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
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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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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - ernst.schnell - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review

THE INSURGENTS: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

How a group of farsighted Army officers gradually forced competence in fighting insurgents upon a hostile military establishment.When David Petraeus graduated from West Point in 1974, there were no ... Read full review


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
9 9

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About the author (2013)

Fred Kaplan is the national-security columnist for Slate and the author of five books, including Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War; The Wizards of Armageddon; 1959; Daydream Believers; and The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War, which was a New York Times bestseller and Pulitzer Prize finalist. A former Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter for The Boston Globe, he graduated from Oberlin College, earned a PhD from MIT, and lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Brooke Gladstone.

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