Small Wars Journal

War Books: Building a Counterinsurgency Library

War Books: Building a Counterinsurgency Library by Max Brooks - Modern War Institute

Insurgencies, guerrilla warfare—whatever we chose to call this type of violence, it is, by far the deadliest threat to those who serve in uniform. Since the middle of the last century, over a quarter of a million Americans were killed or wounded in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. And those are just the big ones. As tragic as these figures might be, an even deeper tragedy might be the forgotten lessons that could prevent future casualties.

Every time America wades into a counterinsurgency, those on the ground pay, in blood, for priceless knowledge in the art of how to fight. And yet, every time, that priceless knowledge seems worthless when it comes to future study. The post–Vietnam retreat to the Fulda Gap left the post–9/11 military completely unprepared for Afghanistan or Iraq. As a senior Iraq strategist told me, “I deployed with two duffle bags; one for my gear and the other with books I had to read.” On the subject of Afghanistan, an MWI colleague confessed, “We barely knew anything about the Soviet experience.” That experience is now almost old enough to vote, and yet, despite the nearly two-decade experience with counterinsurgency, the center of strategic gravity is even now, shifting right back to conventional, set-piece combat.

What will this amnesia mean for America’s future warfighters when—not if, but when—they suddenly find themselves stuck in another massive, messy, lethal insurgency? How many casualties will be counted while future strategists hurriedly dust off the lessons of the last two decades? When it comes to guerrilla warfare, America’s military can no longer afford on-the-job training. At the very least, there needs to be a collective repository for the lessons of guerrilla warfare. That is why the Modern War Institute has begun working to compile a new COIN library…

Read on.