By Max Boot Liveright, $35, 784 pages

The Washington Times on May 27, 2013, published a review by Joshua Sinai on a new book on guerrilla warfare. In “Invisible Armies,” Max Boot attempts to write an up-to-date account of the evolution of guerrilla warfare and terrorism from ancient times to the modern era. Mr. Boot, the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and an adviser on counterinsurgency to the U.S. government, is ideally suited to produce such a comprehensive study. The book is well written, insightful and sweeping in its historical comprehensiveness, but it is not without some flaws. Excerpts below:

While one may quibble that the book’s title should include “terrorist” alongside “guerrilla,” since terrorist warfare is featured extensively in the selection of case studies, and that the author’s definition of terrorism should cover attacks by such groups against noncombatant civilians as well as armed military, the narrative does a thorough job explaining how asymmetric warfare — attacks by weaker forces against their stronger state militaries — is prosecuted. Thus, while guerrilla forces may number in the thousands, most terrorist groups have dozens to a few hundred fighters; and while guerrilla forces aim to capture, hold territory and even physically defeat their more powerful military adversaries, terrorists do not, and, in fact, “hope with a few spectacular attacks to trigger a revolution” within their societies — which is what al Qaeda had hoped would proceed from their catastrophic attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Both guerrilla warfare and terrorism, Mr. Boot writes, are important to understand because “Since World War II, insurgency and terrorism have become the dominant forms of conflict — a trend likely to continue into the foreseeable future.

Thus, to gain the ability to counter the threats posed by what Mr. Boot terms “invisible armies,” it is essential to understand the history and evolution of such warfare, a task well accommodated here.

After an historical overview the author explains how the modern era in terrorist warfare began with the 19th-century Russian anarchists, who promoted the notion of “propaganda by the deed,” which was followed by the Irish Republican Army’s predecessors in 1919 to 1921.

Mr. Boot points out that one of the most significant innovations in guerrilla warfare was developed by Mao Zedong, who understood that for “hit-and-run raids by lightly armed fighters” to defeat a more powerful military they had to be combined during the later stages of their insurgency with “regular warfare,” which they could attain by growing their military strength and popular support over time. Such strategy enabled not only the Chinese Communist insurgents to take power, but other guerrilla forces, including Hezbollah, which now constitutes an effective military army (with stockpiles of sophisticated rockets) and a “state-within-a-state” in Lebanon.

Of particular interest is Mr. Boot’s observation, “Unlike guerrilla warfare, the most ancient form of warfare, terrorism is strikingly modern.” This has been made possible by the development of four phenomena: destructive and portable weaponry, such as dynamite and pistols; the mass media, which publicizes their attacks; literacy, which enables terrorist groups to recruit educated operatives; and secular ideologies that focus on nationalistic and socioeconomic issues. Interestingly, in the current period, Mr. Boot writes, religious ideologies have replaced secular ones for many terrorist groups, such as the Palestinian Hamas and al Qaeda.

Mr. Boot concludes that while it is difficult for a conventional army to defeat a strongly motivated and well-organized guerrilla adversary, “the odds remain stacked against those who adopt guerrilla or terrorist tactics. For guerrillas to triumph, they usually require outside assistance, along with a major lack of acumen or will on the part of the government under siege.”

Writing such a sweeping and comprehensive account of the world’s major guerrilla and terrorist insurgencies from ancient times until the current period is difficult under any circumstances, but one wishes the author had provided fuller accounts of the Palestinian insurgencies against Israel and of Israel’s countermeasures. For example, there is no discussion of the 1993 Oslo Accords.

Nevertheless, Mr. Boot’s “Invisible Armies” is a valuable account of some of the challenges modern militaries face in confronting terrorist and guerrilla insurgencies.

Joshua Sinai is the author of “Active Shooter: A Handbook on Prevention,” ASIS International (2013)

Tags: , , , , , ,


  1. Louis Vuitton Outlet Says:

    Thanks for sharing such a pleasant thought, paragraph
    is nice, thats why i have read it entirely

  2. how to get siri on iphone 4 Says:

    Nice post. I used to be checking constantly this weblog and
    I am impressed! Very useful info particularly the last part :) I take care of such info much.
    I used to be looking for this certain info for a very lengthy time.

