Read The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan by Bing West Francis J. West Jr. Online


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 shAmerica 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....

Title : The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781400068739
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 336 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan Reviews

  • Mike
    2019-03-16 06:07

    The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan belongs on the permanent shelf, especially as we look to the imminent drawdown in Afghanistan. If you are interested in COIN/IW, this book gives you a good rundown on the successes and failures as the ISAF operated in the country. Most of the book deals with the tactical level, following the LTs and Capts out on patrol. He apportions much blame on the commanders and political leaders for incoherent strategies and unclear, muddled directives. None are spared. I could extract many interesting quotes or vignettes. I have to return this one to the library tomorrow so that will have to wait. One amusing but brutally true comment about the village, Ganjigal, where Cpl Dakota Meyer fought the battle for which he was awarded the MOH. Like the Korengal, Ganjigal had a decades long history as a cauldron of rebellion against any central government or occupying power. The cluster of impoverished hamlets, only a short trek from the border with Pakistan, had provided a way stop for rebels against King Zahir Shah in the late 1940s, against the Soviets in the 1980s, and against Karzai since 2001. It was a mystery, even to the tribes themselves how to design incentives to change their hostile behavior.Col. Ayoub, the Border Police commander, offered his solution.“Use B-52s,” he said.I give the book 4 Stars, would have liked (and expected) more on "The Way Out" which is very brief at the end. The maps and photos are excellent, integrated into the story and adding realism and flavor at the right times.

  • Steven Peterson
    2019-03-07 11:55

    Bing West has authored a book that is beginning to get quite a bit of attention. His thesis is simple: We are not going to triumph in Afghanistan using current strategy. Afghanistan is not Iraq; counterinsurgency doctrine, in West's view, will simply not work. He has great respect for new commander David Petraeus, but does not believe that his approach will work. Too many problems: Afghan troops are too dependent on American forces; the government is corrupt; the people will not "rat out" the Taliban.In the end, he calls for a different approach (I won't provide a spoiler), but it is difficult to see how his vision would work, given the p[oor state of the Afghan military. Nonetheless, a crisply written and provocative work that will engage the reader and inspire some serious reflection on the war in Afghanistan and democratic nation building efforts there.

  • Michael
    2019-03-21 11:55

    First the good: The author’s respect and love for fellow grunts that follow orders without question is admirable. He clearly paints a picture of the grit and suffering each soldier endures in the geographically disadvantaged combat outposts and during combat patrols. If you want to read about the amazing challenges our volunteers have to deal with from external actors - corrupt Karzi central government, corrupt local government, corrupt police officers, incompetent Afghan army, countless changes in US leadership and strategy, unrealistic combat engagement rules placed upon our soldiers, and a distrustful local Afghan population then this is a pretty good book. If you’re current or former military you’ll probably love this book.That being said….the title of book and the author’s strategy is where I have a problem with the book.Now the bad: The title, sub-title and his strategy of a way out are ludicrous. The author contradicts his strategy numerous times throughout the book. The author spends his entire time interviewing at the Captain or lower level. He freely writes criticism regarding civilian and military leaders based on the information provided by the boots on the ground. Honest journalism would have added the input from higher command. Most of his focus is on current conditions and the way out without going into how we got into this position. Nary had a mention of the Iraq war and how that conflict pulled troops, equipment and money from Afghanistan to allow our early success to falter. His biased political opinion starts to get annoying with his description of Democratic leadership as “liberal” and Republican leadership as “Republicans.”I was deeply disappointed in one passage of the book when the author, wanting to get a picture of himself on a camel relied on a member of the American military for help. Our soldier pointed his weapon at the Afghan and forced him to allow the author to get on the camel for his photo. The camel tried to buck off the author and started to run off. The soldiers pointed their weapons at the camel and were about to shoot the animal down when the owner was able to grab the camel and calm it down. The Afghan yelled at the author to get down. Once Bing gets down the military and he had a great laugh at the owner’s expense. Really? Is this how we win the hearts of the population? The author doesn’t understand why the villagers won’t talk to us. I know. All this country knows is war. From Alexander the great, Genghis Khan, The Brits (twice), The Russians and now us empires have come and gone. I don’t blame the Afghan’s for adopting a head in the sand strategy, its called survival. Do we honestly believe fear and intimidation will work in this culture? Practically every living person in Afghanistan only knows of war. It’s not a mistake when they say Afghanistan has a strong warrior culture, it’s because that’s all they know. Missing from his way out is the importance of education. 9/11 happened almost 10 years ago, in the book the author talks about young kids around the ages of 12~13 pushing large rocks to block the road for a combat patrol’s way out of a city. Have we already lost another generation in Afghanistan?

