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JUNE 2014 ISSUE

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Battles of the Future

 

Battles of the Future When one of the world’s foremost thinkers on counterinsurgency and military strategy talks about the new faces of modern conflict, it’s worth sitting up and noticing. In his latest expansive book Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla, David Kilcullen takes us through some of the historic conflicts in recent times and analyses them in detail, thereby providing an insight into his theories, which, he says, ‘will at least help to begin a discussion on which others can build’.

Kilcullen’s vast experience in conflict zones such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Somalia and many others has only made him worried and puzzled about the complex patterns of violence that has been unfolding on the ground. So through various theories, observations, field reports and worldwide socio-political trends, he attempts to understand these patterns and concludes that our concepts of traditional counterinsurgency or counter-terrorism have to be junked and instead, focus should be on how various factors of population growth, coastal urbanisation and growing connectivity will majorly influence conflict in the future.

As he observes in the ‘Introduction’: ‘…And it’s about what governments can do to prepare for a future in which all aspects of human life – including, but not only, conflict, crime and violence – will be crowded, urban, networked and coastal’. To argue his point, Kilcullen examines the 2008 Mumbai attacks in details as an example of what future spectrum of threats in coastal cities will be like. The fact that it’s an urban coastal city, well connected and networked was fully exploited by the attackers. Kilcullen believes that Mumbai represents only one kind of threat that exists in urban coastal cities. For other types of threats he looks at other cities across the world; Mogadishu and Kingston being the others.

The book lays a lot of stress on the modern tools of connectivity such as the internet and mobile, and examines how these played a significant role in the recent uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Syria, to name a few. Kilcullen is convinced that these tools will become even more significant in future conflicts. He visualizes a future where wars will not be relegated to remote, landlocked mountainous areas but rather would be fought in urban, coastal cities which are bursting at the seams but are extremely well networked. He completely rules out conflicts in mountains in the future and instead votes for littoral conflicts where marines will play a major role.

Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla
David Kilcullen
Oxford University Press
Rs 795, Pg 342


 
 


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