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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-05-13
- Reviewer: Staff
In 2006, after five years as a warzone, Iraq was descending into chaos. But then General David Petraeus arrived, adopted counterinsurgency (COIN) tactics, and ended the war. That’s the official story, but according to Gentile (a former Iraq War commander and current director of West Point’s military history program), it didn’t really happen that way. In this vivid and astute polemic, Gentile argues that the U.S. military’s appropriation of COIN, a strategy with a long and fraught history, as the author explains, was a dangerously misguided attempt “to refight the Vietnam War—but this time in Iraq.” COIN, in Gentile’s estimation, is little more than “a recipe for perpetual war.” In fact, he argues that the conflict in Iraq was settled not by Petraeus’s use of COIN; rather, the violence subsided when Sunni insurgents turned against al-Qaeda, and Shia factions quit fighting one another. Yet that hasn’t stopped the powers that be from implementing COIN in the Afghan theater. Gentile ultimately offers a sobering warning—if we refuse to learn from the failures of COIN and end our foolish belief in savior generals, we are “doomed to repeat the same mistakes for a long, long time.” This should be required reading for military scholars and active soldiers. (Aug.)