  • Jerome
    2019-03-13 09:53

    For those of you looking for an actual history of the war, this book will disappoint. This is poorly researched, and West contradicts his proposed strategy NUMEROUS times, and usually sees things only from a "boots-on-the-ground" perspective, and uses their viewpoints to criticize the higher-ups. That's fine, but West would show more credibility if he interviewed the officers themselves. Also, this is terribly written.In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan is better.

  • Robert
    2019-03-08 14:05

    Excellent, insightful analysis of a flawed campaignWell written account by a Marine with his own Vietnam- era experience of COIN and keen insights from his work in Iraq. West incisively indicts the strategic and policy incoherence that has undermined America's 16-year campaign in Afghanistan. West offers an in-depth discussion of the problems with the campaign but disappoints with a bare bones discussion of alternatives.

  • Michael Kelley
    2019-03-22 13:56

    Hit the nail on the failed strategy of the United States in Afghanistan. Thank God the soldiers and junior officers and NCOs are the best warfighters in the world.

  • Lois
    2019-03-15 13:59

    Afghanistan war explainedThe author does a good job of explaining this complex conflict and the various roles the west has undertaken .

  • Marks54
    2019-03-17 11:46

    This is a timely book that is critical of our current strategy in Afghanistan, and indeed is critical of most of the trendy counter-insurgency strategy that has been popular since 2005 in the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The general thesis of the critique is two-fold as I read it. First, the COIN strategy has not been provided sufficient resources to succeed in a very large and very backward country like Afghanistan. Such a strategy presumes that the military can maintain a presence in the general population and thus remove the basis for the success of an insurgent force such as the Taliban. That critique was surely relevant in Iraq and it is clearly on target in Afghanistan as well and is very plausible. The second part of the critique is that such a strategy plays against the strength of our armed forces, who are trained for combat and for killing the enemy and are not trained as social workers, social scientists, and and nation builders. This is also a plausible critique but is a bit misguided here, since it seems to deny even the possibly of a feasible COIN approach - and there are plenty of examples available to suggest the contrary. It is surprising that the author did not bring up an even more fundamental critique of COIN strategy - namely that it presume a role for the military of maintaining a stable situation so that a political solution can be worked out - i.e., that the strategy cannot win on its own, even if everything goes as planned. The book focuses on detailed reporting of the experiences of units in two different regions of Afghanistan and presents really good descriptions of how the war has been fought and how the current situation on the ground has developed. It is also very helpful in explaining the incidence and importance of Afghan government corruption and how it frustrates US efforts.The version of the book I read was also interesting. It was a multimedia Kindle edition, in which at key points in the text, you could click and see pictures, documents, or short videos that were fit in with the text to better elucidate it. This worked very well, although I could also see how with poorer editing and direction it could work poorly.The downside of the book was that it became very clear that the author was very firm in his conclusion and was driving the text to make his points. That is fine, of course, but it was unnecessary her. A careful reader could reach similar conclusions without being led along by the nose - a bit condescendingly as well.Overall, a quick, entertaining, and informative read!

  • Hugh Carson
    2019-03-04 06:58

    West's objective, incisive and honest rejection of Petraeus' Counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy in Afghanistan. Petraeus even had some folks like myself, Thomas Ricks, and Dexter Filkins sucked in by COIN. West bursts that theoretical bubble with irrefutable logic and on-the-ground examples. The tragedy is multi-fold: (1) Americans have a singular ability to ignore the lessons of history, and 90% have no clue about the subject either; (2) the PR machine of the DOD is such, with close ties to favored journalists who betray the ethics of their profession at every opportunity "to maintain their access," that the American people are taken in like so many suckers sat a carnival. It happened in Vietnam, it happened in Iraq, it happens weekly in our slavish relationship with Israel and its all-powerful AIPAC lobby, it happened in Afghanistan (terrorism a law enforcement problem, not a military one!!), and it's now happening with Iran. The drums of Filkins' "The Forever War are beating. . . again. There are ways to deal with Iran, diplomatically but most likely militarily, but the latter does not include sending 100,000 Regular Army troops and heavy armor and hiding inside Green Zones, whether they be in Baghdad or FOBs in the Korengal valley, which, as West points out and as documented in Junger's book "War." and the documentary "Restrepo."

