The Marine Corps Gazette likes Professor John Tierney’s new book, Chasing Ghosts: Unconventional Warfare in American History, giving the work a fine review in its latest issue.
That’s no small accomplishment for the IWP professor. The Marine Corps Gazette is the “professional journal of US Marines,” and the reviewer, Lt. Col. Charles L. Armstrong USMC (Ret.), is a longtime teacher of counterinsurgency strategy, tactics and techniques to Marines.
“In the latest addition to the flurry of new books about counterinsurgency, John Tierney offers some fresh viewpoints about old history,” writes Armstrong.
After the introduction, Armstrong found Chasing Ghosts “a quick, interesting, and educational read. Tierney moves the reader from the Revolutionary War (during which the insurgents were the good guys) through the long succession of conflicts that should have (but didn’t) embed comfort with unconventional warfare in our collective memory maps.”
According to Armstrong, “Each of the book’s excellent chapters revisits a specific period or episode in American history with which every military reader is familiar. He describes the episodes from the dispassionate perspective of the historical analyst. Putting emotion aside, he makes a convincing case that – although insurgent or unconventional warfare is as American as apple pie (my paraphrasing) – generations of professional military leaders have been unable to build an institutional consensus that guerrilla war has the same ‘legitimacy’ as the conventional variety. This cultural bias is reinforced by America’s reluctance to engage in complicated military ventures that can’t be concluded swiftly and neatly through the battlefield application of overwhelming power and technology.
“The author’s real talent is not retelling stories about colorful characters who rode into our young country’s history leading bold bands of unconventional warriors, although his tales are extremely entertaining,” Armstrong writes. “It’s Tierney’s ability to follow the thread of unconventional warfare through hundreds of years of American military engagements and point out the obvious – we still don’t quite ‘get it’ – that makes a much needed contribution to the body of knowledge about counterinsurgency.”
“Marines who have ‘been there’ will find themselves nodding their heads as they read. Readers with no combat or nation-building experience will vicariously understand why this brand of warfare is so hard,” writes Armstrong. “Tierney’s timing is great. His new book is a fine companion to any of the other recent works about fighting insurgents.”