Fighting the War on Terror

Jim Corum, on old friend of mine from Oxford days, is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College, the Air Command and Staff College, and the Army War College. He served for two years on the faculty of the Army War College and fourteen years on the faculty of the US Air Force Schools of Advanced Air and Space Studies. In addition he has visited and lectured at staff colleges in Britain, Germany, Paraguay, South Africa, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Norway and Canada. He has put in six years of active duty and twenty-two years of reserve service, including duty in Iraq in 2004.

His book "Fighting the War on Terror. A Counterinsurgency Strategy." is well written, thought-provoking and hard-hitting. He is particularly critical of America's reliance on a "new way of war" in which high technology is given priority at the expense of training and manpower. He laments the scant attention paid to the importance of local knowledge and linguistic skills, the failure of the intelligence culture to reform to meet the present danger posed by Islamic terrorism and the incompetence of the US military in media campaigning as part of an overall strategy for building confidence in populations who face the problem of dealing with radical insurgents in their midst.

A competent military historian with many published works in the field to his name, Corum draws lessons from the past and often refers to the timeless value of Clausewitz. An example that is often used in the book is the manner in which the long term policy of the British in Malaya led to eventual success in the region through the systematic and high quality training of senior officers in both the army and the police. These lessons have not been applied in Iraq which has suffered from the desire to see a low cost and speedy solution, leaving the nascent new Iraqi army and police force unable to meet the challenges of a quite foreseeable post-war chaos.

If you want to go beyond the naive anti-American "it's all about the oil" analysis of the current situation in Iraq, this book is a very good place to start. You will finish it with a better understanding of the fundamental changes in military doctrine that are needed if the West is to survive the growing threat of international terrorism.

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