    Thanks and best of luck.

  3. louis vuitton Bags Outlet Says:

    I am really impressed with your writing skills and also with the
    layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself?
    Anyway keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to see a great blog like this one these days.

  4. Buy 1285 and elevate GF Says:

    I just like the helpful info you provide for
    your articles. I will bookmark your weblog and test once more right here frequently.

    I’m relatively certain I’ll learn plenty of new stuff proper here!
    Best of luck for the following!

  5. Says:

    you are in point of fact a excellent webmaster. The site loading pace is
    incredible. It kind of feels that you’re doing any unique trick. Moreover, The contents are masterpiece. you’ve done a magnificent process in this topic!

  6. Cheap NFL Jerseys Says:

    I constantly emailed this web site post page
    to all my friends, for the reason that if like to read it then
    my links will too.

  7. Sac Louis Vuitton Says:

    I wanted to thank you for this wonderful read!!
    I definitely loved every little bit of it.
    I’ve got you book-marked to check out new stuff you post…

  8. Kandace Says:

    Hi there! I just would like to offer you a huge thumbs up
    for the excellent info you’ve got here on this post. I am returning to your web site for more soon.

  9. Says:

    Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is an extremely
    well written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I’ll certainly comeback.

  10. Michael Kors Says:

    Very nice write-up. I certainly appreciate this site.

    Keep writing!

  11. Mulberry Outlet Says:

    I could not refrain from commenting. Perfectly written!

  12. Nike Air Max Says:

    Hello, after reading this remarkable piece of writing i am
    as well glad to share my know-how here with mates.

  13. Air max uk Says:

    I couldn’t refrain from commenting. Exceptionally well written!

  14. Air Max Pas Cher Says:

    I could not resist commenting. Very well written!

  15. Michael Kors Outlet Says:

    Hi, after reading this awesome article i am as well happy to share my know-how here with friends.

  16. Eileen Says:

    Your style is very unique compared to other people I have read stuff from.
    I appreciate you for posting when you’ve got the opportunity, Guess I will just bookmark this web site.

  17. Beats By Dre Says:

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you penning this
    article plus the rest of the website is really good.

  18. Tory Burch Outlet Says:

    I’m extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Anyway keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a great blog like this one nowadays.

  19. apple ipad repair service Says:

    I’ll be bookmarking this site to read more, thanks for taking the time to write it

  20. Louis Vuitton Pas Cher Says:

    Having read this I thought it was rather informative.
    I appreciate you taking the time and energy to put this content together.
    I once again find myself personally spending a significant
    amount of time both reading and leaving comments. But
    so what, it was still worth it!

  21. Goleta CA carpet cleaning Says:

    I real thrilled to find this site on bing, merely what I was seeking: D also bookmarked.

  22. Borsa Gucci Says:

    Very nice post. I absolutely appreciate this website. Stick with it!

  23. Soldes Air Jordan Says:

    Just wish to say your article is as astonishing. The clarity
    in your post is simply cool and i can assume you are an expert on this subject.
    Well with your permission let me to grab your feed to keep
    up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please keep up the gratifying

  24. cheap gaming laptop Says:

    Wow, marvelous blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
    you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your site is great, as well as the content!

  25. Louis Vuitton Says:

    Wow, that’s what I was looking for, what a stuff! existing here at this webpage, thanks admin of this web page.

  26. Treuhandliste Says:

    I think that is one of the most vital information for me. And i’m glad reading your article. But should observation on some common things, The website taste is wonderful, the articles is really nice : D. Good job, cheers

  27. Nike Air Max Says:

    I like the valuable info you provide to your articles. I will bookmark your blog and take a look at again right here
    regularly. I’m relatively sure I will be told lots of new stuff proper here! Best of luck for the following!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: