Author, Former Special Operartor Dr. David Kilcullen Interviewed On CSPAN On His New Book: “The Dragons And The Snakes: How The Rest Learned To Fight The West;” A Peak At The Evolving State Of Warfare
Former Australian Special Forces soldier (Iraq and Afghanistan) and author Dr. David Kilcullen, was interviewed this weekend (Mar. 20) on CSPAN about his newest book, “The Dragons And The Snakes: How The Rest Learned To Fight The West.” The Foundation for the Defense Of Democracies hosted the interview. During his introductuon, it was noted that Dr. Kilcullen” is an authority on guerrilla warfare, counterinsurgency, and counterterrorism, with extensive experience with a 25 year career serving both Australia and the United States as an Army officer, analyst, adviser, and diplomat.” He currently is the non-executive chairman of Caerus Associates, a research and operations firm, providing geopolical analysis and remote opertions field work and support to various governments, corporations and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).’ Some of you may have also read “Out Of The Mountains: The Coming Age Of The Urban Guerrilla.”
When asked to explain “Who are the dragons, and who are the snakes?,” Dr. Kilculen replied, “This is a book about adaptation by adversaries and potrntial adversaries since the end of the Cold War. And, the title comes from Jim Wolsey, who was POTUS Clinton’s CIA Director, who when testifying during his confirmation hearings at that time. Mr. Wolsey was asked what was the threat to America in the aftermath of the demise of the Soviet Union. Mr. Wolsey replied, “We have slain a large dragon; but now we find ouselves in a jungle, filled with poisonious snakes. And in many ways, the dragon was easier to keep track of.” Mr. Wolsey went on to describe an environment of weak states, failed states, and ungoverened areas/non-state actors — whom Dr. Kilcullen labeled — non-state actors as the snakes. It has been nearly 30 years since Mr. Wolsey’s testimony, Dr. Kilcullen observed, “and adversaries have adapted and evolved. Dr. Kilcullen said his new book traces the history of the some thirty years post-Cold War, and look at where we are today with respect to — the dragons and the snakes.
The dragons — China, Russia — have come back; and Vladimir Putin has played a really weak hand…extremely well. Dr. Kilcullen says that “the dragons are back and that they have learned from the snakes (Iran, North Korea, al Qaeda, ISIS, etc.) — and are thus, operating in a different way now. It was pointed out by one of the panel members that because the U.S. was a superpower and militarily dominant, our adversaries and others were “driven to the far edges of the conflict spedtrum,” i.e., asymmetric and unconventional warfare. Russia for example, does not think it could defeat the U.S. in a one-on-one military engagement, so Moscow instead pushes the edges or margins just short of provoking a stern military response — something Dr. Kilcullen calls ‘liminal warfare,’ — a blurring of politics, guerrilla tactics and electronic intelligence.
Dr. Kilcullen eloquently argues that our adversaries have been much more adaptive than the West; and we must “limber ourselves up,” and become more adaptive, in order to remain at the top of the warfare foodchain. We prefer our enemies challenge us in ways we understand very well; instead of conceiving of clever and asymmetric ways we do not envision or anticipate. As horror writer Stephen King has written: “God punishes us for what we cannot imagine.” Couldn’t resist the quote; but, I digress.
Millitary power is of course still required — but not sufficient. Information warfare, cyber, operating through proxies, etc. have expanded the adversaries playbook and undermined our comparative military advantage.
Dr. Kilcullen argues that U.S. military dominance not only poses challenges for our adversaries; but, for our allies as well. “We need to start thinking more as a collective — a collection of Western military powers and as a joint set of capabilities — rather than trying to go it individually alone. We we do have military success on the ‘ground,’ we need to translate that success in the public domain — something that we do not do very well.
Dr. Kilcullen is a thoughful man; and, I have no doubt that his new book will be rich and interesting with much to think about. In his book, Out Of The Mountains: The Comong Age Of The Urban Guerrilla,” he describes what warfare may be like in the 2050s — having to ‘fight’ in a densely populated and concentrated along the coastlines, highly networked, urban slums — think the movie Blade Runner. His latest book should be an interesting read. RCP, fortunascornercom