“The story on which the current practice of [counterinsurgency] depends…is a myth [and] a recipe for perpetual war,” insists Gentile (Securing the Snake's Head: The Question of Air Power as a Political Instrument in the Post Cold-War Security Environment, 2012, etc.), a former Iraq War commander and director of the military history program at West Point.
The author takes a spirited, polemical approach in support of his argument against “the simplistic idea that the U.S. can intervene to rebuild entire societies if the tactics are just right and the right general is put in charge.” What he calls “the story” is a view of the history of wars in Malaya, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, which he considers to be tendentious at best and downright wrong at worst. Though many believe that gifted generals, like David Petraeus in Iraq, learned the lessons from Vietnam and corrected the mistakes of their fumbling predecessors, Gentile disagrees. Sifting through the countless reports that were filed, he shows just where this mythical narrative is flawed. In each case, there was no transforming succession of methods of warfare, and there was no redefining shift in leaders. Nor, he insists, are the wars referred to in the official narrative comparable, whether in scale, context or scope. The strategy adopted to force a negotiated settlement in Vietnam was not applicable in Iraq, and the Iraqi surge was less of a discontinuity than it is usually portrayed to have been. For Gentile, it is the political circumstances that are the most important elements, as well as political leadership looking for what Petraeus' predecessor Gen. George Casey called “something that appeared different.”
A forcefully presented, corrective analytical approach to today's headline-grabbing orthodoxy.