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Ten Days in May

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at The Wheeler Centre

David Kilcullen and Robert Manne

David Kilcullen is one of the world’s most informed voices on military strategy, guerrilla conflict and terror, and the author of the forthcoming June Quarterly Essay on Islamic State. Australian-born, but now based in Washington DC, Kilcullen has twenty-five years of experience as a student and researcher of counter-terrorism and conflict zone ethnography.

After serving as an Australian Army officer, he was a senior counter-insurgency advisor to US General David Petraeus, the chief strategist at the US State Department, and special advisor for counter-insurgency to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He is seen as the architect of the 2007 Iraqi troop surge.

His paper, ‘Twenty-Eight Articles’, began as an email … and now forms part of formal training material for troops in Australia, the US, Britain, Canada, the Netherlands, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Kilcullen has laid particular emphasis on the need for more situation-specific, human understanding of conflicts. In one essay, he says: ‘Conflict ethnography is key; to borrow a literary term, there is no substitute for a “close reading” of the environment.’ His recent work has focussed on bringing his expertise to aid agencies and disaster-affected regions.

In his books (he’s written three), he has explored threats to future societies; explained the complex interactions between social groups, geography, urban design and conflict; suggested strategies for dealing with stateless assailants; and argued for the importance of ‘out-governing’ the enemy.

He joins us for an in-depth conversation about the future of conflict, Australia’s role, and the challenges and opportunities of a changing world. With Robert Manne, as part of the La Trobe University Ideas and Society program.


Portrait of David Kilcullen

David Kilcullen

David Kilcullen was a senior advisor to General David Petraeus in 2007 and 2008, when he helped to design and monitor the Iraq War troop 'surge'. He was then a special advisor for counterinsurgency to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. From 2005 to 2006, he was Chief Strategist in the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the US State Department.

He is a former Australian Army officer and the author of three acclaimed books: The Accidental Guerrilla,Counterinsurgency and Out of the Mountains.

Portrait of Robert Manne

Robert Manne

Robert Manne’s many books include Making Trouble and The Words That Made Australia (as co-editor). He is the author of three Quarterly Essays, In Denial, Sending Them Home and Bad News. He is a Vice-Chancellor's Fellow at La Trobe University.

Ten Days in May

This May, join us as we welcome guests from Sydney Writers’ Festival to Melbourne.

You’ll meet genre-hopping writer Jonathan Lethem, find a clearer path to happiness with Paul Dolan, explore counterinsurgency and ethnography with David Kilcullen and Robert Manne, and catch up with international children’s publishing sensation David Walliams — often dubbed ‘the new Roald Dahl’.

Plus: hear from literary magician David Mitchell, delve into various beginnings with legendary playwright and novelist Michael Frayn, learn about the turning points in master biographer Claire Tomalin’s own life, and examine textual intimacy with Booker-winning poet and author Ben Okri.

Presented in partnership with Sydney Writers’ Festival.

Also part of this series:

Subtexts: Post/Love


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