Our Age of Conflict

Blood Year: Islamic State and the Failures of the War on Terror
by David Kilcullen, Black Inc, 2016, 304 pages

The United States will remain in a kind of purgatory until it unlocks the full meaning of 9/11. Without the right understanding of what that terrorist attack signified, there cannot be an effective response to it. David Kilcullen’s Blood Year makes the case that the administrations of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama have badly misjudged the nature of the challenge to America and the wider world in general. As a direct consequence of this, asserts Kilcullen, the power and reach of militant jihadism appear much stronger now than when President Bush first launched the Global War On Terrorism (GWOT) in 2001.

The Australian David Kilcullen has been, amongst other things, senior adviser to General David Petraeus during the Surge (2007-08) and chief strategist in the Counter-Terrorism Bureau of the US State Department. He currently runs a private agency that has advised everyone from the UK and Australian governments to Nato. Blood Year is that rare thing, an insider’s knowledge of Western policy-making in the twenty-first century combined with the frankness of an independent-minded questioner. Yet even Kilcullen—a veritable expert on counter-terrorism—appears, at times, not to grasp in its entirety the genesis of Islamic militancy and the comprehensive nature of its war against modernity.