Books I have read #001: Jungle of Snakes: A Century of Counterinsurgency Warfare from the Philippines to Iraq

James R. Arnold’s Jungle of Snakes is essentially a compilation of case studies of famous counterinsurgency (COIN) battles, meant to “provide readers with a historical foundation so that informed citizens can assess how the [“Long War”] fight is going”. Arnold accomplishes the task and identifies patterns of victory and defeat by examining two successful (the Philippines after 1898 and Malaya 1948–1960) and two failed military campaigns (Algeria 1954–1962 and Vietnam).

Jungle of Snakes cover

Analysis of said conflicts leads Arnold to interesting insights with regard to COIN operations, such as the importance of providing security to local populations, knowledge of local language and culture, and long-standing commitment and reforms “tackling the roots of insurgency”.

Having read – and enjoyed – Arnold’s work, I can’t help but think that Jungle of Snakes could have been so much more with a bit more focus and a lot more content. Yet this is what I would have wanted from this book. Arnold wanted to write something digestible that serves as a well-written introduction to both counterinsurgency conflict and the specific campaigns- and in this aspect, he succeeded resoundingly.

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