Whose book to use for a course - West or Mansoor?

Discussion in 'Staff College and Staff Officers' started by cheesypoptart, Dec 28, 2008.

Welcome to the Army Rumour Service, ARRSE

The UK's largest and busiest UNofficial military website.

The heart of the site is the forum area, including:

  1. I figured I'd put this to you more advanced chaps: I teach another COIN class to undergrads next semester and need to send my textbook order to the university bookstore. The three definite choices are:

    1. The Utility of Force (Smith)
    2. Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare (Marston/Malkesian)
    3. FM 3-24 (Yanks)

    I can't decide on the fourth:
    The Strongest Tribe (West)
    Baghdad at Sunrise (Mansoor)

    The course is an introduction to COIN techniques for a mixture of civvies and future Septic officers. I'm trying to cover the operational level in Iraq, which both books do. West covers the entire war while Mansoor dissects his own time as a brigade commander in 2004. Any preferences from people who've read both? Which would you choose?
  2. msr

    msr LE

    Why the Smith book? It is just a load of Richard Holmes' stuff condensed into essays combined with the proceedings of whatever academic conferences he was able to visit in his last 2 years.

  3. I thought the Smith book was very well written and thus very readable.
  4. msr

    msr LE

    I didn't say it wasn't well written, just that it does not include much original scholarship.

  5. That's a jolly good question. I might also have substituted Galula et al. for FM 3-24, but I don't want to overwhelm the students. Best-of synthesis seemed more prudent.

    Smith provides an extremely solid Weltanschauung that the students were able to relate to the last time I taught the class. It's the "big idea" book that sets the tone for future conflict. Most non-military types have no idea about 3GW vs. 4GW, etc. Smith helps them put things in (his) perspective without using jargon. I'm not sure about Holmes (never a fan - wasn't aware he branched into theory), but Hammes et al. have all expressed similar thoughts to Smith, I agree.

    Originality isn't as important, though, as the quality and integrity of whatever argument ties it all together. Smith stands above the competition. If you know a better book, let me know and I'll look at it before I finalize the syllabus.
  6. Dilemas. I have had the privilege to work with both Bing and Pete although have not yet had the chance to read their books. Bing's books on Fallujah are excellent though if you haven't already. If I had to make a choice, Pete Mansoor gets my vote. Having worked in General P's outer office as his exec for almost ever and seen the campaign from the highest military levels he should have some great insights having seen Iraq in 03/04 and been able to write his book much later looking through the lens of the 07/08 surge.
  7. Take a look at Ahmed S. Hashim, Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Iraq (Hurst: London, 2006).

    Hashim is an Arab-American US army officer with three tours in Iraq and also an academic instructor at the US Navy war College. The book offers a lot of insight into how COIN plays out in local politics and is accessible enough for undergrads.