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

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Simon and Schuster, Jan 2, 2013 - History - 418 pages
21 Reviews
The inside story of the small group of soldier-scholars who changed the way the Pentagon does business and the American military fights wars, against fierce resistance from within their own ranks.

The 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 more 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 more adaptive to the conflicts of the modern era, but they also created the tools—and made it more tempting—for political leaders to wade into wars that they would be wise to avoid.

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

User Review  - Richard - Goodreads

• In the end, you can't do for others what they're unwilling to do for themselves and you can't undo for others what they've done to themselves. This is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand ... Read full review

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

User Review  - John - Goodreads

Well balanced and enlightening. Explains much of what I see going on in the Army and raises questions as to the Army's (and all DOD) role in national policy. Read full review

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What We Need Is an Officer with Three Heads_ __________________ H I
Eating Soup With a Knife?
The Insurgent at War
The lrregulrlrs
Wheres My Counterinsurgency PlanV
The Basin Harbor Gang
The Insurgent in the Engine Room of Change _ ___________________ __ I 26
Hearts Minds I 66
Clear Hold and Build t I9 I
We Are Pulling in DilTerent Directions
The Surge
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About the author (2013)

Fred Kaplan writes the “War Stories” column in Slate and has also written many articles on politics and culture in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and many other publications. A former Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter for The Boston Globe, he is also the author of 1959, Daydream Believers, and The Wizards of Armageddon. He graduated from Oberlin College and has a PhD from MIT. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Brooke Gladstone.

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