Paula Broadwell, and Vernon Loeb's work All In presents a crystal clear picture of Dr. David Petraeus both as a man and as a leader. In fact, his approach to leadership, and the embodiment of his expertise as a military-scholar are the key to the book.
To place General Petraeus in a historical context, he is truly a Renaissance man whose talents resonate with those of many other scholar generals, reminiscent of those in the Court of Genghis Khan, or even those of King David; no pun intended.
How does this book further our understanding of the War in Afghanistan, counter insurgency doctrine, and the arc of General Petraeus' career?
First, Ms. Broadwell writes with clarity and precision. She uses her military experience to enlighten the reader with evocative accounts of what it is like, based upon General Petraeus' counter insurgency doctrine, to implement this approach to asymmetric warfare on the ground in Afghanistan. The reader is encouraged to follow the give and take of command and control in isolated villages throughout Afghanistan. Further, the author presents a clear picture, warts and all, of how effective our forces have been both over the last ten years, and in contrast to other armies who have attempted to "pacify" Afghanistan.
Second, the authors tell a good story. Though there is a logical flow to their arguments, the writing is not dry because it does not necessarily follow a linear chronology. Points are made, by moving around in time and space; and ideas are illustrated owing to their relevance of the thesis of the book by illustrating examples irrespective of geographic and temporal boundaries.
The emphasis here is to illustrate General David Petraeus as a man and how he both derived the conceptual approach to counter insurgency theory starting in Bosnia, then moving on to Iraq, and finally how it was implemented/revised in Afghanistan. In the process we are provided with insights as to the approach that David Petraeus will take in his new role as Director, Central Intelligence.
Third, authors Broadwell's and Loeb's insights are invaluable in assisting us in fathoming this world of 21st Century counter intelligence. An understanding of this doctrine moves us beyond the out dated constraints of fixed piece military strategies reflective of the Super Power rivalry, into the dimension of how we as a country respond to conflicts such as those in Syria, and potentially with Iran. An understanding of asymmetrical force preponderance is the key here; but must importantly it necessitates an understanding of the cultural and historical dimensions of what underlies our foreign policy moving forward.
Fourth, All In encourages the devotee of current affairs to ponder the following questions: What is it that motivates Jihadis? Is there a way that we can reasonably negotiate with these international actors to create islands of harmony, or at least a minimization of conflict, throughout the world?
This work contributes to the literature by its clarity, by minimizing out right leaning biases, and by providing an example of scholarly and enlightened military leadership working in synch with the political hierarchy of the United States.
It is a must read for the military historian, global foreign policy analyst, and those with an interest in reaching out effectively to other cultures throughout our world.
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