Blood Year: The Unraveling of Western Counterterrorism

Blood Year The Unraveling of Western Counterterrorism has the potential to go down as a crucial year in modern world history A resurgent and bellicose Russia took over Crimea and fueled a civil war in Eastern Ukraine Post Saddam Iraq in many respec

  • Title: Blood Year: The Unraveling of Western Counterterrorism
  • Author: David Kilcullen
  • ISBN: 9780190600549
  • Page: 159
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Blood Year: The Unraveling of Western Counterterrorism

    2014 has the potential to go down as a crucial year in modern world history A resurgent and bellicose Russia took over Crimea and fueled a civil war in Eastern Ukraine Post Saddam Iraq, in many respects a creature of the United States because of the war that began in 2003, lost a third of its territory to an army of hyper violent millennialists The peace process in Isra2014 has the potential to go down as a crucial year in modern world history A resurgent and bellicose Russia took over Crimea and fueled a civil war in Eastern Ukraine Post Saddam Iraq, in many respects a creature of the United States because of the war that began in 2003, lost a third of its territory to an army of hyper violent millennialists The peace process in Israel seemed to completely collapse Finally, after coalescing in Syria as a territorial entity, the Islamic State swept into northern Iraq and through northeastern Syria, attracting legions of recruits from Europe and the Middle East In short, the post Cold War security order that the US had constructed after 1991 seemed to be coming apart at the seams David Kilcullen was one of the architects of America s strategy in the late phases of the second Gulf War, and also spent time in Afghanistan and other hotspots In Blood Year, he provides a wide angle view of the current situation in the Middle East and analyzes how America and the West ended up in such dire circumstances Whereas in 2008 it appeared that the U.S might pull a modest stalemate from the jaws of defeat in Iraq, six years later the situation had reversed After America pulled out of Iraq completely in 2011, the Shi ite president cut Sunnis out of the power structure and allowed Iranian influence to grow And from the debris of Assad s Syria arose an extremist Sunni organization even radical than Al Qaeda Unlike Al Qaeda, ISIS was intent on establishing its own state, and within a remarkably short time they did Interestingly, Kilcullen highlights how embittered former Iraqi Ba athist military officers were key contributors to ISIS s military successes Kilcullen lays much of the blame on Bush s initial decision to invade Iraq which had negative secondary effects in Afghanistan , but also takes Obama to task for simply withdrawing and adopting a leading from behind strategy As events have proven, Kilcullen contends, withdrawal was a fundamentally misguided plan The U.S had uncorked the genie, and it had a responsibility to at least attempt to keep it under control Instead, the U.S is at a point where administration officials state that the losses of Ramadi and Palmyra are manageable setbacks Kilcullen argues that the U.S needs to re engage in the region, whether it wants to or not, because it is largely responsible for the situation that is now unfolding Blood Year is an essential read for anyone interested in understanding not only why the region that the U.S invaded a dozen years ago has collapsed into utter chaos, but also what it can do to alleviate the grim situation.

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    One thought on “Blood Year: The Unraveling of Western Counterterrorism

    1. Randal White

      An incredible, timely book. Kilcullen was a major participant in the formation of strategies used in our wars in the Middle East/Africa. He readily acknowledges the mistakes that "we" made; by concentrating on the theory of "disaggregation" (mainly going after the leaders of Al Qaeda, it was assumed that it would break up the group into smaller entities, which local the local government could deal with, but in reality it just dispersed the group to other areas and allowed them to start up new gr [...]

    2. Murtaza

      Kilcullen is an Australian expert on counterinsurgency who helped the U.S. try and salvage the Iraq War, a conflict that he shows no hesitance denouncing as the worst strategic error since Hitler's decision to invade the Soviet Union in WW2 (he compares the two scenarios quite compellingly in fact). The "Blood Year" of the title refers to 2014-2015, when ISIS began its rampage through Iraq and Syria and undid whatever fleeting gains the U.S. had made in staunching the bleeding that their invasio [...]

    3. Counterinsurgent

      Kilcullens self reflections and analysis of the current situation in Iraq and Syria is bold and refreshing. He presents the 'Disaggregation' strategy designed to counter al-Qaida in 2002/03. Painting a somber picture of the future of the region and its spillovers he addresses the lack of western political commitment to develop useful strategies. "You cannot fight without fighting", our enemies understand that, but do we? I enjoyed Kilcullen's strategic thinking and historical overview of MENA de [...]

    4. Eric Michael Burke

      A succinct, if depressing, overview of the collapse of the War on Terror and subsequent rise of ISIS across the "Blood Year" of 2014. Kilcullen, a brilliant thinker, spreads the blame for the ongoing strategic catastrophe equally across nearly every party involved in containing and combatting ISIS.In sum, Kilcullen argues that Bush's 2003 Iraq invasion destroyed regional partnerships and eventually laid the groundwork necessary for the birth of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). A counter-terror strategy t [...]

