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Learning to Forget: US Army Counterinsurgency Doctrine and Practice from Vietnam to Iraq (Stanford Security Studies) Hardcover – June 26, 2013

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Learning to Forget: US Army Counterinsurgency Doctrine and Practice from Vietnam to Iraq (Stanford Security Studies) + Wrong Turn: America’s Deadly Embrace of Counterinsurgency + Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla
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Product Details

  • Series: Stanford Security Studies
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford Security Studies (June 26, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804785813
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804785815
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,498,786 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"This book is highly recommended reading for the national security policy community, military officers, and those who are interested in understanding the evolution of U.S. Army counterinsurgency doctrine in the last half century."—Peter R. Mansoor, Political Science Quarterly

"Learning to Forget is a masterful study of counterinsurgency thought and practice in the United States from Vietnam to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan . . . [T]he book is a scholarly and thought-provoking work that deserves to be read by anyone wishing to study counterinsurgency doctrine's past and its future prospects as a tool in the military and foreign policy arsenal of the United States."—Andrew J. Birtle, Army History Magazine

"This is another welcome addition to the spate of recent literature on counterinsurgency . . . The book's strong suit is Fitzgerald's use of many primary documents, particularly the many studies written during the war analyzing US efforts in Indochina . . . [T]his is a fine contribution to the literature on both counterinsurgency and the Vietnam War . . . Recommended."—J. Fields, CHOICE

"An excellent study that takes a hard look at America's longest and possibly darkest military shadow."—Antulio J. Echevarria II, Director of Research, US Army War College

"Among the many notable works on the legacy of Vietnam, the decline and resurgence of counterinsurgency doctrine, and the conduct of the Iraq-Afghanistan wars, Fitzgerald's is exemplary. It is a masterful work of research, of synthesis and original analysis, and of clear and insightful writing." —Brian McAllister Linn, Texas A&M University; author of The Philippine War, 1899–1902

About the Author

David Fitzgerald is Lecturer in International Politics in the School of History at University College Cork, Ireland.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gaius Calpernius Piso on March 21, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In recent years counterinsurgency has taken center stage in U.S. military and foreign policy. This has not always been the case, nor will it necessarily be so in the future. This well researched and eloquently written book does three things. First, it traces counterinsurgency’s roller coaster ride through American military thought. Born in the 1960s during the Vietnam War, counterinsurgency plummeted to obscurity thereafter, began to rebound in the 1990s, and became prominent once again during the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Second, the author examines the Vietnam War, both because it is of central importance to the subject, and because the “lessons” people draw from that conflict continue to influence decisions today. The author demonstrates that perceptions of the war have evolved over time, as different generations and actors have sought to apply history, both to better understand present challenges, and to bolster preferred policy positions. This aspect of the book is particularly thought provoking.

Finally, the book contemplates what the future might hold for counterinsurgency doctrine in U.S. policy and strategy. With the Iraq War over, Afghanistan winding down, and the nation palpably disinterested in sending U.S. combat formations to meddle in the internal affairs of foreign nations, counterinsurgency’s place at the top of U.S. military thought is shaky to say the least.

One of the book’s strengths is its impartiality. One of its weaknesses is that it never asks the hard question as to whether American-style counterinsurgency is a viable, conflict-winning strategy. So far, our track record of trying to quell insurgencies by applying the precepts of counterinsurgency and nation building has been rather mediocre. Maybe the theories aren’t all they are cracked up to be?
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