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When Americans think of modern warfare what comes to mind is the US army skirmishing with terrorists and insurgents in the mountains of Afghanistan But the face of global conflict is ever changing In Out of the Mountains David Kilcullen one of the world's leading experts on current and future conflict offers a groundbreaking look at what may happen after today's wars end This is a book about future conflicts and future cities and about the challenges and opportunities that four powerful megatrends population urbanization coastal settlement and connectedness are creating across the planet And it is about what cities communities and businesses can do to prepare for a future in which all aspects of human society including but not limited to conflict crime and violence are changing at an unprecedented pace Kilcullen argues that conflict is increasingly likely to occur in sprawling coastal cities in peri urban slum settlements that are enveloping many regions of the Middle East Africa Latin America and Asia and in highly connected electronically networked settings He suggests that cities rather than countries are the critical unit of analysis for future conflict and that resiliency not stability will be the key objective Ranging across the globe from Kingston to Mogadishu to Lagos to Benghazi to Mumbai he offers a unified theory of competitive control that explains how non state armed groups such as drug cartels street gangs and warlords draw their strength from local populations providing useful ideas for dealing with these groups and with diffuse social conflicts in general His extensive fieldwork on the ground in a series of urban conflicts suggests that there will be no military solution for many of the struggles we will face in the future We will need to involve local people deeply to address problems that neither outsiders nor locals alone can solve drawing on the insight only locals can brin

10 thoughts on “Out of the Mountains

  1. says:

    This is far than a book on tactics in the chaotic world we're in it's an analysis of strife and the social urban and environmental trends that feed it and shape it The world is increasingly urbanized and those urban areas are often usually coastal littoral a word he uses often dysfunctional complex connected electronically and filled with internal rivalries and flashpoints It's the kind of dystopia that authors like Martin van Creveld The Transformation of War and Robert Kaplan The Coming Anarchy warned of 20 years ago David Kilcullen now shows us how it actsThe title is slightly misleading as it's not simply about guerilla warfare but about modern conflict which will be as he shows mostly urban but involving populations accessible technology and social organization like nothing before and far removed from what Mao or Che Guevara knewKilcullen shows how urban society can produce combatants and govern neighborhoods gangs and groups like Shabab in Somalia are the most obvious as he shows but football fan clubs Ultras are also candidates as are hacker groups and social networks Indeed his concept of competitive control is clever as governments local gangs and social networks might have organization a normative system of rewards and punishments and communications that overlap in urban neighborhoods and even personnel These groups may claim turf and adherents but might have tenuous legitimacy or power something an outside force say a US Marine expeditionary force might not understandHis tactical examples from recent history are apt He shows how for instance Al aeda in Ira AI established dominion in Sunni neighborhoods enforced its will waged war on government and Shiite entities but was eclipsed after 2006 due to a combination of a foreign troop surge and its own unpopularity among its hosts He shows how the Taliban in Afghanistan has adapted its control systems and governance to maintain a presence even during the occupation He shows how Shabab militias can adapt light vehicles and crew served weapons to a simple but effective form of mounted warfare He shows the interaction and conflict of competing power centers as in the battle between the Shower Posse gang of Kingston and the Jamaican government two hostile authorities with definite and shifting areas of control in the country's own capital He even mentions an episode in San Francisco where the Bay Area Rapid Transit authority sought to turn off wireless to forestall a demonstration and learned that people once connected will resent any attempt to cut it offHe shows us how modern connectivity the Web cell phones social networks satellite technology and phenomena like Skype or Google Earth now reaches every part of this new environment It can mobilize demonstrators as in the Arab Spring and get help from relatives abroad he shows but it can also train unskilled soldiers and arrs in tactics and fabrication as in Libya or utilize iPhone Skype and mapping software to direct its new firepower and get their message out to domestic and world audiences He does in short explain the Arab Spring's events and functionalityHe does show successful cases where local people overcame this chaos but little of it involved military force or outsider control but rather down to earth social interaction and a concerted collective effortThis is a book that Western defense ministries and service academies had better readIndispensible for anybody seeking to understand conflict and not just military in this time Anybody in urban planning military science economics sociology technology applications and just maybe regional or national politics would do well to study it

