The first work to put forward a unified theory of how state and non-state threats now overlap and intersect.
In 1993, a newly appointed CIA director warned that Western powers might have ‘slain a large dragon’ with the fall of the USSR, but now faced a ‘bewildering variety of poisonous snakes.’ Since then, the dragons (state enemies such as Russia and China) and snakes (terrorist and guerrilla organisations) have watched the US struggle in Iraq and Afghanistan, and have mastered new methods in response: hybrid and urban warfare, political manipulation, and harnessing digital technology.
Leading soldier-scholar David Kilcullen reveals what the West’s opponents have learned from twenty-first-century conflict, and explains how their cutting-edge tactics and adaptability pose a serious threat to America and its allies, disabling the West’s military advantage. State and non-state threats have increasingly come to resemble each other, he argues, with states adopting non-state techniques and non-state actors now able to access levels of precision and lethal weapon systems once only available to governments.
The Dragons and the Snakes is a compelling, counterintuitive look at the new, vastly complex global arena. Kilcullen reshapes our understanding of the West’s foes, and shows how it can respond.