Book Review: Revolutionary War: Western Response

Revolutionary War:  Western Response, edited by David S. Sullivan and Martin J. Sattler

This book was disappointing for several reasons.  The first of these reasons was that the scope of the book was so narrow.  One would expect that as Westerners have been dealing with revolutionary situations for a long time that there would be plenty of discussion about what separates a successful response (like the Mau Mau insurgency or Franco’s counter-insurgency against the leftist government, or the counter-insurgency efforts in Malaya, or even Grenada) from unsuccessful ones (Algeria and Vietnam).  This book does not offer that sort of insight.  Instead, what we get is a narrow focus on unsuccessful efforts in Vietnam and Algeria that is largely focused on the perspective of Marxists who want to believe as if they have some sort of magic formula that, if followed, will make it impossible for counter-insurgency efforts to work.  By and large most of the writers here consider liberal reformers and outright anti-Marxists as being more or less the same, which is a testament to their extremist leftist position and their general worthlessness as experts in any subject, much less those actions that are taken against their side in a revolutionary situation.

This book is a relatively short one of around 150 pages or so and its brevity is probably its strongest point.  The book begins with an introduction and then moves to a discussion about Revolutionary War and Counter-Insurgency from Eqbal Ahmad that is written from the point of view of someone whose main concern is the Algerian conflict between the French and native Algerians (1).  After that there is a discussion on the impact of pacification on insurgency in South Vietnam by Robert W. Komer (2) that reads all optimistic about Vietnamization efforts in Vietnam before an epilogue that discusses the dramatic negative turn of the Vietnam War after America left.  After that Jean Baechler discusses some supposed political and strategic lessons from revolutionary and counter-revolutionary war from Algeria and Vietnam (3), as if these subjects had not already been discussed often enough.  After that Walter Goldstein discusses the American Political system, in particular the corrupt elite of the State Department, and the likelihood of the next Vietnam (4) quagmire.  Finally, the book ends with a discussion by John H. Hoagland on changing patterns of insurgency and the American response to it (5).

Even so, although there is very little to recommend this book to someone who is not favorable to the point of view of Marxism–and speaking for myself I could hardly be less sympathetic to it–there are at least some aspects of this book that can be commended.  For example, one of the authors makes some very sound points that successful revolutionary movements do not invoke terror against ordinary citizens.  When one is engaged in revolutionary struggle against what one views as an oppressive government, among the most foolish things one can do is to engage in the destruction of property or acts of violence towards ordinary people, because a revolutionary movement depends on the support of those people.  Alas, it seems like all too many clueless contemporary would-be revolutionaries forget that the destruction of homes and threats against the personal safety of people with different political opinions makes people supportive of those who are out to stop them.  And though I found this to be wise advice, I even hesitate to recommend this book for someone who is of some sort of Marxist bent, because while I dislike the current crop of folly that is going on, it is not as if I want contemporary Marxists to be any wiser, as that would only make them even more dangerous.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, History, Military History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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