  2. says:

    Did this book take me over two years to read? YES Am I annoyed at that? YES But it is also a fantastic read that not only explains counterinsurgency tactics but explains the PoV of militant terrorist and guerrilla warriors Do you know how essential that is? It doesn't talk down or belittle their arguments while also noting every time that either side insurgency or counterinsurgency committed war crimes or human rights violations He pulls in subaltern studies organizational theory and his military background Examples come from Belgrade East Timor Mumbai Lagos San Salvador and San Francisco to name a few Although I am dismayed by how Kilcullen didn't interlink climate issues into of these topics given its destabilizing nature and such he did really write an intersectional and helpful guide to understanding guerrilla warfare and how to plan with it I'll be coming back to this book for reference in a ton of cases it has inspired some military fiction for sure

  3. says:

    Kilcullen argues that conflict follows where the populations are And that within the next couple of decades a large percentage of the world's populations will live in stressed urban centers on the coast Cities that have grown from 50000 to 15 million in 50 years are going to be the new normal especially in Africa and Southeast Asia Competitive control means that non state armed groups such as drug cartels street gangs and warlords draw their strength from local populations and will be competing with police and city officials for control of the peri urban slums He suggests that cities rather than countries are the critical unit of analysis for future conflict and that resiliency not stability will be the key objective Why I started this book I love listening to my Professional Reading titles so I jumped when I found another oneWhy I finished it Fascinating and a reminder that we won't be prepared for tomorrow if we only focus on today This book made me want to start a book club with my cousins one who serves in the National Guard one who is an urban planner and one who is trying out for the police force I just want everyone in the same room so we can talk about what their disciplines have taught them and what there groups consider their biggest future challenges

  4. says:

    Out of the Mountains is a serious work of scholarship written by David Kilcullen a serious scholar of modern warfare It's not a topic that I would want to study in depth but I'm glad there are people out there who make it their lives' work A full disclosure I received this book through Goodreads' First Reads program Kilcullen points out that we are becoming clustered in our coastal cities We use our technology to connect us in ways that our ancestors couldn't even dream Our clustering and our connectivity leads to new vulnerabilities that enemies can exploit Kilcullen identifies these problems and vulnerabilities He is not long on solutions but that may be because there are few ways to solve these problems At least solutions that do not involve tossing away our smart phones and moving away from the coasts I recommend this book heartily

  5. says:

    Very good overview of urban counterinsurgency to come almost by way of an anthropologicalsociological view of urbanization rather than a purely military focus The appendix is where the technical meat is and it's uite fascinating The idea that IraAfghanistan are a collective mistake best forgotten is reinforced by Kilcullen's reference to innovative studies on urban operations which really peaked between 1997 and 2002 and were then stopped andor forgotten after the invasion of IraBut really uite a good synopsis of why urban operations in the future are inevitable

  6. says:

    More an overview than an in depth account Kilcullen's latest is however packed with ideas Lots of it isn't particularly new especially the urban theory and the overall demographics used to underpin the book's main thesis In any case it's an easy overview of some upcoming challenges and environments that people ought to think about My only uibble is that he tends to approach the issues with with a military mindset or with an emphasis on military tools

  7. says:

    Very interesting book which reads like a guide to modern urban warfare two days after the Paris attacks I would strongly recommend all urban dwellers to check it as they may one day face the same situation as the Mumbai and Paris inhabitants

  8. says:

