History, Politics and Current Events, Reviews

Iraq— new books, new strategies

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The front page of the Sunday, July 29th edition of the New York Times book review is running an article by Harvard professor Samantha Power about several new books offering alternatives to the current combat strategies employed in Iraq. Posing the question of what can be done now that we have positioned ourselves in the middle of a difficult and prolonged conflict, Powers begins her article with a review of The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual—a book that she argues might hold the key to reversing the American military’s dwindling returns in Iraq. Powers writes:

Criticizing the calamities of the last six years of American foreign policy has become all too easy. And it does not itself improve our approach to combating terrorist threats that do in fact loom large—larger, in fact, because of Bush’s mistakes.… Several new books take up this challenge, each addressing a different piece of the national security predicament. Together, they allow one to begin to define a new approach to counterterrorism.…
The book to begin with in looking for a revised 21st-century strategy is, unexpectedly, the landmark The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. It was released as a government document in December 2006, but owing to its enormous popularity (1.5 million downloads in the first month alone), it has now been published by a university press, with a provocative, highly readable new foreword and introduction that testify to the manual’s “paradigm-shattering” content.…

And with suggestions ranging from placing greater emphasis on the protection of civilians and coordinating efforts for reconstruction and development, to phrases like “Sometimes the more force is used, the less effective it is,” the Counterinsurgency Field Manual is indeed a revolutionary challenge to conventional U.S. military doctrine.
Read the foreword by John A. Nagl and an excerpt, “Paradoxes of Counterinsurgency Operations.”