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Militant Tricks: Battlefield Ruses of the Islamic Insurgent


"Militant Tricks" is now on the U.S. Army's most prestigious pre-deployment reading list.  Over the last 15 years, our deployed troops have learned many things. Though the war in Afghanistan is still raging, many of their hard-won lessons have yet to be assimilated by the Stateside bureaucracy. To help, Militant Tricks has recounted America's progress in Iraq and Afghanistan from the standpoint of East Asian battlefield deception. Both countries were part of the Mongol Empire for over 200 years and thus prone to every sort of ancient Chinese illusion. Militant Tricks also contains the tactical "techniques" with which to counter an Islamic extremist's urban offensive. While some of these nontraditional techniques were risked during the Baghdad Surge, they may soon be forgotten.

What People Are Saying

On the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center’s “Military Deployment Reading List”- Fort Leavenworth's Combined Arms Research Library, 1 January 2018

"Our missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are simple.  But, is it possible to win on all fronts? . . . This book is a must read for anyone who has a stake in the newest war and for every American who wants to see our values upheld." - Leatherneck Magazine

"While many speak and write about war at the strategic level and focus on the plans of senior headquarters, John Poole instinctively knows that battles are won at the tactical level by the actions of junior leaders and small units. . . . 'Militant Tricks' helps those who fight, to fight better and to fight smarter." - Maj.Gen. John H. Admire,  USMC (Ret.), former commander of 1st Marine Division

"Militant Tricks is a worthy supplement to John Poole's previous, excellent books on the Eastern way of war." - William S. Lind, author of Maneuver Warfare Handbook

"This book must be required reading at the War Colleges and . . . by all our military leaders.  It is based on meticulous . . . research coupled with on-site experience-John Poole is a master of military history." - Vice Adm. Thomas R. Sargent, USCG (Ret.), ship commander at the Battle of Leyte Gulf

"By changing our current dependence on firepower and mechanized warfare and adopting an almost decentralized approach, as found in Chapter 13, . . . we stand a chance of turning things around in both Iraq and Afghanistan." - Col. Robert V. Kane, U.S. Army (Ret.), publisher emeritus, Presidio Press

"[F]or those who wish to better understand today's confused events, it [this book] is well worth reading."- B.Gen. Edwin Howard Simmons, USMC (Ret.), former head of History & Museums Division, HQMC

"He [the author] provides exactly the sort of material our soldiers and Marines need in Iraq and Afghanistan if they are to understand their enemies." - U.S. Marine Corps Center for Lessons Learned  in "March 2006 Newsletter"

"[John] Poole . . . is America's best writer on small unit tactics and techniques. . . . If the people at the top will give John Poole's work the attention it is rightly receiving at the battalion level and below, we would have a better chance of winning [wars with Islamic militants.]" - United Press International, 19 November 2005

"John Poole has written another superb work on the nitty-gritty lessons to be drawn from the complex conflict our forces face today.  He gives our troops a clear understanding of the nature of the enemy and the tactical lessons needed to defeat him." - General Anthony C. Zinni, USMC (Ret.), former head of CENTCOM

"[This] 412-page book features 45 illustrations and serves as both an intelligence reference manual and an in-depth solution to the enemy's formula." - Newport News Daily Press, 8 January 2006                                         

"John Poole's new book . . . provides a detailed 'blueprint for victory' in not only Iraq, but also Afghanistan. . . . For all Americans who want to see . . . [the Muslim militant's] so-far-successful method defeated, I can't recommend this book highly enough." - Maj.Gen. Ray L. Smith, USMC (Ret.), former commander of Camp Lejeune

"Poole's book examines war at the tactical level, the level of small units and individuals, and tries to explain the insurgents' ways of thinking and fighting." - North County Times (San Diego), 31 December 2005

"The best book on how to fight militants, resistance fighters, insurgents, or what ever you want to call them, is Militant Tricks. . . . Poole . . . has a keen insight [in]to the Islamic [warriors'] combat tactics and how they wage jihad in all its forms."  - www.military.com, 21 December 2005

"Tactics of the Crescent Moon" and "Militant Tricks" would give all soldiers the knowledge base for defeating this enemy.  - Stars and Stripes, 9 March 2006

"This book gauges America's progress in Iraq and Afghanistan from a unique perspective-that of East Asian battlefield trickery. . . . In combination, those [famous 36] stratagems . . . [can] make a losing adversary think he is winning.  They have done so to America before." - MMOA Magazine

"On the tactical level, Poole agrees with virtually every other expert on counter-insurgency that the key to success [in Iraq and Afghanistan] . . . is a variant of the Vietnam war CAP [Combined Action Platoon] program, where the troops defended the local population instead of becoming it."- Washington Monthly

Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Part One: The Ongoing "War on Terror"
Chapter 1: The Deteriorating Situation in Iraq
Chapter 2: The Iraqi Insurgents' Tactical Methods
Chapter 3: The Iraqi Militants' Point of Origin
Chapter 4: Developments in Afghanistan
Chapter 5: The Afghan Guerrillas' Tactical Trends
Chapter 6: The Afghan Rebels' Base of Support
Part Two: Insurgent Tricks of the Militant Muslim
Chapter 7: Stratagems When in a Superior Position
Chapter 8: Stratagems for Confrontation
Chapter 9: Stratagems for Attack
Chapter 10: Stratagems for Confused Cases
Chapter 11: Stratagems for Gaining Ground
Chapter 12: Stratagems for Desperate Times
Part Three: Combating the Deception
Chapter 13: Ways to Turn the Tide in Iraq
Chapter 14: Things to Do for Afghanistan
Chapter 15: Averting a Wider Conflict
About the Author
Name Index

Excerpt from Chapter 1

While ostensibly crude, the Muslim militant's method has never been defeated.  Through multiple deception and continual mutation, it has so far bested Russia in Afghanistan and Chechnya, Israel in Southern Lebanon and Gaza, and the United States in Beirut and Mogadishu.  To finally defeat that method, every deployed (or about-to-be-deployed) GI must become thoroughly familiar with its latest configuration.  That will take a good, hard look at all that has happened over the last year.  

In Iraq, U.S. forces have won every firefight and killed thousands of Islamic fighters.  (See Map 1.1.)  Unfortunately, wars are not won by occupying nonstrategic ground or killing opposition soldiers.  They are won by destroying the enemy's "strategic assets."  Eastern insurgents don't have many strategic assets.  Whatever they need, they can generally take from a well-supplied adversary.  To make matters worse, they have the edge in a 4th-generation-warfare (4GW) environment-one in which combat/tactics, religion/psychology, politics/media, and economics/infrastructure all come into play.  In a densely populated area, they are virtually immune to electronic surveillance and precision bombardment.  Every time their pursuer overreacts, he damages local infrastructure and loses popular support.  As such, Eastern insurgents develop a full portfolio of battlefield feints. 

What has, or has not, occurred in Iraq deserves a closer look from this perspective.  Marco Polo did, after all, warn of the diabolical mysteries of Upper Persia.  Could U.S. forces have "won" every firefight in Iraq and still be losing the war?  They were equally lethal and never driven from the field in Vietnam

 Within the context of Eastern intrigue, Iraq's future looks far less certain than one might think.  The U.S. military has had trouble countering its new foe's propensity for chaos and deception.  To do so now, it must identify, analyze, and compare every one of his strategic initiatives between September 2004 to September 2005.  For many, there was a hidden objective, subtle diversion, and secret maneuver. 

ISBN 0963869582

Paperback: 412 pages, 45 illustrations