By Fred Kaplan

Weekend Reader: The Insurgents: David Petraeus And The Plot To Change The American Way Of War

February 9, 2013 12:00 am Category: Memo Pad 69 Comments A+ / A-

The following is excerpted from Fred Kaplan’s new book, The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War. You can purchase it here.

“What We Need Is an Officer with Three Heads”

A few days shy of his twenty-fifth birthday, John Nagl saw his future disappear.

The first tremors came at dawn, on February 24, 1991, as he revved up the engine of his M-1 tank and plowed across the Saudi Arabian border into the flat, endless sands of southern Iraq. For the previous month, American warplanes had bombarded Saddam Hussein’s military machine to the point of exhaustion. Now the ground-war phase of Operation Desert Storm—the largest armored offensive since the Second World War— roared forth in full force, pushing Iraq’s occupying army out of Kuwait.

Lieutenant Nagl was a platoon leader in the US Army’s 1st Cavalry Division, which, on that morning, mounted the crucial feint along the route where Saddam’s commanders were expecting an invasion. While Nagl and the rest of the 1st Cav pinned down the Iraqi troops with a barrage of bullets, shells, and missiles, the offensive’s main force—a massive armada of American soldiers, nearly a quarter million strong, along with their armored vehicles, artillery rockets, and a fleet of gunship helicopters overhead—swept across the desert landscape from the west in a surprise left-hook assault, enveloping Saddam’s troops and crushing them into submission after a mere one hundred hours of astonishingly lopsided fighting.

Nagl had graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point two and a half years earlier, near the top of his class, and then won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University. Highly ranked cadets got their pick of Army assignments, and Nagl chose the armor branch. Tanks would be the spearhead of the big war for which the Army was ceaselessly preparing—the titanic clash between the United States and the Soviet Union across the East-West German border—and so, tank commanders were prime candidates for fast promotion through the ranks. Nagl even studied German while at West Point and became fluent in the language, figuring that Germany was where he’d be spending the bulk of his career.

Then, not quite a year before he deployed to the Gulf, the Berlin Wall fell, the two Germanys merged, the Cold War ended—and now, right before his eyes, the Iraqi army, the fourth largest army in the world, was crumbling on contact.

It was a moment of unaccustomed triumph for the US military, still haunted by the defeat in Vietnam. But to Nagl, it also signaled the end of the era that made the triumph possible. Tank-on-tank combat had been the defining mode of warfare for a modern superpower; now it teetered on the verge of obsolescence. The Soviet Union and Iraq had been the last two foes that possessed giant tank armies. With the former gone up in smoke and the latter crushed so easily on the battlefield, it seemed implausible that any foreign power would again dare challenge the United States in a head-on contest of strength. The premise of all Nagl’s plans—to say nothing of the rationale for his beloved Army’s doctrines, budgets, and weapons programs—seemed suddenly, alarmingly irrelevant.

Nagl didn’t think that any of this necessarily meant the coming of world peace. If “major combat operations” (the official name for big tank wars) were no longer likely, there was still plenty of room for minor ones, especially the “shadow wars” mounted along the peripheries of vital interests by insurgents, guerrillas, or terrorists. Nagl didn’t know much about these kinds of wars. Neither did the Army. He hadn’t learned about them as a cadet at West Point. Nor had he since read about them in Army field manuals or practiced fighting them in officers’ training drills.

There was a reason for this gap in his education. In the mid-1970s, after the debacle of Vietnam, the Army’s top generals said “Never again” to the notion of fighting guerrillas in the jungle (or anyplace else). Instead, they turned their gaze once more to the prospect of a big war against the Soviet Union on the wide-open plains of Europe—a war that would play to America’s traditional strengths of amassing men and metal—and they threw out the book (literally: they threw out the official manuals and curricula) on anything related to what were once called “irregular wars,” “asymmetric wars,” “low-intensity conflicts,” or “counterinsurgency campaigns.” To the extent that these types of wars were contemplated at all, the message went out that there was nothing distinctive about them. For decades, Army doctrine had held that wars were won by superior firepower. This idea was taken as gospel, whether the war was large or small, whether the enemy was a nation-state or a rogue guerrilla. As one adage put it, if you can lick the cat, you can lick the kitten. Or, in the words of another: war is war is war.

But Nagl suspected that, like it or not, America might find itself drawn into fighting these “small wars” again; that if the Army had a future, these wars would play a key part in it; and (though he didn’t grasp this idea at first) that these wars were different from large wars in ways other than mere size and, therefore, had to be fought in different ways by soldiers trained in different skills.

