[BOOKS] ✪ The Dragons and the Snakes: How the Rest Learned to Fight the West By David Kilcullen – Larringtonlifecoaching.co.uk

The Dragons and the Snakes: How the Rest Learned to Fight the West Just A Few Years Ago, People Spoke Of The US As A Hyperpower A Titan Stalking The World Stage With Relative Power Than Any Empire In History Yet As Early As , Newly Appointed CIA Director James Woolsey Pointed Out That Although Western Powers Had Slain A Large Dragon By Defeating The Soviet Union In The Cold War, They Now Faced A Bewildering Variety Of Poisonous Snakes In The Dragons And The Snakes, The Eminent Soldier Scholar David Kilcullen Asks How, And What, Opponents Of The West Have Learned During The Last Quarter Century Of Conflict Applying A Combination Of Evolutionary Theory And Detailed Field Observation, He Explains What Happened To The Snakes Non State Threats Including Terrorists And Guerrillas And The Dragons State Based Competitors Such As Russia And China He Explores How Enemies Learn Under Conditions Of Conflict, And Examines How Western Dominance Over A Very Particular, Narrowly Defined Form Of Warfare Since The Cold War Has Created A Fitness Landscape That Forces Adversaries To Adapt In Ways That Present Serious New Challenges To America And Its Allies Within The World S Contemporary Conflict Zones, Kilcullen Argues, State And Non State Threats Have Increasingly Come To Resemble Each Other, With States Adopting Non State Techniques And Non State Actors Now Able To Access Levels Of Precision And Lethal Weapon Systems Once Only Available To GovernmentsA Counterintuitive Look At This New, Vastly Complex Environment, The Dragons And The Snakes Will Not Only Reshape Our Understanding Of The West S Enemies Capabilities, But Will Also Show How We Can Respond Given The Increasing Limits On US Power

10 thoughts on “The Dragons and the Snakes: How the Rest Learned to Fight the West

  1. says:

