Jungle of Snakes A Century of Counterinsurgency Warfare from the Philippines to Iraq

James R. Arnold

Bloomsbury Press




304 Pages


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The end of the cold war promised a new era of international peace. But instead, violence has proliferated across the globe, not in the form of a superpower arms race or a clash of armies, but in bitter local conflicts marked by terrorism, insurgency, and guerrilla warfare. Former Central Intelligence Agency director James Woolsey likened the post-cold-war world to "a jungle full of snakes." The emergence of this new, potentially never-ending struggle has forced our military to reevaluate strategies or risk losing hearts, minds, and soldiers the world over.

James Arnold delivers a gripping narrative of a century of counterinsurgent warfare, from the Philippine War to present-day Iraq, analyzing wars won and lost: the British in Malaya, the French in Algeria, and the United States in Vietnam. Arnold explains the tug-of-war for civilian support and illustrates the high stakes of any counterinsurgency effort. The epilogue examines the occupation of Iraq, where America, to its cost, ignored the lessons of previous conflicts.

A veteran military historian, Arnold combines storytelling ability with strategic insight. Jungle of Snakes will be essential reading for those who want to understand the ongoing series of struggles that the Pentagon calls "the Long War."


Praise for Jungle of Snakes

"[James Arnold] takes a look at four counterinsurgency campaigns. His history offers insights on what works—and, perhaps more important, on what doesn't work."—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"The book is essentially a primer for the general reader, but it will not disappoint specialists."—Michigan War Studies Review

"Delivers needed insight and historical precedent to the current war debate."—Kirkus Reviews

"A thoughtful history . . . [Arnold] makes a convincing case that killing insurgents never defeats an insurgency. That happens when a nation's population feels safe, a painful lesson that America is relearning the hard way in Iraq and Afghanistan."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



  • James R. Arnold

  • James R. Arnold is the author of more than twenty books, including The First Domino: Eisenhower, the Military, and America's Intervention in Vietnam; Presidents Under Fire: Commanders in Chief in Victory and Defeat; Jeff Davis's Own: Cavalry, Comanches, and the Battle for the Texas Frontier; and Crisis in the Snows: Russia Confronts Napoleon, the Eylau Campaign 1806-1807. He lives on a farm near Lexington, Virginia.