    5. Tyler Bigney

      I don't usually review books I've read , but putting this out there - there's misinformation in this book presented as fact . Anwar al-awlaki did not radicalize Nidal Hasan through emails like the author states on p.56. Hasans emails to Awlaki went mostly unignored , and Awlaki only came out in praise of him after the shooting . The FBI released all the emails between Awlaki & Hasan, so this information is easy to find. It seems the fact checkers at Oxford Press missed this obvious error . O [...]

    6. Marks54

      (Revised below in critique) David Kilcullen has written a very good book on the rise of ISIS as a military force and the failure of Western counterinsurgency in the period following the success of the surge in Iraq. He focuses the book around the breakout of ISIS as a major force in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere over 2014 and 2015. He provides a detailed account of the rise of ISIS following the near extinction of AQI during the surge and provides the context of the contributing factors leading to [...]

    7. Maria

      Kilcullen, an Australian counterterrorism expert, writes about the bloody year of 2014-2015 and how it was linked to American's overreaction to the 9/11 attacks under Bush and to the under-reaction to terrorism under Obama.Why I started this book: Kilcullen, is an academic with boots on the ground experience, combining theory and practice. Always a fascinating read. For example, he compared the invasion of Iraq by Bush to the invasion of Russia by Hitler. Both were wars of choice, started in the [...]

    8. Holly Morrow

      Totally depressing and also required reading if you want to understand what is happening in the Middle East, and with the American counter-terror effort. “Blood Year” refers to 2015, when basically everything fell apart in the Western fight against terrorism – when ISIS overran large parts of Iraq and Syria, and radicalized locals staged attacks in Paris and elsewhere. Kilcullen – an Australian soldier/scholar who became an important part of American war strategy post 9/11 – is a very [...]

    9. Haydn Barlow

      Close to five stars. Kilcullen has entered the realm of Andrew Bacevich here as a soldier scholar. The book's strength lies in Kilcullen's inside-out perspective. He's deeply informed as an important player in these wars, but removed from the constraints of govt policy. His interpretation of events is from a unique and valuable perspective. His recommendations for future action are thus troubling, but hard to argue with. At the core of Kilcullen's argument is an oft repeated refrain: 1. Iraq 200 [...]

    10. SpaceBear

      Really, this book from Kilcullen is a summary of his views on the changes in counterinsurgency/counterterrorist strategy in the era post-Iraq surge in 2007, right up to ISIS seizing huge swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq in 2014. He criticizes firstly the Bush administration for invading Iraq, and for doing so in a "light frootprint" approach that couldn't provide security or combat the insurgency. Although the Surge - in which he played an active role - was successful in his eyes, he criti [...]

    11. Lynda

      Kilcullen has now released a full-length book of the same name as his "Blood Year" Quarterly Essay. I picked both up in the bookshop, flipped through, and decided that my commitment was essay length. Quarterly Essays come in at about 25 000 words. I found the whole thing compelling; the impact of military policy was very rationally explained, appropriately referenced and qualified, and horrific at times. I looked up the "letters to the editor" from the next Quarterly Essay and it is clear that K [...]

    12. James

      Outstanding, as have been LtCol. Kilcullen's other books - his analysis is incisive, nonpartisan, and organized. His prose is crisp and to the point, with occasional memorable phrases; for example, he characterizes G.W. Bush and Obama as, respectively, reckless and feckless. The author's long experience in counterinsurgency warfare and the tremendous amount of thought he's given the subject give his evaluations solid credibility.His final look at the subject is pessimistic but not hopeless - as [...]

    13. Nick Lloyd

      Kilcullen is not at his best here, but the book still has a lot to offer. Venturing out of his comfort zone of guerrilla warfare to examine Grand Strategy, Kilcullen does an admirable job for the most part recounting the last three years of ISIL's rise, and the Western response to it. He falls into the policy groupthink trap in regards to the "red line" debate of 2013, claiming it showed weakness on behalf of the United States, emboldening Vladimir Putin (forgetting, it seems, Putin's invasion o [...]

    14. Peter Stuart

      Outstandingly written and presented. As a participant in the formation of the original strategy post 9/11, that he himself acknowledges has failed, to the current day and his organizations reach and research, he assess things as they are and calls them in honest, open words as he sees them. If you need reconfirmation of why the Taliban, AQ and ISIS will never be defeated, and their operating modes that make it so, then this is an outstanding read. If you need, or want first confirmation, and wha [...]

    15. Morgan Brickley

      Mindblowing. Listened on Audible. Read by the author in his aussie accent. Incredible detail on the failures and successes and painfully gained wisdom over the last decade of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Written before the latest series of ISIS attacks but it was clear that Iraq et al was not going to be fixed easily.