    The primary national security challenge for the United States in the coming decades will be to manage its relative decline following the brief moment of superpower primacy it enjoyed at the end of the Cold War To manage a new reality first of all requires a realistic accounting of threats and capabilities This is something that is surprisingly hard to find as there are great political benefits to exaggerating both This book is a refreshingly sober and informed overview of the national securit The primary national security challenge for the United States in the coming decades will be to manage its relative decline following the brief moment of superpower primacy it enjoyed at the end of the Cold War To manage a new reality first of all requires a realistic accounting of threats and capabilities This is something that is surprisingly hard to find as there are great political benefits to exaggerating both This book is a refreshingly sober and informed overview of the national security environment that has emerged since the end of the unipolar moment What makes it especially unique however is that this analysis is done from the perspective of someone who is both a military expert and an anthropologist, applying tools from the latter field to understand the former.It used to be that non state actors and states fought in ways that were clearly different Over the past three decades however there has been a convergence Today states often fight asymmetrically, utilizing stealth, deniability, pinpoint operations and various ambiguously violent means of shaping the environment as opposed to marching large columns onto a battlefield Meanwhile militant groups have been adapting many of the tactics and practices of states, learning from fighting the United States and other countries and copying some of their tactics and even aesthetics In some cases these groups have even overreached by declaring themselves states themselves, as seen in the disastrous example of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.Where effective, these changes on both sides have largely come as an adaptive response to a security environment defined by the United States During the U.S wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, local militant groups were forced into a Darwinian battle for survival in which only the fittest and brutal actors survived Militants who behaved in a way that got themselves killed ended up teaching their surviving comrades a lesson that they d never forget The U.S quickly and effectively wiped out weaker and sometimesconciliatory actors But this often meant that theruthless, intelligent and capable counterparts could rise in their wake The violent Darwinian competition imposed by the U.S military in the theaters that it operates has often been terrible for the local people living there But it has also forged powerful and adaptive militant groups who have been shaped by their battles with the United States The most notable extant example at the moment is probably the Afghan Taliban, which has been significantly transformed over 19 years of intense conflict and is now negotiating a peace deal likely to grant it an unprecedented degree of legitimacy.One that I ve often admired about analyses of sociological phenomena emanating from military sources is that they often exhibit a degree of precision lacking in other fields This is because each death that takes place on a battlefield effectively serves as a painful lesson learned Both armies and militant groups have learned many painful lessons over the past three decades They ve been honing their behavior accordingly Following the Gulf War the United States solidified itself as the master of one particular style of war direct confrontation with air power and armor In response its rivals changed their own behavior to ensure that they never faced the U.S military on turf that was so favorable to it They have worked to fight on an asymmetric basis instead, moving the battle to terrain where the United States has been weaker like guerrilla insurgency, fighting using proxies, cyber warfare and legal and political measures In this they have achieved considerable success, as evidenced by a string of strategic defeats suffered by the United States and a visible reduction in its power and influence.This book condenses a lot of analysis of the military fitness and adaptation of Russia, Iran, North Korea and China, as well as non state groups like al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Islamic State and Hayat Tahrir al Sham Like all of Kilcullen s work it is refreshingly free of the politics and ideology that too often clouds the analysis that goes out to the general public As an anthropological work this book leans heavily on biological metaphor to explain human behavior, but does so self consciously and still nods towards ethical and moral considerations I think it is useful to think at times about politics and military competition in Darwinian terms The harsh truth is that humans learn and adapt in response to predatory environments and the experience of pain So long as the stress that individuals and organizations experience does not take them past a point of collapse, it very often turns out to be constructive and ultimately makes them stronger andadaptive.As a powerful country the United States has inflicted a lot of harm on its enemies In doing so it has often wound up making them tougher andruthless as a result But the same evolutionary logic also works in reverse fighting weaker enemies has also made the United States weaker If it is to hold onto its relative civilizational primacy in the coming century it will have to rise to the challenge of combating enemies that have been watching, learning and developing means of fighting that are precisely calculated to avoid its strengths and hit it where it is weakest Doing so will require a flexible method of warfare that keeps others distracted and off balance, while giving the United States the greatest possible space to develop its own strengths at home This book is an excellent starting point to think about how one might accomplish that

  2. says:

    Disturbingly brilliant David Kilcullen, ever the thoughtful observer of wars and the people who wage them, captures the changes in warfare that already confound and threaten to overwhelm us He correctly shows that we are mentally and physically unprepared for the new nature of conflict, and will likely pay dearly for it.Stan McChrystal, partner at McChrystal Group David Kilcullen has produced another thoughtful, important book At a time when some believe that the return of competition with g Disturbingly brilliant David Kilcullen, ever the thoughtful observer of wars and the people who wage them, captures the changes in warfare that already confound and threaten to overwhelm us He correctly shows that we are mentally and physically unprepared for the new nature of conflict, and will likely pay dearly for it.Stan McChrystal, partner at McChrystal Group David Kilcullen has produced another thoughtful, important book At a time when some believe that the return of competition with great powers i.e dragons might serve as an emotional cathartic to help forget the long war against jihadist terrorist organisations i.e snakes , the author exposes and transcends that false choice His ideas about how to fight for peace in a dangerous world should be read and discussed not only by diplomats, defense officials, and military officers, but also by citizens concerned about securing a better future for their children.H.R McMaster, author of Dereliction of Duty and the forthcoming Battlegrounds To absorb Kilcullen s insights is to be forced to rethink national and international security in this new century and to adjust military and nonmilitary institutions to a host of new realities Senior policymakers have no choice but to do so.Gary Hart, member of United States Senate Armed Services and Intelligence Committees An eye opening look at the state of strategic balance between the United States and its rivals, large and small The author delivers a detailed and unsettling analysis of how America s rivals have adapted to the modern strategic landscape and how they hope to defeat us Essential reading for anyone concerned with America s future on the world stage. STARRED REVIEW Kirkus Reviews This book should be read by everyone in uniform. The Times An impressive expos on how terrorists and non state actors outmanoeuvre conventional militaries At the heart of The Dragons and the Snakesis a Darwinian dialectic between the mighty dragons and the snakes that seek to subvert and outflank them The Dragons and the Snakesis based on a formidable array of military and political sources.Malise Ruthven, The Financial Times Interesting and provocative. The Sunday Times Kilcullen is a welcome guide, offering a neat summation of how both nation states and terrorist groups alike learned to cope with America s conventional military primacy Kilcullen s approach offers readers accessible insights into what are complex and dynamic trends. Diplomatic Courier David Kilcullen offers a wide ranging analysis of the strategic environment since 1993 compelling.Will Leben, Australian Outlook A dazzling performance This is a book that will keep you on your toes It paints a breathtaking danger laden picture of a world perennially at war, and of the strange and mesmerising process by which a snake eventually rears up, as fire filled as a dragon.Peter Craven, The Saturday Paper Kilcullen argues persuasively that while the United States has been mired down in forever wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, our current and potential adversaries have gotten the jump on us His book offers readers a skilfully annotated road map of contemporary conflict, describing in clear, measured prose how and why the days of American strategic and military preeminence are now behind us. Daily Beast Kilcullen s The Dragons and the Snakesis a timely invitation for the West to get its strategic house in order with some new thinking. The Bridge

