The Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies presents,

Book Launch: Nonstate Warfare: The Military Methods of Guerillas, Warlords, and Militias (Princeton University Press, April 6, 2021)

Stephen Biddle, Author; Professor of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University; Member, Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies

Moderated by Richard K. Betts, Leo A. Shifrin Professor of War and Peace Studies

Monday, April 5, 2021
5:00pm – 6:00pm
Via Zoom
Registration via the Columbia and SIPA calendars

Registrants will be sent a Zoom link


Since September 11th, 2001, armed nonstate actors have received increased attention and discussion from scholars, policymakers, and the military. Underlying debates about nonstate warfare and how it should be countered is one crucial assumption: that state and nonstate actors fight very differently. In Nonstate Warfare, Stephen Biddle upturns this distinction, arguing that there is actually nothing intrinsic separating state or nonstate military behavior. Through an in-depth look at nonstate military conduct, Biddle shows that many nonstate armies now fight more “conventionally” than many state armies, and that the internal politics of nonstate actors―their institutional maturity and wartime stakes rather than their material weapons or equipment―determines tactics and strategies.

Biddle frames nonstate and state methods along a continuum, spanning Fabian-style irregular warfare to Napoleonic-style warfare involving massed armies, and he presents a systematic theory to explain any given nonstate actor’s position on this spectrum. Showing that most warfare for at least a century has kept to the blended middle of the spectrum, Biddle argues that material and tribal culture explanations for nonstate warfare methods do not adequately explain observed patterns of warmaking. Investigating a range of historical examples from Lebanon and Iraq to Somalia, Croatia, and the Vietcong, Biddle demonstrates that viewing state and nonstate warfighting as mutually exclusive can lead to errors in policy and scholarship. A comprehensive account of combat methods and military rationale, Nonstate Warfare offers a new understanding for wartime military behavior


Stephen Biddle is Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, and Adjunct Senior Fellow for Defense Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. He has served on the Defense Department’s Defense Policy Board, on General David Petraeus’ Joint Strategic Assessment Team in Baghdad in 2007, as a Senior Advisor to the Central Command Assessment Team in Washington in 2008-9, as a member of General Stanley McChrystal’s Initial Strategic Assessment Team in Kabul in 2009, and on a variety of other government advisory panels and analytical teams. Biddle lectures regularly at the U.S. Army War College and other military schools, and has presented testimony before congressional committees on issues relating to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria; force planning; conventional net assessment; and European arms control.

Biddle’s book Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle (Princeton University Press, 2004) won four prizes, including the Council on Foreign Relations Arthur Ross Award Silver Medal for 2005, and the 2005 Huntington Prize from the Harvard University Olin Institute for Strategic Studies. His other publications include articles in Foreign AffairsInternational SecuritySurvivalThe Journal of PoliticsSecurity StudiesThe Journal of Strategic StudiesThe Journal of Conflict ResolutionInternational Studies QuarterlyThe New Republic, The American Interest, The National InterestOrbisThe Washington QuarterlyContemporary Security Policy, Defense Analysis, Joint Force Quarterly, and Military Operations Research; shorter pieces on military topics in The New York Times, The Washington PostThe Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, and other news outlets; various chapters in edited volumes; and 31 NATO and U.S. government sponsored reports and monographs.

He has held the Elihu Root chair in military studies at the U.S. Army War College, the Roger Hertog Senior Fellowship at the Council on Foreign Relations, and other teaching and research positions at George Washington University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), and Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (BCSIA). Biddle co-directs the Columbia University Summer Workshop on the Analysis of Military Operations and Strategy (SWAMOS), and his research has won Barchi, Rist, and Impact Prizes from the Military Operations Research Society. He was awarded the U.S. Army Superior Civilian Service Medal in 2003 and again in 2006, and was presented with the US Army Commander’s Award for Public Service in Baghdad in 2007. He holds AB (1981), MPP (1985), and Ph.D. (Public Policy, 1992) degrees, all from Harvard University.

Richard K. Betts  is the Leo A. Shifrin Professor of War and Peace Studies in the political science department and Co-Director of the International Security Policy program in the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.  He was Director of the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies for 23 years and Director of National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations for four years where he is now an adjunct Senior Fellow.  Previously he was a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and adjunct Lecturer at the Johns Hopkins University’s Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.  He also served at different times on the Harvard University faculty as Lecturer and Visiting Professor.  Betts invented the Summer Workshop on Analysis of Military Operations and Strategy (SWAMOS) and has directed it since 1997.  He received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in Government from Harvard.

A former staff member of the original Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (the Church Committee), the National Security Council, and the Mondale Presidential Campaign, Betts has been an occasional consultant to the National Intelligence Council and Departments of State and Defense, served on the Military Advisory Panel for three Directors of Central Intelligence in the 1990s and later on the External Advisory Board for the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and was a Commissioner of the National Commission on Terrorism (the Bremer Commission).  He lectures occasionally at schools such as the National War College, Foreign Service Institute, and service academies.  He served briefly long ago as an officer in the U.S. Army.

Betts’ first book, Soldiers, Statesmen, and Cold War Crises, originally published by Harvard University Press, was issued in a second edition by Columbia University Press.  He is author of two other Columbia University Press books: Enemies of Intelligence and American Force; three books published by the Brookings Institution: Surprise AttackNuclear Blackmail and Nuclear Balance, and Military Readiness; coauthor and editor of three other Brookings books: The Irony of VietnamNonproliferation and U.S. Foreign Policy, and Cruise Missiles; editor of Conflict After the Cold War, published by Routledge; and coeditor of Paradoxes of Strategic Intelligence, from Cass.  Betts has published numerous articles on foreign policy, military strategy, intelligence, conventional forces, nuclear weapons, arms trade, collective security, strategic issues in Asia and Europe, terrorism, and other subjects in professional journals.  His writings won five prizes, and he received the International Studies Association’s ISSS Distinguished Scholar Award in 2005 and MIT’s Doolittle Award in 2012.