutionary And Insurgent Strategies (ARIS) Studies
The Assessing Revolutionary and Insurgent Strategies (ARIS) project consists of research conducted for the US Army Special Operations Command by the National Security Analysis Department of The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Its goal is to produce academically rigorous yet operationally relevant research to develop and illustrate a common understanding of insurgency and revolution. Intended to form a bedrock body of knowledge for members of the Special Operations Forces, the ARIS studies allow users to distill vast amounts of material from a wide array of campaigns and extract relevant lessons, enabling the development of future doctrine, professional education, and training. The ARIS project follows in the tradition of research conducted by the Special Operations Research Office (SORO) of American University in the 1950s and 1960s, adding new research to that body of work, republishing original SORO studies, and releasing updated editions of selected SORO studies.

Casebook on Insurgency and Revolutionary Warfare, Vol. 1: 1933-1962

Casebook on Insurgency and Revolutionary Warfare, Vol. II: 1962-2009

Irregular Warfare Annotated Bibliography

Human Factors Considerations of Underground in Insurgencies

Undergrounds in Insurgent, Revolutionary and Resistance Warfare

ARIS Guatemala Book

ARIS Greece Book

ARIS Cuba Book

ARIS Algeria Book

Case Studies in Insurgency and Revolutionary Warfare - Colombia (1964-2009)

Legal Implications of the Status of Persons in Resistance