    Thesis Irregular warfare conflicts involving non state actors is the future whether politicians like it or not; four megatrends are affecting how these conflicts will be fought population growth accelerating urbanization littoralization and increased connectedness which together mean that the connected urban littoral is where future irregular warfare will mostly take placeKilkullen combined sophisticated theoretical account of the politics of these conflicts rooted in close readings of key episodes in irregular conflicts from Somalia to Ira to Afghanistan to Rio to Kingston to Mumbai to San Pedro Sula to generate a subtle prognostication of how the future of littoralized irregular warfare will unfold His key metaphor is to understand the megacity itself as kind of metabolic system and that the winners in combat in these settings will be those who best understand and exploit that metabolic system Far from being a discrete entity separate from its environment an insurgency is in fact a system state within that environment a dissipative structure within a complex flow system and thus inseparable from the ecosystem in which it occurs 43 Future threat networks will be embedded in a complex urban littoral environment illicit activities will nest within licit systems and processes and local threats will nest within networks at the regional and global level 112 Several of the set pieces in the book are among the best things of their kind I have ever read notably the detailed account of the 2008 L e T assault on Mumbai 52 65 and the account of Somali swarm tactics 80 84 in which a consistent set of complex emergent effects result from the application of five simple rules of engagement Maintain an extended line abreast; Keep your neighbors in sight but no closer; Move to the sound of the guns; Dismount when you see the enemy; When you come under fire stop and fire back The application of these five simple rules of autonomous rules based maneuver is the essence of a self synchronizing swarm The size shape and disposition of the tactical swarm are completely emergent properties of the rules based swarm maneuver system itself something that happens without conscious direction or formal control from a central commander 84Kilkullen also invokes the concepts of feral cities and criminal insurgency and explains how competitive control systems emerge when the state is weak basically because everyday people would prefer the certainties of consistent oppression to the uncertainties of arbitrary applications of force and injustice Society abhors a governance vacuum 95 and so where the government doesn't provide adeuate governance services criminal governance instead inevitably emerges offering a consistency b predictability and c order albeit often of a very rough kind He formalizes his theory this way In irregular conflicts that is in conflicts where at least one of the combattants is a nonstate armed group the local armed actor that a given population perceives as best able to establish a predictable consistent wide spectrum normative system of control is most likely to dominate that population and its residential area 126What's new is that now these criminal governors are often globally connected both electronically and commercially allowing them to develop their own revenue streams independent of the immediate local environment through the control of smuggling and the exploitation of diaspora networks One thing Kilkullen spends very little time asking is WHY some places have less effective governments than others And this process will intensify as nonstate armed groups increasingly draw on the technical skills of the globally networked urban populations in which they operateKilkullen also hints at how this sort of model of military engagement may increasingly be the norm not just when states are fighting non state actors but even in state on state combat engagements especially as the transition to continuous cyberwarfare and remote control drones erodes the distinction between civilian and military between zones of peace and the battlespace and even between war and peace itself he might have added between human and machine

  9. says:

    Kilcullen is both a soldier and a scholar with experience ranging from small combat unit leadership to the staff of a theater level commander Gen Petraeus and perspective drawing on service in a variety of places and types of situations Like John Nagl who also worked for Petraeus this author is able than even most effective leaders to analyze and project based on developing and likely trends in economics and geopoliticsThis book looks at the accelerating growth of megacities especially coastal ones and the percentage of the world's population that lives in those megacities especially the poor and how those changes will affect the future of warfare Any political or military policy maker who wants to avoid the common mistake of planning to refight the last war would do well to read LtCol Kilcullen's books

  10. says:

    Good book for giving someone another reason to move away from populated coastal areas Not exceptionally readable due to the industry jargon many paragraphs read like research thesis statements but addresses all kinds of interesting issues on the subject likeDrone warfare is increasingly waged from military bases near civilian populations and the pilots typically return to their homes and families at the end of the shift as the pilots are combatants are they legitimate targets?Social media is freuently used to organise protests insurgencies and domestic terrorism but when the government blocks the platform for that reason it paradoxically increases the righteousness of that cause enough to turn a peaceful protest violentExplains how criminal organisations extremist religious groups and warlords maintain control over civilian populations and are welcomed to do so when the state government is too weak or corrupt to provide stability