Mercenaries in Asymmetric Conflicts
I hate being disappointed by a book. But Scott Fitzsimmons’ Mercenaries in Asymmetric Conflicts was one of the most disappointing nonfiction books I’ve recently read. Or disappointing books in general, to be honest. It sounded good-studying the military cultures of different groups. When I started it, the stated influence of Kenneth Pollack made me even more interested.
Then the actual content emerged. The book is written in one of the thickest and least pleasant versions of academic-ese I’ve seen. If this was stylistic, I could forgive it as writing style is one of the most “natural” things and hardest to change. Plus, you know, it is an academic text.
But it also applies to more than that, which tips it over the edge. The book only talks about military performance in terms of different “theories”, as if they were some abstract phenomenon. It was one of the least helpful ways of approaching the matter, and almost the opposite of how Pollack did so in his own books.
Once the walls of jargon are slogged through, the final conclusion basically amounts to…. Well… Ok. The final conclusion is basically “Better trained and skillful armies with a good internal culture perform more capably, even if they’re at a material disadvantage.” That’s not exactly a big shock.
There is some good information on obscure in the Western Hemisphere African conflicts, but there are undoubtedly better sources on those that don’t involve huge amounts of pretentious analysis. I just can’t recommend this book.