Review: Wrong Turn – America’s Deadly Embrace of Counterinsurgency

5 Star, America (Founders, Current Situation), Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Civil Affairs, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Force Structure (Military), Insurgency & Revolution, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Military & Pentagon Power, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized), War & Face of Battle
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Well-Regarded in Afghanistan, A Real Gem, November 22, 2013

This book is in our J-2 Library in Afghanistan, and it is a very well-regarded gem.

This is a vitally important book. The author drives the value-proposition home with his Afterword, entitled “Truth as a Casualty of COIN.” His core point: lies kill military efficiency (including military learning). Those who would cite the vast spectrum of presidential and DoD directives and concepts and so on clearly are as out of touch with reality as the well-intentioned dolts that signed off on all that junk. Prior to reading this book I articulated — and had checked by colleagues at the US Army Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) and across Special Forces — some harsh comments in my summary critical review of The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One.

Being a strong critic of defense idiocy and corruption myself, coming off 20 years of trying to get the US Intelligence Community to actually produce ethical evidence-based decision-support, this book by a former commander who is now teaching history at West Point should be required reading in all the schools from entry-level to war college.

The author opens early with his view that the COIN understanding of “the population” is delusional (he is being kind). The population is indeed the center of gravity, but if one is going to substitute technology for thinking, ideology for policy, and corrupt puppets for indigenous leadership, then one should expect to implode. As I have lectured here are there, including to civil affairs cannon fodder at Fort Bragg, “no amount of tactical excellence can make up for strategic decrepitude.” (see the definition of the latter term of art in my review of Clausewitz and Contemporary War).

The book focuses on the disconnect between a military trained, equipped, and organized to fight wars, and the “light infantry” variant that pretends to win hearts and minds while kicking down doors and running air strikes on civilians. The fact is that if there is no Whole of Government endeavor, if the Department of State is the Department of Nothing as Andrew Cockburn recently slammed Boffo Haircut (who gave up his integrity when looking into CIA’s role in Iran Contract and the cocaine crack explosion), then the military is on a fool’s errand at great expense in terms of blood, treasure, and spirit.

I am reminded of DIME by the early portion of the book. We need all four — diplomatic, informational, military, and economic. The fact is that we have a military that is dysfunctional and corrupt to the bone across strategy, policy, acquisition and operations, and a “paper tiger” across the other three domains.

There are five short quotes I have selected that capture the essence of the book, which I will follow with a final comment and eight other recommended books.

QUOTE (117): “When a state gets its strategy right in war, tactical problems tend to be subsumbed and improved within it.” This is an entire book waiting to be written — and the obverse of my comment to the civil affairs gladiators.

QUOTE (118): “But sometimes, in a war that involves limited policy airms, there may well be alternatives to victory.” Here I would point out that until last year the morons in DC conflated Al Qaeda and the Taliban — I do not make this stuff up. These are the same people that did not know Iraq was a Sunni minority ruling over a Shi’ite majority.

QUOTE (127): “The counterintelligence narrative posits that savior generals have game-changing effects, but it over-states their influence on the course of the war.” Yes, to which I would add, it is not helpful to have a Zionist bimbo sharing your bed and a G-2 without the balls the call a counterintelligence foul when he sees one.

QUOTE (128): “…hearts and minds counter-insurgency carried out by an occupying power in a foreign land doesn’t work, unless it is a multigenerational effort.” To understand the details, search for my Marine Corps University short paper (summary of a 1976 thesis), < 1992 MCU Thinking About Revolution >. No one in DC gets any of this.

QUOTE (132): “American strategy has failed in Afghanistan because it became tapped by the promise that counterinsurgency can work only if it is given enough time…” See my summary review of Colin Gray’s utterly gripping Modern Strategy — time is the one strategic variable that cannot be bought nor replaced. The corruption of US foreign and national security policy, deepened by the assassination of John F. Kennedy 50 years ago by a mix of Texas energy, New York money, CIA, and out of control elements of the rest of the US government, has wasted 50 years and destroyed the Republic. Time matters. So does integrity.

I am not going to summarize the most precious part of the book, pages 133-135, read these in the library or a bookstore if you cannot take the time to ingest the entire book.

I’ve had to work my way through multiple generations of flag officers divorced from reality and inattentive to the public interest. I dare hope that the serving Chief of Staff of the US Army is paying attention, and that this particular colonel might rise to be one of the thinking generals. Certainly I cannot count more than five in my lifetime out of the sixty or so I have known (Zinni is one of best and on record as saying that the US IC provided him “at best” 4% of what he needed to know as CINCENT). Consider helping me with the following SSI monograph under development, search for < 2013 ON REVOLUTION — Helpng Transform the US Army Consistent with CSA Guidance >

Buy this book, read it, display it, and share it. Let that be your act of loyal dissent this week.

Semper Fidelis,
Robert David STEELE Vivas
INTELLIGENCE for EARTH: Clarity, Diversity, Integrity, & Sustainability

See Also:

Who the Hell Are We Fighting?: The Story of Sam Adams and the Vietnam Intelligence Wars
The Search for Security: A U.S. Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century
Uncomfortable Wars Revisited (International and Security Affairs)
Losing the Golden Hour: An Insider’s View of Iraq’s Reconstruction (An Adst-Dacor Diplomats and Diplomacy Book)
We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People (American Empire Project)
The Pentagon Labyrinth: 10 Short Essays to Help You Through It
Surrender to Kindness: One Man’s Epic Journey for Love and Peace