    16. Anoop Kutty

      This book is an absolute must read for anyone wanting to know what the mess in Iraq and Syria is all about. Published in 2016, it gives a birds eye view and an insight into the reasons for the unholy mess that led to the creation of the ISIS.The author David Kilcullen had the benefit of a ringside view of events as they unfolded  as he served as  an intelligence officer with the Bush administration in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Horn of Africa and Southeast Asia and further with  the Ob [...]

    17. Readosaurus

      In the British comedy film Four Lions clueless wannabe jihadists discuss a strategy succinctly expressed as, ‘bomb the mosque, radicalise the moderates’. It’s one of my favourite parts of the film, largely because, at the time I thought it was so outrageous and ill-conceived as to be ridiculous. However, after reading this clear, concise and well reasoned summary of the ‘War on Terror’ and its aftermath in the region I recognised, with horror, that 9/11 had achieved almost exactly that [...]

    18. Jimmy

      I read this book because it entered the Army Chief of Staff reading list last year.The author, David Kilcullen, begins by discussing his qualifications and more importantly, declares his biases or specifically, the lack thereof. Kilcullen is an Australian and acknowledges that he is not registered to vote in the United States nor does he affiliate with any particular party's politics. Books like this often seem politicized so it was refreshing for the author to be so candid. In Blood Year, he is [...]

    19. Jeff

      Outside of the evening news, I paid little attention to the doings of ISIS. After finishing this book, I have a new appreciation for them as a threat. LTC Kilcullen provides a clear and concise narrative of their political and military achievements in 2014-2015. It's amazing how they grew from QAI to a state player in the middle east by capitalizing on the US invasion and withdrawal from Iraq, the Arab spring, and the weaknesses of the Syrian & Iraqi governments. They are truly a learning or [...]

    20. Stephan Bolton

      Kilcullen’s solid assessment of the state of western counterterrorism approaches and the unimagined evolution of the threat over the last 5 years is backed up by field research and good historical analysis. It’s a good example of a scholarly effort made accessible to practitioners & policy makers. Also very engaging, my fastest read of the year.

    21. Otty Medina

      A sobering read about the current state of affairs regarding transnational terrorism, failed states, and geopolitical minefields. I can't say I 'liked' it per se, but it is a good perspective as part of a broader policy discussion.

    22. Andrew Tollemache

      David Kilcullen is one prolific writer on COIN and counter-terrorisism. In "BloodYear" KIlcullen makes the case that 2014 was the year the fraying successes, such as they were, in GWOT really came apart. Citing the Russian take over of the Crimean, ISIS's momentous success across Syria and Iraq coupled to the never ending Syrian Civil War, KIlcullen sees the glimmers of success that the West was having getting Islamic terrorism under control as being no more. On top of this the Western effort to [...]

    23. Tim Rose

      This book was an awesome account of what the title calls the unraveling of western counterterrorism as evidenced by the rise of ISIS. David Kilcullen does not have any bias except toward the truth. He leaves no party or politician unaccountable for what has happened to give rise to the violence and terror caused by the so called Islamic State. Kilcullen has brilliant insight, sharp analysis and he draws on a wide range of knowledge and experience to highlight his points. He also has a robust kno [...]

    24. J.G. Cully

      A detailed, informed and at times brutally honest review of the last few years of war with Islamic State but also of the last decade of counter terrorism since 9/11. The author writes with authority on the subject and demonstrates his ability not to over burden the reader with needless detail. Instead, he gets right to the point and reveals the exact state of play and the evolution of current circumstances. A very intelligent assessment and a must read for those who want to know the truth of cur [...]

    25. Michael Shoemake

      A very informative read, though it's hurt at times by Kilcullen's brief detours into assigning blame. The book would be better if these passages were either omitted or expanded considerably so as to properly explore (and presumably reject) the most charitable explanations for the choices made by members of the executive branch. This is, however, a minor issue; the vast majority of the book is quite good.

    26. Jwduke

      I read every book the author writes and watch ever recorded lecture he gives. If you are wondering about how we got to where we are in the Mideast, then this book is for you. The author first writes his main points, then provides supporting detail for them in an easy to read manner. The author does not shy away from his past mistakes or off the mark predictions, and even makes some more. A must read for the military.

    27. Chris Knutson

      A great rundown of the events leading to the current situation in Iraq and Syria although his conclusion that what we need are more air strikes, committed troops and a 2016 version of the Lend Lease program is overly hawkish.

    28. Antony

      The latest book from a well known counter-insurgency specialist. Strong on how we got to this point; vague on what to do next.

    29. Brian Ridge

      Excellent read. Brings Kilcullen's thoughts on terrorism and insurgencies up through the modern day. Lots of talk about ISIS.

    30. Anna

      I feel as though a thick veil of ignorance has been lifted. A super-clear account of the exact chain of events and strategic mistakes that have led to the current mess in the Middle East.

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