Weekend Reader: The Insurgents: David Petraeus And The Plot To Change The American Way Of War Reviewed by on . The following is excerpted from Fred Kaplan’s new book, The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War. You can purchase it here. The following is excerpted from Fred Kaplan’s new book, The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War. You can purchase it here. Rating:

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  • nobsartist

    This should have been entitled-

    “How to dupe America into giving the Military Industrialist American Society all of the money in the treasury for the next century, and loving it”

    Written by another dumb ass that couldnt keep his dick in his pants.

    • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

      Well Said Very Well Said!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/dominick.vila.1 Dominick Vila

    Gen. Petraeus insurgent strategy was based on the premise that employed able to support their families seldom engage in violent – ideologically and econominally – influenced acts. And he was right. The moments tens of thousands of unemployed Sunnis were given a job and an opportunity to participate in policy making decisions, the insurgency declined.
    The question for me is not so much what we did to reduce the level of violence, but the deceit used to invade a nation that had nothing to do with 9/11, was not a threat to us, and a nation that enjoyed our full support during the Iraq-Iran war. That unfortunate decision, which was influenced by geopolitics, economic considerations, and the need to transform a pathetic President into a “war President” after 9/11, cost our country over 4,000 casualties, tens of thousands of maimed American troops, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives, a once thriving country was destroyed, and tens of thousands of people had no choice but to flee their country to save their lives. Last, but not least, that little “crusade” cost us over a billion dollars that could have been spent at home where such funding was – and is – desperately needed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

      While 4,000 Died And Ten Of Thousands Were Maimed The War Mongers Bush And Cheney Included Made Out Like Bandits!!! They Got Even Richer Than Ever Before!!!

      • nobsartist

        Like I say, bush and cheney wouldnt have been able to do it without the help of biden and the other jackass dems that are actually republiCONs.

    • CPAinNewYork

      The second war against Iraq was fought for two reasons:

      1. To protect Israel. Isn’t it interesting that liberal Joseph Lieberman backed the invasion of Iraq, calling it a “moral war”?
      2. To prevent Saddam Hussein from pumping his oil and flooding the international oil market with it. Iraq has the world’s second largest oil reserve and Hussein threatened to flood the market with it if the sanctions against Iraq weren’t lifted. That galvanized OPEC into getting the United States to invade Iraq.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QJHCZ2ZRQRLMJNSMWJM7ME5D2M Thomas

    I did not know people like Fern exsisted until now ! Aperson who does not know Bush but hates him with all of her strength ! Bush never made apenny Fern in any war ! Do you think with that wet thing between your legs Fern ? And what about your friend ? And Dom ? What about you ? You read educated but stupid all at the same time ? You would just let Quwat stay in the hands of Saadom ? Just what kind of person are you and by the way dumbas- It was Storming Norman who lead the U.S. forces ! Wow Dom ! ” Geopolitics ” and all that other stuff ! And where did you get that crap about President Bush ! you really do need help Dom ! I’d write Dr. Phil today if I were you ! I mean you are one sick man !

    • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

      YOU KISS MY SICK ASS STFU TALKING TO ME TROLL!!! I Don’t Hate No One But You Are One Dumb Fucker!!! Go Watch Yourself Some Fox Fake News And Get Yourself A Life Cause It Only Going To Get Worse For You ASSHOLE!!

      • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

        You know, when you confirm a post concerning you through your response, that’s generally regarded as a fail . . .

        • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

          Your Ignorant Low Life Ass Is Back With More Of Your Bullshit!! Get Yourself A Life Bitch And Stop Fucking Talking To Me Stalker I Don’t Want You So Find Yourself Someone Who Do!!! You Got A Big Hog Head It’s Not What I Want In A Man!!! Bye Asshole Get A Life!!!

          • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

            Awwww . . . got a persecution complex, do we? Poor widdle baby, all picked on . . .

          • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

            LOL You Sound Just Like The Big Water Head Jerk You Are!!! LOL

          • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

            Loons serenading in the night . . . love it! Please, continue. You’re a serious hoot!

          • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

            Just Like Your Mom Bitch Just Like Your Mom!!! LOL But Really You Do Have A Big Ass Hog Head Come From All That Inbreeding Huh?? LOL

          • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

            Love it! Keep it coming!

          • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

            Will Do Bitch I Know You Beating Your Meat Again You Pervert Ass Punk!! LOL

          • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

            Nah, watching 60 Minutes and commenting on the Political Wire site . . . you’re just an interesting diversion, something to laugh at while I chat with intelligent people.

          • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

            GO AWAY AND STAY LITTLE PUPPY!!! NO MEANS NO!!

          • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

            All Day Long And All Night You Open Up This Can Of Worms Now I Will Make You Eat Them!!! LMAO!! Bring It Little Pussy Ass Bitch!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

      Your Dumb Ass Need To Get A Life And A Job!!!

    • onedonewong

      Fern is your typical low class colored female. Her IQ is less than 70

      • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

        onesuckdong Did You Remember To Give Rush Limpdick His Blowjob This Morning You Racist Dick Sucking Ignorant Ass Little BITCH !! Go Fuck Thomas In The Ass And Both Of You Bitch Dig Dirt And DIE!! If My IQ Was 2 It Would Still Be Higher Than Your Stupid Little BITCH!! Why You Not Liked No Where??? After 4456 Of Your Dumb Ass Comments On 9 Web Sites You Only Got 1826 Likes LMAO LOL That’s Cause You Are A Lying Ass Troll!!

        • onedonewong

          Thanks for confirming my post :)

          • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

            What Showing That You Are A Low Life Racist Asshole We All At National Memo Been Knowing That!! You Just Another Stuck On Stupid Troll!!!

          • onedonewong

            I agree the boy president needs to go back to where he came from Kenya

      • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

        Unlike Your Mother She’s A Retarded Trailer Park Trash And You A Penis Sucking Toothless Hillbilly With An I Q Of 1!

        • onedonewong

          Thank you michelle obama we all know your posting name

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/HGC4BGWVYXV76PHZBPSPOOU5GA Independent1

      If you truely believe that Bush (and Cheney) didn’t make a penny while in office, you have to be one of the most delusional posters I’ve ever encountered on the internet. Why do you think that Bush and Cheney were doing everything they could to plan for a war with Iraq within days after being elected?? Because they had colluded before even being elected to do whatever they could while in office to stuff as much taxpayer money into theirs and their rich donors/cronies pockets while in office. It was widely reported that Bush and Cheney had the military trying to make plans to attack Iraq as early as February, 2001 – 8 months before 9/11 even happened. And I guess you think it was an accident that Cheney’s prior company got countless no-bid contract and defrauded the country by billions during the wars and without Bush and Cheney getting a penney!!! What total absurdity!! Of course they got millions in kickbacks. And they got them too when they got two unwarranted tax cuts passed and a Medicare drug benefit addition that was really nothing but a giveaway to the drug industry, and they tried to get some from the financial sector too by pushing to privatize social security, and on and on and on. Bush and Cheney are two of the most worthless human beings on the planet. Why do you suppose they purposely ignored 7 warnings from the CIA between May & August 2001 that 9/11 was going to happen?? because there’s no money to be had for them or the defense industry in fighting terrorist that are threatening to attack the homeland – so they took their chances and look what happened? thousands of americans died and the country ended up in two wars that should never have had to happen!!!!!!

      • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

        Thomas Is A Low Life Troll Just Another Brainwashed Asshole Who Come Here To Stir Up Shit Then Get His Ass Cussed Out Then Start Whining Like A Little Bitch!!!!! These Are Some Sad Ass Trolls!!

        • BDC_57

          You must turning him on or he is that stupid to.talk to you lol

          • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

            He’ll Find Out Sooner Or Later!!! LOL

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jonny-Dancer/100003939186029 Jonny Dancer

    A lot of American cash was doled out by this DUD to achieve hisprogram!

  • onedonewong

    Lost the VietNam war?? That 1 sentence diminishes the book and the author. The fact that he’s trying to rewrite history and bend it to his own agenda. Petraeus had the opportunity to be a great general but he threw it away when he refused to tell Barak his rules of engagement were costing tooo many lives and he needed to let the military call the shorts. Unfortunately barak could care less about our troops and was only worried about his fellow mooooslim

    • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

      Shut Your Pussy Ass Up Bitch!!!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4JK5UTBYBW34I6QZZXYEBMSTT4 TEN-OF-WANDS

    War is undergoing the same transformation as business: The venue is global; the perpetrator invisible, and the conclusion ill-defined. Eventually, global corporations will hire mercenaries to assert their unique interests. The human drive for a sustainable livelihood has always been stronger than the drive for fairness and transparency; the denial of this has only made it more of a problem than it otherwise would have been.

  • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

    I think it’s inevitable that every general staff prepares to fight the last war, and the politicians pass funding to fight the war that preceded the last. The day of the huge armies sweeping through vast swaths of territory has gone the way of the mounted lancer, and that low intensity conflicts will be the norm for the next few decades (before something else comes along). These will be wars that demand intelligence (in both senses of the word), and a vastly different force structure. We’re not going to be duking it out in the Fulda Gap – we’re going to be playing whack-a-mole.

    • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

      You Should Have Been Aborted Cause You’re An Inbred Suffering From Brain Damage!!!

      • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

        Heee heee . . . you have no idea what sweet music your madness is . . . listening to you scream, laughing at your childish temper tantrums. You’re better than a trip to the monkey house! Go ahead, howl some more! Cry, whine, shriek, toss more poo in your useless, impotent rage . . .

        • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

          Hee Hee I Will Bring More Of This Music To Your Ears I Only Just Begun!!! LMAO!!! Punk Ass Bully Bitch!!

          • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

            Ah, the caterwauling continues . . . I love the sound of loons in the night . . .

          • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

            Then You love Listening To Your Mother!! She The Biggest Loon Around Besides Yourself!!

          • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

            Oh, come on! You’re slowing down! Where’s the crazy I enjoy so much? Come on, get back in the game1

        • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

          If You Hear Me Screaming You Do Have A Problem A Big Problem!! LOL You Hear Nothing But Your Own Dumb Ass!!! LOL

          • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

            heee heee . . . seriously, my face is hurting I’ve been laughing so hard! And seriously, can’t you do any better than that? What’s the matter, you need another Red Bull enema?

          • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

            Every Time I Look At Your Picture I’m Laughing My Butt Off!! Bet They Don’t Make A Hat That Will Fit That Big Ass Head Of Yours!!! LMAO!!!

          • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

            Ah, but if you ever saw my hats, you’d be jealous! And still screaming, no doubt.

          • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

            I Doubt That I Have A Walk In Full Of Everything A Person Ever Wanted From Hats To Shoes!! You Just Love Following Me Like Love Sick Puppy Go AWAY!!!

          • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

            Hey, if anyone has been stalking, it’s you. But then, you’re crazy, so I really wouldn’t expect you to know what you’re doing. But I do know that your screaming and yelling and juvenile rants are uproariously funny. So please, keep on keepin’ on!

          • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

            GO Away Little Puppy Dog I Don’t Want You!!!

          • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

            Keep dancing, puppet!

          • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

            GO AWAY LITTLE PUPPY I DON’T WANT YOU BYE BYE!!!

          • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

            What’s the matter, puppet? Feet tired?

          • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

            But sadly, who would want YOU! Only me . . . so be my puppet. Please me. Dance for me. Show me how submissive you are to me. I speak, you dance.
            Dance for me, puppet!

  • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

    Keep dancing, Fern . . . I speak, you dance. You should know the rules by now . . . Oh, and DO try to come up with some new steps, you’re turning into a rather tiresome puppet.

    • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

      IDIOT!!! Time To Go Away Little IDIOT!!!

      • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

        Keep dancing, puppet . . .

        • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

          Hog Head IDIOT!!

          • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

            Poor child . . so obsessive compulsive . . .

          • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

            Poor Water Head Asshole!! IDIOT!!

          • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

            Oh, come on, you can do better than THAT! I expect more of my puppets than tedious repetition.

  • CPAinNewYork

    How do know that “Fern” is a woman? He, she or it could be anything.
    Anyone could emulate her style of writing.

    • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

      Your Punk Ass Had A Chance To Stay Out Of This Little Pussy!!!!

      • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

        Awwww . . . did we hit a sore spot there? And who’s talking to you? We’re talking about you . . .

      • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

        Seriously, Fern . . . what do you propose to do? Scream and throw temper tantrums some more? Curse? Haven’t you figure out yet than being a fool on the net doesn’t hurt anyone, and only exposes what a pathetic whiner you are? Grow up . . .

        • http://www.facebook.com/fern.woodfork Fern Woodfork

          BITCH I Work And Every Time I Log In Your Bitch Ass Is Still Talking Shit Your Ass The One Who Need To Grow Up And Get A Job And You Really Need To Get A Life And Stay The Fuck Out Of Mine!!!!

          • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

            Life? You? You can’t afford one. Besides, without me to provide you with a reason to post, you’d be lost!

            Dance some more for me, my sorry little puppet, you’re raggety but amusing. And you shriek with such sweet impotent rage . . .

    • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

      True . . . she may be suffering from delusions of gender . . .

  • http://www.facebook.com/BaronSieggy Siegfried Heydrich

    I think Fern is drunk again . . . though it really is kind of early for that.

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