The Dragons and the Snakes

A brief book review of David Kilkullen's recent book

Precisely the kind of book I enjoy, from a boots-on-the-ground practitioner who now surveys the field of his expertise with a scholar's eye, and renders his narrative with a story-tellers delight. Beginning with evolutionary theories about reactive adaptation to explain the downfall of Western military adventurism in the past quarter century, the author draws in broad sweeps of history to frame his argument, and targets notable pivot points in this decline, such as the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, or the failed first targeted strike to kill Saddam Hussein and his sons. He seeks to re-define and peg-down the increasingly fuzzy concept of hybrid warfare by delineating for our times his own - that of 'liminal warfare,' whose most inventive practitioners are the Russian and Chinese states. For those of us who matured to deeply suspect the pronouncements of our military and political leaders, and who as professionals are now coping with societies considerably weakened by post-Cold War arrogance and blunderbuss overreach, this is an authoritative analysis crafted with lively prose by a curious mind. If one is interested in building resilient societies for our children in the age of nuclear and weapons proliferation, economic decline, renewed great power contestation, and pandemics, this book is indispensable salt to the broth.