A conversation with author David Kilcullen



30 June 2020




(Washington DC time: Monday, 29 June, 9.00-10.00pm EDT)

Security analysts today warn that domestic extremism in the United States poses as much risk today as it did in 1995, when the bombing of Federal government offices in Oklahoma City produced the most deadly domestic terrorist attack in US history. Military strategist and counter-insurgency expert David Kilcullen believes the risk of organised, civil violence in the United States in 2020 is far more widespread and potentially more dangerous than commonly thought. Potential triggers and grievances abound, ranging from coronavirus and its economic costs, protests against police violence and opportunistic looting and vandalism, counter-protests and waves of domestic and foreign disinformation, all set against the upcoming US elections. What are the historical parallels to the situation the United States finds itself in?

To discuss these issues, USSC hosted a webinar event featuring Dr David Kilcullen, author of the new book The Dragons and the Snakes: How the Rest Learned to Fight the West, in discussion with United States Studies Centre’s CEO Professor Simon Jackman.

Dr David Kilcullen is Professor of International and Political Studies at University of New South Wales, Canberra and also serves as Professor of Practice in global security at Arizona State University. Kilcullen is a former soldier and diplomat, and a scholar of guerrilla warfare, terrorism, urbanisation and the future of conflict, who served 25 years for the Australian and United States governments. During the Iraq War, he served in Baghdad as a member of the Joint Strategic Assessment Team, then as Senior Counterinsurgency Advisor, Multi-National Force Iraq in 2007, before becoming Special Advisor for Counterinsurgency to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2008. Kilcullen was named one of the Foreign Policy Top 100 Global Thinkers in 2009. 


  • Dr David Kilcullen
    Former Senior Advisor to General David Petraeus

    David Kilcullen visited the US Studies Centre in February 2016. Kilcullen was Senior Advisor to General David Petraeus in 2007 and 2008, helping to design and monitor the Iraq War coalition troop “Surge.” He was then Special Advisor for counterinsurgency to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and, from 2005 and 2006, he was the Chief Strategist in the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the US State Department. Kilcullen is a former Australian Army officer and the author of four acclaimed books: The Accidental Guerrilla; Counterinsurgency; Out of the Mountains; and Blood Year: Islamic State and the Failures of the War on Terror.

  • Professor Simon Jackman
    Professor Simon Jackman

    Professor Simon Jackman was Chief Executive Officer of the United States Studies Centre from April 2016 to May 2022. Between 1996 and 2016, he was a Professor of Political Science and Statistics at Stanford University. Jackman's teaching and research centres on public opinion, election campaigns, political participation, and electoral systems with special emphasis on American and Australian politics.

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