John Arquilla in Foreign Policy, 24 September 2012.
West Point’s recently released list of the top 10 military classics is replete with doorstop-sized accounts of conflict from ancient to relatively modern times — but almost completely neglects insurgency, terrorism, and other forms of irregular warfare. The U.S. Military Academy’s list does a fine job of capturing the “horizontal” dynamic of clashes of roughly equal great powers armed with the most advanced weapons. But the history and shape of the world system have been just as influenced by the “vertical” axis — the unequal struggles that have seen guerrillas, bandits, and commandos waging “wars of the knife” against empires and nations. And it is this latter mode of conflict that has dominated world affairs for the past half-century — and will likely do so for at least a century to come.