WAR IN THE SHADOWS. 2 Vols. by Robert Asprey


Email this review


Judging from its weight and almost prohibitive price and the number of counterinsurgent experts credited in the preface, this ought to be some sort of definitive volume. However, one is compelled to cut through vast lardings of sometimes exciting but generally useless information. In his historical sweep, Asprey considers that any sort of irregular warfare deserves admission to his chronicle. Thus we get a frieze of hit-and-run plunder and conventional armies' skirmishes from the Normans and Vikings and Mongols to Morgan's Raiders -- with neither implicit nor explicit lessons about the problems of guerrilla warfare. Much of the book remains on the level of an eighth-grade thriller, since Asprey enjoys episodes of torture and massacre so much that he even throws in a fictional one by Malraux. The inability of Napoleon to defeat Hispanic insurgents -- the classic example of pre-modem guerrilla warfare -- is underlined without any insight beyond the Duke of Wellington's exploitation thereof. The point might be made that, as Churchill said, guerrilla tactics can prevent defeat but never bring victory. The upshot of the book is to recommend the ""flexibility"" of British ""low-intensity operations"" against Indochinese guerrillas. . . . For those to whom actions speak louder than words or the ideas behind them -- Asprey is a popular military historian (cf. At Belleau Wood, 1965).

Pub Date: May 9th, 1975
Publisher: Doubleday