  • Jimmy
    2019-03-17 14:14

    This book at its best does a great job of telling the reader about the nitty-gritty of the war. A lot of excellent little stories that gave me a much better understanding of what is going on there. I have a problem with the title: The Wrong War. I mean what the fuck is the right war? Mr. West never clarifies that for me. I believe it is a misleading title. I have a problem with the sub-title: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan. Mr. West is really not giving us the way out; he just thinks he is. He seems to be suggesting that we could just hop over into Pakistan and destroy the Taliban's sanctuary. That should be simple enough, right? Pakistan is on the verge of collapse now. We do not want to push it over the edge. Another problem I had: Mr. West seems to be implying that it was Pakistan's fault that Osama bin Laden escaped into that country. It is almost universally acknowledged that it was the fault of the Bush administration that bin Laden escaped. It was an enormous blunder on the part of Bush. West never even mentions Bush's name when he speaks of bin Laden's escape. Yet he spends a lot of time criticizing President Obama who inherited the war from President Bush after years of neglect.

  • Charles Blumberg
    2019-02-28 13:07

    Best summary quote is the last words from the book "Our troops are not a Peace Corps; they are fighters. Let them fight, and let the Taliban fear." I was amazed this is first hand account of Bing West, 60+ year old author running around Afghanistan with the troops. What I learned from the book (1) US put Karzai in power with total control given to him. He's is a corrupt leader in which every position is up for sale and we should have never supported; (2) We should have chased the Taliban into Pakistan. By stopping at the border, we let the Taliban use Pakistan as a staging, recruiting, and safe haven (3) Afghanistan is really individually governed villages, there is no central gov't capable of governing and we should have never tried; (4)We should have performed a national registration/census to that Afghan citizens could be separated from foreign terrorists. Most of the Taliban were from Pakistan and other countries

  • Gordon
    2019-03-17 11:58

    A tough, hard-hitting, but accurate analysis of the fight in Afghanistan with all its warts, inconsistencies, and color. A must read for any military leader involved. This book will incite some to doubt our current strategic direction, but the summation is not one of despair so much as course correction and a return to the basics. We must reinvigorate proven methods of fighting insurgencies via building up a competent and confident Army and Police force, greater use of advisors, a laser focus on eliminating the Taliban, and an intolerance of corrupt and predatory governance. Bing paints a picture of Afghanistan as a far-away land at once incomprehensible to the average American, yet clear to the fighting Soldier or Marine, and important for our nation's future security. We ignore Bing West's call for clarity in the way ahead at our collective peril.

  • Jb
    2019-03-18 13:51

    Yes, you guessed it, he’s writing about Afghanistan. And he writes with first-hand experience from standpoint of an imbedded journalist. We admire the grunts who he accompanied in their firefights, one in which Cpl Dakota Meyer won the Congressional Medal of Honor. We admire the strong, healthy young men burdened with 90-pound gear in dirt, grime and 112-degree heat as well as their battle prowess! Overall impression reached, though, is that strategy is inconsistent. At times I felt I was reading a sociological treatise. Cultural values vary from one tribe to another, baffling both command generals and grunts in the field. Though farmers and villagers like American dollars doled out for community improvements, attitudes don’t change. Only hope to keep al Qaeda militants from returning to Afghanistan as a haven is to maintain at least an advisory force for years to come.

  • Bookmarks Magazine
    2019-03-03 07:05

    Reviewers tended to regard Bing West’s negative appraisal of the Afghanistan War as newsworthy in itself–considering that he is the author of The Village (1972), a classic book about counterinsurgency in Vietnam that is currently assigned to soldiers shipping out to Afghanistan. Some critics disagreed with his arguments, noting recent military assessments of progress against the Taliban, but all admired his courage and take-no-prisoners authorial style. In particular, they praised the way that Bing balances firsthand reporting about (and considerable sympathy with) average soldiers with an unflinching criticism of the war’s overall strategy and prosecution. Several critics called The Wrong War required reading for anyone who cares about the war’s outcome. This is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.

  • Alicia Joy
    2019-03-17 14:01

    A book definitely worth the read, though I was terribly disappointed in the organization of the book. The argument did not become clear until late in the book and was supported by voluble anecdotes. Though story can be effective, it was overused here. I wish he would have included more language on the actual argument. However, I learned a great deal from reading this book about the strategy used and why it was not effective. I particularly enjoyed the parallels to the Vietnam War, especially since I know so little about modern wars. , but also because it helped illuminate what about Afghanistan wasn't working. The strategy was wrong because the environment culturally and socially was very different.

  • Frank Kelly
    2019-03-23 09:58

    West's very best book to date (and that's saying something if you've read any of his other excellent books). A tough, in the dust and blood walk though the war in Afghanistan to day. At times, the book is rightly painful as West exposes some of the more senseless tactical efforts in the first five years -- of which many failed and too many brave young American lives were taken or mained. Every member of Congress and every general who thinks he knows what is going on on the ground should read this excellent book. I'm betting the Pulitzer Prize Committee will be taking a close look at it, as well.