  3. says:

    Military AdaptationGreat read on how societies militaries take steps to defend themselves but frequently adapt from stress or observations Without stress, they become complacent and risk being outclassed Too much stress, and they risk organizational collapse.Take the model and observe how the United States, Russia, and China perceive each other and attempt to adapt.

  4. says:

    A perceptive work that is rather worrying and alarming for our current world Indeed, the chapter on non state actors adapting akin to species under threat was fascinating as were the chapters on Sino Russian moves to adapt and cherry pick the most effective methods employed by non state actors coming into contact with the West Incredibly well written and accessible even if there was a fair undercurrent of foreboding with the conclusions made

  5. says:

    Always insightful writing from David Kilcullen An easy read with very interesting concepts that are very germane to the current security environment the west find itself operating in.

  6. says:

    The Dragons and the Snakes was an easy and enjoyable read on a complex topic spanning the current geopolitical landscape, historical events, and strategy as it relates to military developments of key players Russia, China, Hezbollah, etcIt provides a somber and honest look at the decline of the West and how to manage this decline from a warfare, strategic, and foreign policy perspective David Kilcullen takes an evolutionary lens to look at how state players like Russia and China develop The Dragons and the Snakes was an easy and enjoyable read on a complex topic spanning the current geopolitical landscape, historical events, and strategy as it relates to military developments of key players Russia, China, Hezbollah, etcIt provides a somber and honest look at the decline of the West and how to manage this decline from a warfare, strategic, and foreign policy perspective David Kilcullen takes an evolutionary lens to look at how state players like Russia and China developed and adapted their strategies as they observed the US in various conflicts starting from the Gulf War in 1991 The key argument of the book is that the West has inflicted a lot of harm on its enemies, thereby making themrobust by weeding out weaker elements within.Chapter 4 5 provides a fascinating in depth look at the vast differences in military strategy and structure across two state players like Russia and China Kilcullen does a superb job at tracing back through history key events Kosovo, NATO s bombing of Serbia, and the Chinese embassy in Belgrade that lead to the military strategies and policies today.Throughout the book, I realized that my prior historical understanding of topics like Hezbollah and post Cold War Russia was very flawed and filled with a significant bias.David Kilcullen ends with a great paragraph it s entirely possible that none of us actually know what we re doing, that far from having cunningly executed master plans we are all reacting instinctively, often incompetently in the moment stumbling around in a fog, bumping into things without really understanding each other This mutual incomprehension is a recipe for miscalculation, and nuclear miscalculation at that

  7. says:

