Blood Year is an unsparingly honest, self-critical analysis of the collapse of western counterterrorism strategy, by one of its original architects. As a soldier, counterterrorism official, and Chief Strategist in the US State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism, David Kilcullen was one of the key designers of US and allied counterterrorism policy. His insights helped to shape the strategy, known as ‘Disaggregation’, which crippled Al-Qaeda and prevented a follow-up to the 9/11 attacks. He served in Iraq at the height of the conflict there, and found himself in harm’s way in Southeast Asia, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. So Kilcullen’s frank assessment — that the strategy he helped design has failed, that it has not made us safer, and has contributed to new threats, including ISIS — makes this short book mandatory reading for anyone interested in how terrorism is confronted. The most startling part of his analysis is that there may be worse dangers than ISIS incubating in various parts of the world.
Kilcullen’s prescription for change, for a thorough reimagining of the threat, and for an open public debate on how to deal with it, will be a massive challenge. But if western democracies are to avoid more years of blood, it will be essential.