  • David
    2019-03-16 07:57

    A common-sense book about the war in Afghanistan has been long overdue, but here it is! Bing West takes a long, unflinching look at what we're doing wrong and how it can be set right.The Pentagon brass probably don't endorse West's views, but the grunts on the ground certainly do. Like it or not, the Taliban continues to attack from, and seek sanctuary in, Pakistan and as long as that is allowed to continue, Americans will die in the Afghan mountains and valleys. We are fighting with "one hand tied behind our back" and that's a sure recipe for failure.Ask your Congressperson to read this book - today!

  • Al
    2019-03-01 08:11

    Bing West is on the ground with the grunts in Afghanistan, and he writes convincingly and well about his experiences. His conclusions: 1. We can't afford to lose this war. 2. We can't win the war as currently defined (i.e., nation-building), but the Afghan army can't defeat the Taliban without American support and training. 3. So, we better give up nation-building but leave our people there to advise and lead the Afghans. Will it work? Who knows, but I think he's right about 1. and 2. and I don't have a better idea about how to proceed from there.

  • Trevor
    2019-03-17 06:06

    I wasn't impressed. West appears to want to re-fight political decisions made in Vietnam on the battlefields of Afghanistan. His basic approach (it seems too scant to call it research) is to interview a bunch of grunts who all agree that they should be permitted to kill "bad guys" willy-nilly. If only it were so simple . . .

  • Marik Casmon
    2019-02-27 10:54

    Another excellent book on Afghanistan, written by a military journalist and emphasizing the role of combat troops, mostly Marines. An intelligent analysis of the many ways in which American policy has either failed or been counter-productive. The author wishes the war to continue, as it is, but his arguments also help those who oppose our involvement altogether. In short, a book for everyone interested in the subject.

  • Heather
    2019-03-02 14:12

    This book looks at times when the military has succeeded in stabilizing places in Afghanistan with the help of Afghan military, and many incidents when policies are counter to objectives of turning power over to the Afghans. Problems are shown to be massive corruption, money being wasted, and poorly defined objectives from the leaders which lead to a frustrating situation and waste in many areas.

  • Jane
    2019-03-21 11:01

    Several good points here about why we're stuck in this morass. The one that stood out for me was our leaders' lack of clarity: are we fighting a war or trying to help a nation achieve democracy? The two are not cohesive. Either send in soldiers, or put advisors in place. Doing both creates confusion and a sense of injury/entitlement that is counterproductive for everyone.

  • Kem White
    2019-02-24 12:14

    A riveting book recommended for all Americans. West does a good job explaining why the US is in Afghanistan and what it can do to get itself out. West intersperses these didactic sections with brutal and real accounts of actual battles in Afghanistan's Konar and Helmand provinces. You get to meet some of the men who are fighting this war and learn what it's like to be there.

  • Jonathan Leeming
    2019-03-08 11:12

    An incredible first-hand account of the longest war in America's history, and one which should never have been waged.I have followed up its reading with 'The Finish' by Mark Bowden, and will then look to 'The Looming Tower', before embarking on some of Bob Woodward's books about the Bush & Obama administrations' actions since 9/11.

  • Jesse Field
    2019-03-18 13:08

    Just heard West discussing this book with New York Times Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus. Well, I'm convinced: Counterinsurgency as we practiced it in 2008-2010 is a failure. We should cut troop levels and stop sending the Afghans money.

  • Michelle
    2019-02-23 12:07

    It's really not mine kind of book. Jim recommended it to me because it listed out sons unit, but it really wasn't the kind of book that I enjoy. There is a lot of history about the war in Afghanistan tho, so it you are interested in that, give it a try.

  • Robert
    2019-02-23 12:52

    Informative, eye opening, yet governmental disappointingI was enthusiast to learn "the real" story and disappointed that the U.S. Government leadership in this military action was dismal, inept, possibly criminal.

  • Joe
    2019-03-08 10:53

    A book of battles and operations in two provinces of Afghanistan with references to procedures followed in Vietnam updated to assure the proper conclusions to the war. To paraphrase Geneal Douglas MacArthur: Old soldiers never die, today they don't even fade away.

  • Bruinrefugee
    2019-02-26 11:13

    While not always taken with Mr. West's writing style, this is an important book on the actual conduct of the Afghanistan war, particularly this many years in. Well worth that read (and it does read quick).

  • Mihaihokie
    2019-03-09 11:06

    Bing West was researching for this book when I met him in Now Zad. Always good to have some asking WTF we are doing in Afghanistan, but so far he is not going deep enough for my satisfaction. But I also have well over a hundred books on my bookshelf about Afghanistan.