Wall Street Journal contributor and Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Boot (War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History: 1500 to Today, 2006, etc.) follows the long, quirky history of insurgency, from Bar Kokhba to Bin Laden.
The slippery definition of guerrillas (Spanish for “little wars”) underscores the challenging task faced by the author. In this systematic though not always chronological study, Boot examines how guerrilla forces have always “employ[ed] stealth, surprise and rapid movement to harass, ambush, massacre, and terrorize their enemies while trying to minimize their own casualties through rapid retreat,” tactics that have proven highly effective throughout history, especially as the fight moved into the realm of winning public opinion. The author divides his narrative into various epochs, beginning in Mesopotamia and continuing through the long-running struggle against the Roman Empire, warfare in China around the time of Sun Tzu, the centuries of battles between England and Scotland, the Haitian and Greek wars for independence, the struggle for Italian unification, the ascent of Mao Zedong and present-day battles with terrorist organizations. He also examines the many examples of guerrilla warfare in America, including the revolution against Britain, the “forest wars” of the eastern U.S., the battles of the Ku Klux Klan and civil rights agitators. The creation of the “guerrilla mystique” in the 1960s and ’70s, thanks to Castro, Guevara and Arafat, emphasized radical ideology as the guerrilla motivation, paving the way for the next deadly wave by parties of God, jihadists and suicide bombers.
An expansive nuts-and-bolts historical survey from a keen military mind.