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David Kilcullen and Robert Manne


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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.


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 t... Read more

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. ... Read more


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