Contesting History
The Bush Counterinsurgency Legacy in Iraq
by Matthew J. Flynn
June 2010, 164pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-38488-2
$64, £48, 54€, A92
eBook Available: 978-0-313-38489-9
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

The Bush counterinsurgency legacy in Iraq is a belated acceptance of the limits of conventional military force in combating insurgency. By refusing to accept this historical reality, the United States remained mired in a futile effort until it reversed its approach with the surge. Unfortunately, the strategic damage to U.S. interests had already come to pass.

In this book, the Bush administration's war in Iraq is assessed using an interdisciplinary approach and historical analysis that will help readers better understand the results of the U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine from 2003 to the present.

Contesting History: The Bush Counterinsurgency Legacy in Iraq uses a comparative analysis of history to assess the Bush administration’s actions in Iraq, focusing specifically on the policy of counterinsurgency. Insurgency exists within an extended timeframe and exhibits a global reach, argues comparative warfare expert Matthew J. Flynn. Therefore, understanding this phenomenon is best realized through an examination of guerrilla conflicts around the world over time; this book provides that approach.

The work analyzes U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine during the Iraq War from 2003 to the present, and offers relevant historical comparisons to conflicts dating back to the mid-19th century, in which a nation enjoyed marked military superiority over their enemy. In doing so, it encourages readers to link the Afghanistan and Iraq wars in the broad context of the utilization of counterinsurgency operations to achieve policy objectives. Ultimately, the book illustrates how the tactical “military” success of the U.S. surge in Iraq still nets a strategic failure.


  • Five case studies of guerrilla conflicts throughout the world in the last 150 years
  • Findings from unique, primary research on Iraq
  • Area maps of each conflict in question
  • A bibliography that includes literature on five important past conflicts, as well as key documentation on the Iraq war, from 2003 to the present
Matthew J. Flynn, PhD, is assistant professor of history at the United States Military Academy, West Point, and a specialist in comparative warfare of the United States and the world. Dr. Flynn is the author of First Strike: Preemptive War in Modern History, and China Contested: Western Powers in East Asia.


"Comparing several specific past conflicts and relating them to the Iraq War of 2003, Flynn, a specialist in US/world comparative warfare, finds that the attack on Iraq was not necessary to protect the US as the Bush administration proclaimed, and indeed damaged the country’s national security. He looks at French intervention in Mexico 1861-67 as liberation, the Ottoman Empire holding onto chaos in the Arabian Peninsula 1916-18, impossible resistance to the American war in Vietnam 1965-75, the Soviet Union bringing a better ideology to Afghanistan 1979-89, warfare as ritual in Chechnya 1994-99, and creating an insurgency to fight the battle that came after victory in Iraq 2003 to the present. He concludes that conventional military force by itself seldom if ever defeats an insurgency."—Reference & Research Book News, August 1, 2010

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