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Beating Goliath: An Analytical Review Essay

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Jeffrey Record's Beating Goliath: Why Insurgencies Win uses the age old anecdote of the struggle between David and Goliath to explain why the strong sometimes lose to the weak – that is, why Davids are sometimes able to triumph over Goliaths despite myriad obvious disadvantages. Jeffrey Record specifically focuses on "states fighting non-state actors" (Record ix), or in other words, states confronted with domestic or international insurgencies. He then goes on to explore the role that external assistance plays in war outcome determination. By examining instances in which the United States has lost against materially weaker opponents, Record is able to partially explain the causal factors of these types of defeats by using a three component model that encompasses will, strategy, and type of government. Beating Goliath: Why Insurgencies Win scrutinizes the role of external assistance on the outcomes of such conflicts, and Record ultimately concludes that intentional (and to a significantly lesser extent, unintentional) external assistance to insurgencies or guerrillas conducting nonconventional warfare has the ability to facilitate a crucial change in roles: the initially weaker actor can and often does becomes the stronger actor with the aid of said external assistance. Record thus valorously postulates, "the presence or absence of external assistance may be the single most important determinant of insurgent war outcomes" (Record 23).
Jeffrey Record states that "all major failed U.S. uses of force since 1945...have been against materially weaker enemies" (Record vii), but he strangely ignores one of the most recent and highly publicized defeats of failed U.S. counterinsurgency action: the U.S. led intervention in Somalia aga...


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...he contras in El Salvador as another case, as it is a good example where indiscriminate use of force severely hindered successful operations from a public standpoint, another side argument that he again brought up in the conclusion as one of his main points. Perhaps Record's book is suffering an identity crisis: he could benefit from deciding whether he wants to explain a possible independent variable, external assistance, or whether he wants to draw conclusions from previous works and use this information to exact policy prescriptions. What he ends up with, unfortunately, is a confused mix of the two.



Works Cited

Cassidy, Robert M. Counterinsurgency and the Global War on Terror: Military Culture and Irregular War. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2008. Print

Record, Jeffrey. Beating Goliath: Why Insurgencies Win. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, Inc., 2009. Print.


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