The first work to put forward a unified theory of how state and non-state threats now overlap and intersect.
In 1993, a newly appointed CIA director warned that Western powers might have ‘slain a large dragon’ with the fall of the USSR, but now faced a ‘bewildering variety of poisonous snakes.’ Since then, the dragons (state enemies such as Russia and China) and snakes (terrorist and guerrilla organisations) have watched the US struggle in Iraq and Afghanistan, and have mastered new methods in response: hybrid and urban warfare, political manipulation, and harnessing digital technology.
Leading soldier-scholar David Kilcullen reveals what the West’s opponents have learned from twenty-first-century conflict, and explains how their cutting-edge tactics and adaptability pose a serious threat to America and its allies, disabling the West’s military advantage. State and non-state threats have increasingly come to resemble each other, he argues, with states adopting non-state techniques and non-state actors now able to access levels of precision and lethal weapon systems once only available to governments.
The Dragons and the Snakes is a compelling, counterintuitive look at the new, vastly complex global arena. Kilcullen reshapes our understanding of the West’s foes, and shows how it can respond.
‘Disturbingly brilliant. David Kilcullen, ever the thoughtful observer of wars and the people who wage them, captures the changes in warfare that already confound — and threaten to overwhelm us. He correctly shows that we are mentally and physically unprepared for the new nature of conflict, and will likely pay dearly for it.’
Stanley McChrystal, retired US Army General, and partner at McChrystal Group
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‘David Kilcullen has produced another thoughtful, important book. At a time when some believe that the return of competition with great powers (i.e. dragons) might serve as an emotional cathartic to help forget the long war against jihadist terrorist organisations (i.e. snakes), the author exposes and transcends that false choice. His ideas about how to fight for peace in a dangerous world should be read and discussed not only by diplomats, defense officials, and military officers, but also by citizens concerned about securing a better future for their children.’
H.R. McMaster, retired US Army Lt-General, and author of Dereliction of Duty and Battlegrounds
‘Once again David Kilcullen succeeds in demonstrating how our adversaries are adapting faster than we are to the experiences of the recent past. Timely advice for defence strategists on how to apply those lessons, and to plan for the next conflict, not the last.’
Professor Sir David Omand, former UK Security and Intelligence Coordinator
‘To absorb Kilcullen’s insights is to be forced to rethink national and international security in this new century and to adjust military and nonmilitary institutions to a host of new realities. Senior policymakers have no choice but to do so.’
Gary Hart, member of United States Senate Armed Services and Intelligence Committees
Praise for Out of the Mountains:
‘This is a brilliant book by the most unfettered and analytically acute mind in the military intelligentsia. Kilcullen unflinchingly confronts the nightmare of endless warfare in the slums of the world.’
Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums
Praise for Counterinsurgency:
‘Counterinsurgency is a valuable contribution to understanding the local, regional and global natures of the terrorist and guerrilla warfare threats confronting us and how tailored and customised approaches are required to resolve them in a comprehensive fashion.'
Praise for The Accidental Guerrilla:
‘The Accidental Guerrilla, a brilliant study by former Australian army colonel David Kilcullen … The book testifies to a great deal of hard work. Not only has Kilcullen had a privileged vantage point on the most important conflicts of our era, he has been thinking intently, reading widely but purposefully and taking notes the whole time. The result is probably the best book available on contemporary conflicts and how to fight them.’
Whit Mason, Australian Literary Review