Finished before the November 2012 resignation of CIA director David Petraeus, Kaplan’s study contains a curiosity: a footnote cites All In, by Paula Broadwell (2011), a biography of Petraeus by his notorious femme fatale, to the effect that Petraeus was denied the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and given the CIA instead. Why? Stay tuned while we review Kaplan’s account of a coterie of army officers who campaigned to raise the importance of counterinsurgency in American military doctrine. This grouping, which included Petraeus, shared an intellectual perspective on warfare and ascended in influence as the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan descended into protracted, irregular combat. What Kaplan offers is a highly detailed episode in the Pentagon’s bureaucratic politics, which pitted the counterinsurgency-minded officers against brass more mentally comfortable with conventional warfare and which were conducted through conferences, promotions, and annunciation of doctrine. Petraeus’ internecine victory, the publication of Counterinsurgency:FM 3-24 (2007), peaks Kaplan’s narrative, which then elides into that field manual’s application to Iraq and Afghanistan. Intensively researched and factually presented, this work most suits mavens of military affairs. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Newsworthiness instantly expands Kaplan’s intended audience; many of the figures interviewed here might, as Washington’s investigatory machine gears up, be seen again soon. --Gilbert Taylor
"Thrilling reading. ... There is no one better equipped to tell the story. ... Kaplan, a rare combination of defense intellectual and pugnacious reporter … knows the military world inside and out. ... An authoritative, gripping and somewhat terrifying account of how the American military approached two major wars in the combustible Islamic world."
(Thanassis Cambaniss The New York Times Book Review
“Riveting . . . Combining superb storytelling and meticulous journalism, Kaplan has produced an unparalleled account of how the U.S. military has adapted itself to the realities of the Middle East.”
(The Washington Institute, Silver Book Prize Winner
"One of the very best books ever written about the American military in the era of small wars. ... Fred Kaplan brings a formidable talent for writing intellectual history."
(Thomas Powers The New York Review of Books
“Serious and insightful. … The Insurgents seems destined to be one of the more significant looks at how the US pursued the war in Iraq and at the complex mind of the general in charge when the tide turned.”
(Tony Perry Los Angeles Times
(Dexter Filkins The New Yorker
"The Insurgents is a tremendously clear and informative guide to the strengths and weaknesses of the military we have today and to the decisions we are about to make. … Anyone who reads The Insurgents will be better prepared to understand what America has done right and wrong with its military over the past generation."
(James Fallows, The American Prospect)
"Excellent ... An intellectual thriller."
(Joe Klein Time
"Riveting...essential reading... Kaplan's meticulous account of the ways Petraeus found to bring together and nurture the counterinsurgency 'cabal' might profitably be read by anyone interested in bringing change to a giant bureaucracy."
(John Barry The Daily Beast
"A very readable, thoroughly reported account of how, in American military circles, 'counterinsurgency' became a policy instead of a dirty word."
(Janet Maslin The New York Times
“Fred Kaplan has written a dazzling, compulsively readable book. Let's start with the fact that it is so well written, a quality so often lacking in books describing counterinsurgency. Let's also throw in the facts that it is both deeply researched and also devoid of cheerleading for the military or indeed any other kind of political bias. This book will join a small shelf of the most important accounts of the wars America has fought and will likely continue to fight in the 21st century.”
(Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt: the Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad )
“Excellent … Poignant and timely. … A good read, rich in texture and never less than wise.”
(Rosa Brooks Foreign Policy
"A compelling story combined with thoughtful analysis of the development, application and limitations of a new model of applying American military power."
"The book's strength lies in the rich detail Kaplan offers the reader as he traces the network of colleagues all dedicated to stopping the violence in Iraq by employing classic counterinsurgency techniques. He untangles the web of professional connections much the same way an intelligence analyst might track down the associates of an al-Qaeda cell... What emerges is a meticulously researched picture."
“Fred Kaplan, one of the best military journalists we have, tells the compelling story of how a cadre of officers and civilians tried to rescue victory from defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan by putting the theory of counterinsurgency into practice, revolutionizing the US Army from within. His narrative is vividand revelatory, dramatizing a crucial piece of recent history that we shouldn't allow ourselves to forget, however painful the memory.”
(George Packer, author of The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq)
"Fred Kaplan is one of the best in the business, a top-notch journalist and military analyst with serious intellectual chops and a killer pen. His new book The Insurgents tells the story of the rise and fall of the COINdinistas from Iraq to Afghanistan and beyond, and it's not only a great read—it's a major contribution to one of the most important strategic debates of our time.”
(Gideon Rose, editor, Foreign Affairs, and author of How Wars End)
"A fascinating and powerful work by America's wisest national-security reporter about an epic battle: the Army's search for a way to win the wars of the 21st century. If you love your country, if you care about its soldiers, if you wonder about the wisdom of their commanders, read this book now."
(Tim Weiner, author of Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA and Enemies: A History of the FBI)