The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War

The Insurgents David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War A finalist for the Pulitzer PrizeThe Insurgents is the inside story of the small group of soldier scholars led by General David Petraeus who plotted to revolutionize one of the largest oldest and

  • Title: The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War
  • Author: FredKaplan
  • ISBN: null
  • Page: 158
  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • A finalist for the Pulitzer PrizeThe Insurgents is the inside story of the small group of soldier scholars, led by General David Petraeus, who plotted to revolutionize one of the largest, oldest, and most hidebound institutions the United States military Their aim was to build a new Army that could fight the new kind of war in the post Cold War age not massive wars on vaA finalist for the Pulitzer PrizeThe Insurgents is the inside story of the small group of soldier scholars, led by General David Petraeus, who plotted to revolutionize one of the largest, oldest, and most hidebound institutions the United States military Their aim was to build a new Army that could fight the new kind of war in the post Cold War age not massive wars on vast battlefields, but small wars in cities and villages, against insurgents and terrorists These would be wars not only of fighting but of nation building, often not of necessity but of choice.Based on secret documents, private emails, and interviews with than one hundred key characters, including Petraeus, the tale unfolds against the backdrop of the wars against insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan But the main insurgency is the one mounted at home by ambitious, self consciously intellectual officers Petraeus, John Nagl, H R McMaster, and others many of them classmates or colleagues in West Point s Social Science Department who rose through the ranks, seized with an idea of how to fight these wars better Amid the crisis, they forged a community some of them called it a cabal or mafia and adapted their enemies techniques to overhaul the culture and institutions of their own Army.Fred Kaplan describes how these men and women maneuvered the idea through the bureaucracy and made it official policy This is a story of power, politics, ideas, and personalities and how they converged to reshape the twenty first century American military But it is also a cautionary tale about how creative doctrine can harden into dogma, how smart strategists today s best and brightest can win the battles at home but not the wars abroad Petraeus and his fellow insurgents made the US military adaptive to the conflicts of the modern era, but they also created the tools and made it tempting for political leaders to wade into wars that they would be wise to avoid.

    One thought on “The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War”

    1. On November 9, 2012 (coincidentally my 42nd birthday), David Petraeus announced his resignation as CIA Director and admitted that he had had an affair with his recent biographer, Paula Broadwell. Unlike many people, I was not even slightly surprised. Several Months previously, on April 14, 2012 to be precise, I had just finished reading Ms. Broadwell's book (All In: The Education of General David Petraeus), and was discussing it with my wife. As soon as she saw the photograph on the back of the [...]

    2. Finally, a book about Afganistan, Iraq and the re-structuring of the US Military that actually makes sense and is readable. These insurgents have names like Nagel, McMaster, Ordierno and Petreus: they are American Officers who plotted to change the way the Amerian Military goes to war in a changing environment. This book was highly readable, well researched and almost impossible to put down.

    3. This is an exceptional book on many levels. First, as a military history, it stands on its own rights. A detailed, well-sourced, readable look at the intellectual groundings of, the planning for, and the implementation of the US Army's new counterinsurgency manual.But strip away the topic, and it's an exceptional story of organizational leadership, dealing with change, bureaucratic in-fighting, politics, and organizational culture. Any businessperson, or MBA student, will find parts of The Insur [...]

    4. Absolutely brilliant! I was totally engaged listening to the audiobook while commuting to & from work. Sat in my driveway having a very hard time shutting off the cd player each night. Wow! I had no idea the military has so many extremely well educated individuals driving the new COIN philosophy. The planning that went into coming up with counter insurgency strategy is mind boggling. The public has no idea about what needs to happen to really win a war and see it through.Let David Petraeus t [...]

    5. General Petraeus was an intellectual insurgent who encountered an Army hierarchy wanting little to do with “low-intensity warfare,” the name for guerilla and insurgency warfare. The establishment preferred being ready for wars of based on past conflicts in which big armies battled other big armies, called “high-intensity” conflict.Petraeus understood Pentagon resistance to change was its first step to irrelevance—and losing wars. But in the post-Vietnam military-mindset, direct confron [...]

    6. As a work of history, tracing the development of the idea of counterinsurgency and its adoption by the US Army, this is top-notch and strongly researched. As a work of analysis weighing the merits and track record of counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan, this book is.Kaplan clearly spent the bulk of his research on the first idea (the history of the COIN idea), and I have seen no better narrative that covers the same ground. But he tries to use that narrative as grounds for reaching some un [...]

