Small Wars

Too Big to Ignore

January 2025 9781849040822 320pp


The end of the Cold War and the (then) receding threat of global nuclear conflagration were meant to usher in a ‘peace dividend’: concomitantly warfare would decline as states devoted themselves to making money and providing for their respective societies. This intensely optimistic liberal attitude — which has its parallel in scholarly reluctance to study warfare and its wider impact — has proven sadly wrong. Large-scale conventional war between regular armies has disappeared, but Small Wars, which have existed since ancient times, have not. Such ‘Small Wars’ are ‘nasty, brutish, and not necessarily short’. But what are Small Wars, how can they be defined, and what are their salient characteristics? These are the key themes addressed in Ahmed Hashim’s provocative, timely and judicious analysis of how the phenomenon has changed throughout history, from the Jewish Revolt against Roman rule to today’s asymmetrical conflicts in Afghanistan and the Middle East. His book follows two parallel tracks. The first is methodological and conceptual, dedicated to definition; the second is an interpretive analysis of the causes, meanings and characteristics of such wars across epochs, environments and cultures — in other words an intellectual and socio-political history of Small Wars. His account ranges from the Ancient World, through to the Napoleonic era, the history of anti-colonial resistance in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, via discussion of the leading theorists of insurgency and counterinsurgency in the twentieth century, and concludes with the often neglected Islamist doctrine of irregular warfare, drawing upon its leading military thinkers and practitioners.


Ahmed S. Hashim is Professor of War Studies, Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University, and Australian War College, Center for Future Defence and National Security, Canberra, ACT.

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