Counterinsurgency has staked its claim in the new century as the
new American way of war. Yet, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have
revived a historical debate about the costs - monetary, political
and moral - of operations designed to eliminate insurgents and
build nations. Today's counterinsurgency proponents point to 'small
wars' past to support their view that the enemy is 'biddable' if
the correct tactical formulas are applied. Douglas Porch's sweeping
history of counterinsurgency campaigns carried out by the three
'providential nations' of France, Britain and the United States,
ranging from nineteenth-century colonial conquests to General
Petraeus' 'Surge' in Iraq, challenges the contemporary
mythologising of counterinsurgency as a humane way of war. The
reality, he reveals, is that 'hearts and minds' has never been a
recipe for lasting stability and that past counterinsurgency
campaigns have succeeded not through state-building but by
shattering and dividing societies while unsettling civil-military
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