    7. What an amazing book. I have so many good things to say. But first a brief summary: The author Fred Kaplan takes a look at the US Army’s wrestling with the idea and practice of counterinsurgency after the post-Vietnam era. Kaplan makes the point that after the Vietnam War the leadership at the Pentagon never wanted to fight another counterinsurgency again. Instead the military as a whole focused on the more traditional concept of warfare such as big tank battles, heavy artillery and mechanized [...]

    8. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The title is, of course, ironic. The Insurgents are David Petraeus and others who worked to change the way America fought its wars. It was known as COIN or counterinsurgency warfare. I do have a problem with the subtitle referring to it as a "Plot." I think that was just a way of selling books. I think the names and details of these men and women are worth mentioning: 1. David Galula: He was a retired French officer who wrote Counterinsurgency Warfare, now a class [...]

    9. Kaplan gives a well-researched and fascinating account of the rise of the "insurgents" in US military strategy - i.e. those like General David Petreaus, Lt. Col. John Nagle (author of the modern classic "Eating Soup with a Knife"), David Kilcullen and other advocates of the still highly contraversal COIN (Counter-insurgency) strategy that was embraced by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. To understand COIN you must understand the devoted advocates who created it, fought for it and then implemen [...]

    10. The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the plot to change the American way of war by Fred Kaplan. Fred M. Kaplan (b. 1954) is an American author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. His weekly "War Stories" column for Slate magazine covers international relations and U.S. foreign policy. Fred Kaplan’s Insurgents thesis, in my opinion, is that Petraeus and his fellow insurgents made the US military more adaptive to the conflicts of the modern era, but they also created the tools, and made it more [...]

    11. Fred Kaplan’s “The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War” is an interesting story of how the theory of counterinsurgency was brought into practice in the American military play book. The cover fashions Petraeus as the insurgent in the Army hierarchy and the Pentagon who works to change the practice of warfare. This was partially true. Counterinsurgency (part offense, part defense, and part stability operations) – as opposed to conventional warfare (lik [...]

    12. The "insurgents" of the title are a set of Army officers who developed an interest in counterinsurgency in the 1990s, when it was out of favor, having been sworn off after the failed attempt in Vietnam and the adoption of the "Powell Doctrine" that the US would not go to war without going all-in. Foremost among them are GEN David Petraeus and LTC John Nagl, but there were many others. The author traces the origin of this group to the Department of Social Sciences at West Point, where the importa [...]

    13. The author David Kaplan uses "Insurgent" as a metaphor to show how those recognizing the need for different strategies to fight insurgencies (as compared to full scale wars) were themselves insurgents within the US military. While there are many others, Kaplan credits David Petraeus as the key exponent of the new thinking.Kaplan places the beginnings of COIN (counter-insurgency strategies) at post- World War II West Point where a curriculum which added some liberal arts courses (sociology, forei [...]

    14. No, this is not about the insurgents in Iraq or Afghanistan, at least not directly. It is about the insurgents within the U. S. Military. The Iraq War was a poster child for how not to win a small war. From the Secretary of Defense (Donald Rumsfeld), through the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the U. S. civilian authority on the ground (led by Jerry Bremer), and down to the officer and grunt in the field the belief was that there was a path to a quick war: technology, firepower, and "shock and awe" wo [...]

    15. This is a fascinating read about how members of the US military, under the leadership of General David Petraeus, created a massive cultural change in a military environment that was extremely resistant to change. Kaplan outlines a history of counter-insurgency theory and practice and how Petraeus and his colleagues applied it to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Counter-insurgency tactics are drastically different from traditional military tactics, requiring a great deal of research and thinking to [...]

    16. Overall, 3.5 stars. A good book that was relatively faced paced for its genre.Kaplan did a solid job capturing the events that he set out to capture. However, I believe that his conclusions were a bit forced, as though he told the story of this change in thinking about war, and then wanted to draw a profound conclusion from it for the sake of having something to say himself. Maybe I am just being biased. Basically, though, at the very end of the book, Kaplan gets preachy and implies that Petreau [...]

    17. Terrific, fascinating, detailed account of the effort by intellectual officers to jar the military out of generation of outdated thinkingon the fly, as the war on Iraq was being fought. Some good stuff"In the mid-1970s, after the debacle of Vietnam, the Army’s top generals said 'Never again' to the notion of fighting guerrillas in the jungle (or anyplace else). Instead, they turned their gaze once more to the prospect of a big war against the Soviet Union on the wide-open plains of Europe—a [...]

    18. An intelligent look at how military strategy and policy has evolved over the last 10 years to slowly acknowledge (and even more slowly, adapt to) the new realities of counterinsurgency, asymmetric warfare, and military-led nation-building. As such, I shouldn't be surprised that it was filled with So. Much. Fail.As a nation, we are truly terrible at this. And although we may be better at it now than we were 15 years ago thanks to the heroic efforts of a few, it's hard to have any confidence that [...]

