Beating Goliath


Beating Goliath

Why Insurgencies Win

Jeffrey Record

192 pages


October 2009


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eBook (PDF)
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March 2011


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About the Book

Beating Goliath examines the phenomenon of victories by the weak over the strong—more specifically, insurgencies that succeeded against great powers. Jeffrey Record reviews eleven insurgent wars from 1775 to the present and determines why the seemingly weaker side won. He concludes that external assistance correlates more consistently with insurgent success than any other explanation. He does not disparage the critical importance of will, strategy, and strong-side regime type or suggest that external assistance guarantees success. Indeed, in all cases, some combination of these factors is usually present. But Record finds few if any cases of unassisted insurgent victories except against the most decrepit regimes. Having identified the ingredients of insurgent success, Record examines the present insurgency in Iraq and whether the United States can win. In so doing, Record employs a comparative analysis of the Vietnam War and the Iraq War. He also identifies and assesses the influence of distinctive features of the American way of war on the U.S. forces’ performance against the Iraqi insurgency. Make no mistake: insurgent victories are the exception, not the rule. But when David does beat Goliath, the consequences can be earth shattering and change the course of history. Jeffrey Record’s persuasive logic and clear writing make this timely book a must read for scholars, policymakers, military strategists, and anyone interested in the Iraq War’s outcome.

Author Bio

Jeffrey Record is a professor of strategy at the Air War College in Montgomery, Alabama. He is the author of Bounding the Global War on Terrorism (2004), Dark Victory: America’s Second War against Iraq(2004), and Beating Goliath: Why Insurgencies Win (Potomac Books, Inc., 2007). He served in Vietnam as a pacification adviser and received his doctorate from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He lives in Atlanta.


"Record's Beating Goliath is a book everyone should read. Its insights into US public opinion and strategic culture, its analysis of the current US war in Iraq and its conclusions—cogently summing up the policy-relevant literature on asymmetrical conflict outcomes and counter-insurgency strategy—are among the best and most accessible of any of these subjects in print."—Survival

“This impressive book deserves a wide audience. Undergraduates and general readers will find this book to be an excellent introduction to the topic. The high level of analysis also makes this book essential reading for war-fighting practitioners and counterinsurgency specialists.”—Proceedings

“This book is highly recommended to any national-level elected political officials, military personnel of all ranks, civil servants dealing with foreign policy or the Department of Defense and to any citizen who wants to know more than the popular media can give you. This is an excellent work.”—Special Warfare

"Record's well-chosen case studies highlight the common characteristics of successful insurgencies. . . . His analysis is persuasive and makes for a sobering read."—Military Review

“Record has given us a thoughtful, well-researched, historically based, look at a problem all too timely…Beating Goliath: Why Insurgencies Win stands as one of the best of the recent books on the evolving nature of insurgencies and the challenges they present.”—Journal of Military History

“This is a book well worth reading . . . highly recommended.”—Choice

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