The Wrong War
The Wrong War
Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan
Random House, Hardcover, 9781400068739, 336pp.
Publication Date: February 22, 2011
America cannot afford to lose the war in Afghanistan, and yet Americans cannot win it. In this definitive account of the conflict, acclaimed war correspondent and bestselling author Bing West provides a practical way out. Drawing on his expertise as both a combat-hardened Marine and a former assistant secretary of defense, West has written a tour de force narrative that shows the consequences when strategic theory meets tactical reality.
Having embedded with dozens of frontline units over the past two years, he takes the reader on a battlefield journey from the mountains in the north to the opium fields in the south. West—dubbed “the grunt’s Homer”—shows why the Taliban fear the ferocity of our soldiers. Each chapter, rich with vivid characters and gritty combat, illustrates a key component of dogged campaigns that go on for years.
These never-ending battles show why idealistic theories about counterinsurgency have bogged us down for a decade. The official rhetoric denies reality. Instead of turning the population against the Taliban, our lavish aid has created a culture of entitlement and selfishness. Our senior commanders are risk-averse, while our troops know the enemy respects only the brave.
A fighter who understands strategy, West builds the case for changing course. As long as we do most of the fighting, the Afghans will hold back. Yet the Afghan military will crumble without our combat troops. His conclusion is sure to provoke debate: remove most of the troops from Afghanistan, stop spending billions on the dream of a modern democracy, transition to a tough adviser corps, and insist the Afghans fight their own battles. Amid debate about this maddening war, Bing West’s book is a page-turner about brave men and cunning enemies that examines our realistic choices as a nation.
Bing West, a Marine combat veteran, served as assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration. A contributor to National Review, he is the author of The Village, No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah, and The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics, and the Endgame in Iraq. The Village, a classic about counterinsurgency, has been on the Marine Corps Commandant’s Reading List for forty years. West’s books on Iraq have won the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’s General Wallace M. Greene Jr. Award for nonfiction, the Colby Award for military nonfiction, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars News Media Award for journalism. His articles appear in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. He and his wife, Betsy, live in Newport, Rhode Island.
Advanced Praise for The Wrong War:
“Bing West is many things—a battle-wise veteran, a skeptical journalist, and above all a brilliant chronicler of America’s post-9/11 wars. His latest book provides a gripping account of the tactical realities in Afghanistan, but, no less important, it offers strategic counsel at a time when the Obama administration—and the country—needs it badly.”—Eliot Cohen, Robert E. Osgood Professor of Strategic Studies, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University
“If there is an answer for Afghanistan, it will come from only one place—the dirt. No correspondent has spent as much time on this ground as former Marine colonel Bing West, and no one has brought to it as much real-world, infantry-command experience. The Wrong War should be read (and studied) in the Pentagon and in the Oval Office. This is not think-tank theorizing, it’s the real shit from a career warrior and first-rate military thinker. The Wrong War is so fresh, you can practically scrape the dirt off its pages. Read this. Read the final chapter. If there is a path to success in Afghanistan (or at least not catastrophic failure), Col. West’s recommendations point the way.”—Steven Pressfield, author of Gates of Fire
“A devastating critique of U.S. foreign policy regarding a seemingly endless war.”—Kirkus Reviews
"Bing West is on his way to becoming the Thucydides of the global War on Terror."—Washington Times
“So what’s wrong? Why hasn’t the new faith in Afghanistan delivered the success it promises? In his remarkable book, “The Wrong War,” Bing West goes a long way to answering that question. “The Wrong War” amounts to a crushing and seemingly irrefutable critique of the American plan in Afghanistan. It should be read by anyone who wants to understand why the war there is so hard.” –Dexter Filkins, New York Times Book Review
“One of the best books yet written on the war in Afghanistan… for Mr. West’s book we should be thankful.”—Wall Street Journal
"There is no more intrepid war correspondent today than Bing West... The heroes of The Wrong War are the grunts and special forces... But West takes to task political and senior military leaders alike."—National Review