Wrong Turn: America's Deadly Embrace of Counterinsurgencyby Colonel Gian Gentile
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Colonel Gian Gentile’s 2008 article Misreading the Surge” in World Politics Review first exposed a growing rift among military intellectuals that has since been playing out in strategy sessions at the Pentagon, in classrooms at military academies, and on the pages of the New York Times. While the past years of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan have been dominated by the doctrine of counterinsurgency (COIN), Gentile and a small group of dissident officers and defense analysts have questioned the necessity and efficacy of COIN—essentially armed nation-building—in achieving the United States’ limited core policy objective in Afghanistan: the destruction of Al Qaeda.
Drawing both on the author’s experiences as a combat battalion commander in the Iraq War and his research into the application of counterinsurgency in a variety of historical contexts, Wrong Turn is a brilliant summation of Gentile’s views of the failures of COIN, as well as a searing reevaluation of the current state of affairs in Afghanistan.
As the issue of America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan inevitably rises to the top of the national agenda, Wrong Turn will be a major new touchstone for what went wrong and a vital new guide to the way forward.
Note: the ideas in this book are the author’s alone, not the Department of Defense’s.
"Here in this timely, incisive, and unflinchingly honest volume, the essential task of dismantling the myths already enshrouding America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan begins. . . . An important book that will give Washington’s war-mongers and militarists fits."
Andrew J. Bacevich, author of Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country
"Colonel Gentile asks us to confront some blisteringly urgent questions. Have COIN tactics ever worked the military magic their proponents claim? Or have they merely provided cover for beating exits from wars that never should have been fought in the first place? . . . Wrong Turn deserves a wide readership by all who must make these supremely important strategy decisionsas well as those who will live with the consequences."
David M. Kennedy, professor of history, Stanford University, and editor of The Modern American Military
"Counterinsurgency rises over and over again from the ashes of defeat. It is Gian Gentile’s ambition to 'drive a stake through its heart,' and in Wrong Turn he has succeededbrilliantly."
Marilyn Young, professor of history, New York University
"A brilliant and persuasive book . . . offers by far the most convincing explanation extant of why America has not succeeded recently with COIN.”
Sir Colin Gray, professor of international relations and strategic studies at the University of Reading
"A lively, provocative and readable book . . . never misses its mark."
"Based on his personal experience in Baghdad as well as some fine historical scholarship, Colonel Gentile takes aim at America’s current COIN doctrines and shows how ineffective they really are. An exceptionally courageous book, clearly and forcibly written."
Martin van Creveld, author of The Transformation of War
"Gentile finds the common flaw in our failed strategy as evidenced in our last three military misadventures. . . . We did not lose the Vietnam Warit was never ours to win. Is Afghanistan becoming a repeat performance?"
Volney Warner, General (Ret), U.S. Army
"How I wish we’d had this telling critique of counterinsurgency warfare before Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It would have been far harder to make those tragic mistakes. A must-read for our national security experts, and U.S. citizens."
Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and former columnist for the New York Times
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Meet the Author
Colonel Gian Gentile is an army colonel, a former Iraq War commander, and a professor of history at West Point; he was also a 2010 Visiting Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Gentile is a contributor to the Washington Post, The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, Small Wars Journal, and the World Politics Review. He lives in West Point, New York.
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