    This book is a must read David does an amazing job of synthesizing the surprising effects of Western battlefield dominance in a book that straddles evolutionary biology and geopolitical strategy.It includes deep dives on Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, as well as shorter case studies on non state actors I personally loved the case study on Hezbollah completely fascinating.The book is really a three for one deal it s a short survey of conflict since the Cold War, it s a primer on the co This book is a must read David does an amazing job of synthesizing the surprising effects of Western battlefield dominance in a book that straddles evolutionary biology and geopolitical strategy.It includes deep dives on Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, as well as shorter case studies on non state actors I personally loved the case study on Hezbollah completely fascinating.The book is really a three for one deal it s a short survey of conflict since the Cold War, it s a primer on the competitive landscape for the West, and it s a piece of guidance for forward looking policy with regard to both the metaphorical snakes smaller, non state adversaries and the dragons larger, state adversaries including Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea and with regard to the United States general military purpose.David recently was kind enough to join my podcast, where we explore the content of the book After you hear him talk about it, I guarantee you ll want to read the whole thing Here s the podcast link If you want to understand the geopolitical landscape, definitely check this book out

  8. says:

    David Kilcullen is a former Australian soldier who rose to fame as one of Gen David Petraeus s group of informal advisers on handling the insurgency in Iraq from 2004 2008 Since then he has written numerous books on counter insurgency and evolving trends in guerilla warfare IN his latest, The Dragon and the Snakes Kilcullen is focused onstate actors like Russia and China to see how they adapted their approach to warfare to reflect their lessons from watching the US military over the l David Kilcullen is a former Australian soldier who rose to fame as one of Gen David Petraeus s group of informal advisers on handling the insurgency in Iraq from 2004 2008 Since then he has written numerous books on counter insurgency and evolving trends in guerilla warfare IN his latest, The Dragon and the Snakes Kilcullen is focused onstate actors like Russia and China to see how they adapted their approach to warfare to reflect their lessons from watching the US military over the last 30 years After the 1991 Gulf War it became obvious that country could stand toe to toe with 7 heavy US divisions and stand a chance of winning Countries like Russia and China looked at that and saw how the US struggled with low intensity warfare and insurgency and adapted their future military plans to those lessons

  9. says:

    An engaging and enlightening read from Australia s own warrior scholar Typical of his other books, it s the small but significant details which makes this so valuable His personal connection to the people doing the fighting is on display, as is his access to those in the high seats of power It s a rare combination.Kilcullen puts three decades of military and political history into an interesting context we see the USA as the dominant world power, but he argues that they are only dominant in An engaging and enlightening read from Australia s own warrior scholar Typical of his other books, it s the small but significant details which makes this so valuable His personal connection to the people doing the fighting is on display, as is his access to those in the high seats of power It s a rare combination.Kilcullen puts three decades of military and political history into an interesting context we see the USA as the dominant world power, but he argues that they are only dominant in a very narrow military space Adversaries have, either by direct conflict or observation, sought to compete in different spaces, rendering the military advantage less important.The climax of the book is worth waiting for, and underscores the danger of assigning your assumptions to those of your adversary We are at war, we just don t know it

  10. says:

    Where Kilcullen wrote an excellent analysis on the rise of ISIS in 2014 and 15 this work provides an eveninteresting framework understanding state and non state actors and the changing geo political scene He intertwines key historical lessons with an understanding of strategy which is amazingly insightful jborderline humourous at points and unpacks these with ease Worth a read for both these frameworks, which can be broadened to look at wider society, and for the examination of the idea Where Kilcullen wrote an excellent analysis on the rise of ISIS in 2014 and 15 this work provides an eveninteresting framework understanding state and non state actors and the changing geo political scene He intertwines key historical lessons with an understanding of strategy which is amazingly insightful jborderline humourous at points and unpacks these with ease Worth a read for both these frameworks, which can be broadened to look at wider society, and for the examination of the idea Just because we see something one way, does it mean it is true

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *