The way wars are fought has changed starkly over the past sixty years. International military campaigns used to play out between large armies at central fronts. Today’s conflicts find major powers facing rebel insurgencies that deploy elusive methods, from improvised explosives to terrorist attacks. Small Wars, Big Data presents a transformative understanding of these contemporary confrontations and how they should be fought. The authors show that a revolution in the study of conflict — enabled by vast data, rich qualitative evidence, and modern methods—yields new insights into terrorism, civil wars, and foreign interventions. Modern warfare is not about struggles over territory but over people; civilians—and the information they might choose to provide—can turn the tide at critical junctures.
The authors draw practical lessons from the past two decades of conflict in locations ranging from Latin America and the Middle East to Central and Southeast Asia. Building an information-centric understanding of insurgencies, the authors examine the relationships between rebels, the government, and civilians. This approach serves as a springboard for exploring other aspects of modern conflict, including the suppression of rebel activity, the role of mobile communications networks, the links between aid and violence, and why conventional military methods might provide short-term success but undermine lasting peace. Ultimately the authors show how the stronger side can almost always win the villages, but why that does not guarantee winning the war.
Small Wars, Big Data provides groundbreaking perspectives for how small wars can be better strategized and favorably won to the benefit of the local population.
"Offers some compelling insights on how to better handle these small wars."—Jerry D. Lenaburg, New York Journal of Books
"A valuable contribution to the study of the information-centric components involved in 'small wars' conflict termination."—Perspectives on Terrorism
"I would call Small Wars, Big Data essential reading for advanced students of counterinsurgency strategy, especially those operating in military intelligence functions."—Lewis Tallon, Encyclopaedia Geopolitica
"Small Wars, Big Data argues that the U.S. military should focus its efforts not on winning hearts and minds, but rather on acquiring information from the people about insurgent activities. When satisfied with government security and services, civilians supply information. With information, counter-insurgent attacks can dismantle insurgent networks. Without it, insurgencies fester and violence increases. Armed with this framework, I would have fought differently—and American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan might have as well. . . . Though I’m not the first to call for updates to counter-insurgency doctrine, now is the right time and Small Wars, Big Data is the right book to guide that effort."—Zachary Griffiths, War on the Rocks
"[The authors] offer a new theory of asymmetric warfare – a theory that inspires new conceptual avenues through which grassroots, civilian-oriented studies of conflict unfold; challenging researchers to begin their studies with people, as opposed to technology, has meaningful, ideological merit."—Thomas N. Cooke, European Review of International Studies
"A comprehensive case study of the main conflicts that have occurred in the last twenty years. Small Wars, Big Data, does not come to general conclusions, but it is instead a compilation of stories and lessons learned, that could be useful to policymakers and military leaders."—Dr. Marco Marsili, Rest Journal
"This seminal work examines an extensive body of evidence from more than a decade of scholarship on modern asymmetric conflict, and provides compelling insights on what is effective, and what is not, in today’s small wars. The soldier-scholar authors, who served in the wars they describe, have produced a book that should be required reading for military leaders, policymakers, development professionals, and diplomats."—Retired U.S. Army General David H. Petraeus
"Berman, Felter, and Shapiro have synthesized a great deal of ‘big data’ from many recent conflicts to produce a fascinating account of how different types of armed interventions produce different kinds of results, above all in the crucial matter of the flow of information from civilians to counterinsurgents. This well-written book will greatly interest all those working in war zones and those who study warfare."—Peter Bergen, author of United States of Jihad: Who Are America’s Homegrown Terrorists and How Do We Stop Them?
"Small Wars, Big Data heralds a revolution in conflict studies, one that finally brings development, defense, and diplomacy together at the operational level and provides real tools for policymakers and practitioners alike. This book melds rigorous empirical research with collaborative scholarship and great storytelling: a breakthrough for political science."—Anne-Marie Slaughter, president and CEO of New America
"Small Wars, Big Data explores the remarkable possibilities and also inherent limitations of using advanced techniques to gather and analyze information in support of counterinsurgency campaigns. Packed with evidence and examples, this book makes a stimulating and challenging contribution to understanding the role of social science in the conduct of modern war."—Lawrence Freedman, author of The Future of War: A History
"This highly ambitious book unpacks the single biggest foreign policy question of the post-9/11 era—the nature of intrastate conflict. Clearly motivated by a desire to better understand the wars fought by the United States and to improve foreign policy, this book is a must-read for the US military. It will land on undergraduate and graduate course syllabi, win awards, and be discussed outside of academia."—Dan Reiter, author of How Wars End