The Accidental Guerrilla – Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One review & notes

Narrated by: Peter Ganim
Length: 15 hrs and 35 mins
Release date: 12-31-09

Very insightful, intense perspective for conflicts

What is the book about?

Essentially terrorism.

It details several conflicts and aims to connect them through David Killcullen’s theory of ‘the accidental guerrilla’, for which Kilcullen ‘argues that the vast majority of people the West faces in these conflicts had no initial intention of fighting but instead were moved to action by an extremist minority. Therefore the West should pursue courses that counteract the conditions that allow extremists to manipulate segments of populations into becoming “accidental” guerrillas rather than targeting certain individuals or groups.’  (source:

The fact that the CIA recommends this book to intelligence officers and military personnel etc I think is very interesting.

Essentially Kilcullen emphasises rather early on in the book that the reason for any group of people turning to terrorism is a feeling of injustice.

When they reach out for help to the government and get nothing in return, or… the government are the ones unfairly prosecuting a certain group of people, and they reach out to other nations for help yet no one responds, then the easy response is to react with terrorism.  Because despite what the US propaganda machine wants you to believe Terrorism DOES work.

A government is meant to be able to protect its citizens, when a group strikes out with a terrorist acts and kills ordinary people, it very quickly points out the governments incapacity to protect its people, and when they ask why?  The terrorist group can draw attention to their cause.

What this book did for me

This book improved my understanding of terrorism issues, the cause of terrorism, what events can lead up to it, and some of the actors at play during a 30 year span or so.

I’ve studied International policy, terrorism, security strategy and a bunch of other things, and am obviously also Australian, so hearing David Kilcullen explain different theatres of conflict, the history of how they got to that situation, and then how they were handled, with a relation to both the US & Australia was thoroughly interesting.


The narration is a bit dull and dry and times, and the information is very dense, which is why it took me so long to finish. A couple of long car journeys you can get through this, but it’s also the kind of book you want to take notes.

Who would I recommend this book to?

As a member of the military, this would be a fascinating read, people who are majoring in security strategy and warfare as well, and it should be a MUST for politicians.
This book, is a compiled and condensed account of the experienced amassed by David Kicullen who is a respected member of not just the military, but also in the realm of conflict resolution. I’ve heard him referenced by many other books, including ‘Inside Delta Force’, ‘Strategy a history’ and a couple of others.
He provides that much needed different perspective for doing the job that politicians and members of the public think is so easy to say ‘yes to intervene’ ‘no to intervene’ and the huge range of costs, information to learn and time spent.
-I think if more people read this book and took on board the insights, they would be less impulsive in their decisions regarding war & security strategy.


Notes on The Accidental Guerrilla.

(AQ= Al-Qaida)

Chao Xian Zhan (超限站)Unrestricted Warfare by Chinese authors Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui.

Lawfare = warfare by taking advantage of legal loop holes.

The principle of addition to overwhelm the USA.

Al-Qaida con. Pakistani non state actor group.

America has to observe it’s own rules or the whole world won’t trust it.

4 ways to think about the environment.

1.the globalisation backlash thesis

  1. The global insurgency model
  2. The Islamic civil war theory
  3. The asymmetric warfare model.

1944 -1982 were pretty much colonial conflicts. Even Russia. And Europe.

Thomas Friedman –‘The World Is Flat’ book.

America’s soft power is incredibly important. But this book also implies it has decreased. For the 2nd way to think about the environment.

Al-Qaida – ‘inciter in chief’.
To show spectacular amounts of resistance against the hegemony.

Iran as a regional hegemon.
Iran is Shia. What does this mean? What are the others?

Sayed = one directly related to the prophet.

Road construction program. Really interesting concept, to get there right members to the table.

Me. So many friggen acronyms all military related. Print book would help here.

1 dollar al-Qaida vs 540,000 dollars America spends in reaction.

Elites dealing with elites. Reason for missing discontent within the lower classes is. The imminent fall of communism. And not having WMDs in Iraq. The elites believed they had them, and the US were intercepting those cables.