    19. They called themselves social scientists, they weremore like politicians. The Insurgents tells of a small group of army officers, most notably General David Petraeus, who plotted to change the U.S. military, the least changeable organization of government. They aimed to create an army that was able to fight in the modern era, small counter insurgency and anti-terrorist operations, not massive land invasions. Nation-building and the winning of hearts and minds was a crucial part of this new doctr [...]

    20. This book is well-written; for a non-fiction book it's a page turner. Kaplan did a great job of maintaining the overall narrative of the war while bringing it alive with anecdotes about the war's commanders. Two bones of contention:1. The book sets itself up to undermine Petraeus' counterinsurgency theory and focus, but the book actually spends 70 percent of its time building up to the surge in Iraq and then describing its success. Kaplan barely skims over the surface of Afghanistan, pointing to [...]

    21. I had a hard time wading through this book. While Kaplan captures some of the debate on the application of force during a crucial period during the Iraq War, his focus on personality is missplaced and the idea that military officers in general can change the American Way of War is naivete at best. While he identifies many of those who applied innovative tactics during this period, he doesn't completely justify the causality his title implicates -- and the use of the term 'insurgent' isn't well j [...]

    22. A fascinating explanation of how a small number of American officers worked to change the American army's [and the major powers' militaries] attitude to COIN/unconventional/low intensity conflicts. While General Petraeus was the most powerful proponent of COIN, he was not the only one and Kaplan traces the influence of all of these men and women. Fred Kaplan has done a excellent job of uncovering the evolution of this change, using interviews with all key players,as they struggled against the co [...]

    23. Mr. Kaplan chronicles America's love-hate relationship with counterinsurgency. Following the Vietnam War, the US Army sought to bury counterinsurgency in the past. Against tremendous high-level opposition, David Petraeus, and several other alumni of West Point's "sosh" department resurrected counterinsurgency and used it in Iraq and Afghanistan, with mixed results. Mr. Kaplan switches deftly between major players in this struggle, remains relatively impartial, and avoids outright idolatry or con [...]

    24. I've been recommending this book to anyone I think will read it - Fred Kaplan's prose is concise and meticulous, and his subject matter relevant. Kaplan recounts Petraeus' thrill-seeking determination and his rise within the military with a striking balance of admiration and criticism. Notably, the eponymous 'insurgents' of the book are Petraeus and a small, diverse group advocating for counterinsurgency (COIN) in Iraq and Afghanistan. The resistance to COIN among American lawmakers and high-ran [...]

    25. Meh. I enjoyed Kaplan's writing, and the introduction throughout the story of people I had met, working in places I was familiar with - that lent it a very 'present' feeling. I particularly relished the role of David Kilcullen in the narrative - Kaplan lets slip but never highlights Kilcullen's dismay at the slipping of American strategy further into idiocy.I found the book, overall, to be an enjoyable and readable near-fawning telling of Petraeus as the patron-saint of counter-insurgency. Not, [...]

    26. This was an interesting account of just how the United States military came to refuse to do any sort of sensible war planning in Iraq and Afghanistan, and how it got (somewhat) better eventually. The interest comes not only as a general study of organizational culture and reform -- albeit in the military's admittedly unusual institution -- but also from the way it treats the interaction of academics and policymakers. International relations is a field that constantly frets about being relevant t [...]

    27. I think this is an amazing book. Not only does it cover most of the history of the Iraq- and Afghanistan wars, which are important enough in themselves. It also provides a compellingly written case study of organizational culture and what it takes to change it. As such, the book is relevant for everybody involved with managing or changing large, tradition-focussed, conservative organizations.On top of it all, it covers important aspects of knowledge management in large organizations; and the US [...]

    28. This book is certainly very well sourced and researched. I doubt you could find a better summary regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and their places in American military history. The author (rightly) points out in the final chapter that for all the effort to sell and implement counterinsurgency practices in the Army, not only do the American people not have the patience (fiscal or otherwise) to support its fullest implementation, but that COIN probably was doomed from the start, especial [...]

    29. Believe it or not, this book is a pager turner. If you´re looking for deep analysis of military doctrine you may be disappointed, but you will find a very engaging description of how military thought, politics, personalities, and learning institutions come together in the worlds of army doctrine and the defense establishment. The author, who has a pretty good column at slate and is clearly accustomed to writing for a wide readership, seems to have interviewed all the right people. The book desc [...]

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