Counterinsurgency by the Book
The lessons of a new Army Field Manual.
A debate has been raging in some circles over whether the war's disasters were avoidable or inevitable. Would a smarter U.S. strategy have produced a more stable Iraq? Or were the long-suppressed sectarian feuds destined to gush forth like a geyser, no matter how we tried to control them, once Saddam was blown from his throne?
A better question provoked by this new Army Field Manual: Should we follow the authors' advice in the hope of waging a better counterinsurgency the next time around? Or should we give up these sorts of wars as futile and—do what instead?
A version of this piece appears in the Sunday Outlook section of the Washington Post.
Fred Kaplan is Slate's "War Stories" columnist and author of the book, The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter.
Photograph of Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus by Joshua Hutcheson/Getty Images.