Australia’s military is 9 times larger than diplomacy and aid.

America’s is 210 times.

Office of strategic services needed again.

For al-Qaida information is the whole point and main action.
America is a supporting role for information operations.
Almost an afterthought compared to AQ.

Al-Qaeda  – the new vanguard of a particular type of war of terrorism and showing the way.

The AQ attacks cost between 400,000 and 500,000 (US) dollars however the direct cost for the United States for recoil was 22 billion dollars.  So the efficiency of the AQ attack was phenomenal.

And then the War on Terror’s total cost was around 22 Billion dollars.  AQ’s point was to draw USA into a ‘War of Exhaustion’, and for that they have succeeded.

Most western democracies, the ratio of defence spending to aid is 8-1, whereas the USA its 200-1.  So the USA spending 200 times more on military than aid, which is helping other countries and helping them not get into a situation where a war or defence needs to be taken place. Which is a clear indicator for how the USA runs into problems and its priorities.

AQ seeks to be the inciter in chief rather than the leader in chief. It seeks to create a global uprising and sustain that uprising for a number of years even decades if necessary.  Thus to create a War of Exhaustion’ against America.

The Uma (Muslim population, compared to the rest of society)

In terms of strategy, if the goal of AQ is to exhaust the United States and create deficits and then cause an extraction from the Muslim world, and diminishing support for its allies in the Muslim world, then AQ and its allies are doing pretty well.  700 billion on these wars total. Therefore USA seems to be falling into AQ’s trap.

Whether or not Americas goal is to beat AQ is beside the point, because the goals are different.

America wants to beat AQ.  AQ wants to create a war of exhaustion and use up America’s resources for which it is doing incredibly well.

Wants to lead America to the point of bankruptcy.

An expeditionary model compared to a guerrilla model.

Guerrilla model is prolonged fighting and withdrawing, fighting and withdrawing.

Expeditionary model is insertion of your team into an area, training the team in another location, and expertly manoeuvring your team so that you are at the enemy’s gates, or within it and then you can launch your attack.  Quite an interesting model.

At 1 point the US government was providing Pakistan with 100 million dollars a month. David Killcullen was tasked with how were they spending that money. One thing was that they were funding some terrorism( at least by not using the money wisely)

Takfiri – the word that the al-Qaida uses to describe themselves as the defending group.  (have to look that up, not sure if its correct)

[From Wikipedia] A takfiri (Arabic: تكفيري‎ takfīrī) is a Muslim who accuses another Muslim (or an adherent of another Abrahamic faith) of apostasy. The accusation itself is called takfir, derived from the word kafir (unbeliever), and is described as when “one who is a Muslim is declared impure.  (source:

He says in chapter 5 or 6.

Addressing narcotics is key to stopping the corruption within the state.
Me. I think that’s exactly correct with America itself. If they made it narcotics legal , then essentially there’d be way less corruption within the government and way less crime, way more money for the people, again the narcotics comes up and good point to come up, and very overlooked.

At the end of the day it depends what the strategy of the invading country is.  If the goal of America is to continue making money from wars… then this is something that they’re going to prolong for as long as possible, and not change anytime soon.

And in that keeping narcotics illegal, therefore corruption to be made and laws to be there, they’re going to make sure that it stays as the status quo because in this way America is profiting from corruption which leads to war, which leads to their profit again.  (they’re not going to legalise)

Saying the biggest problem is when the road is built by outsiders, that’s actually one of America’s biggest strategies and what china is now replicating.  If they bring in 70% foreigners and the host country is missing out on the job creation then they’re unhappy. If they ARE using workers within the host country community then they’re happy and will be supportive and can be part of it, taking pride in the project.

What he’s saying about what’s happening in Thailand with the Malay Muslims and the monarchy dictating how they should behave, sounds a lot like what’s going on in China with the Xinjiang Muslims.  That you have to take Chinese names, can’t wear the cap, have to shave the beard etc. Muslim traditional heritage is being severely limited… and if they keep it they will be treated as a terrorist.   It sounds very familiar.