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

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  191 ratings  ·  39 reviews

In this definitive account of the conflict, acclaimed war correspondent and bestselling author Bing West provides a practical way out of Afghanistan. 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, rich with vivid characters and gritty combat, which shows t...more
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Published February 22nd 2011 by Random House (first published February 9th 2011)
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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 dire...more
Steven Peterson
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 Ta...more
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...more
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.
Hugh Carson
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 favo...more
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 th...more
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 g...more
Bookmarks Magazine
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 B...more
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 readin...more
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...more
Informative, eye opening, yet governmental disappointing

I was enthusiast to learn "the real" story and disappointed that the U.S. Government leadership in this military action was dismal, inept, possibly criminal.
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 t...more
Frank Kelly
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 thi...more
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...more
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.
Kem White
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.
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.
Jesse Field
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.
So far very compelling, Written on one of my few correspondents with extensive combat experience, Vietnam, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. The audio and videos in the enhanced Kindle edition are excellent.

Don't let the title fool ya, Bing isn't some peace activist.
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.
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.
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.
M. J.
A difficult book to read and suspect on statistics when they are from The Heritage Foundation. I doubt all the "grunts" are as willing as West portrays.
He is correct in that the Afghanistan War is a no win situation for the US.
Vince Carter
Up-close glimpse at the frustrating chaos faced by the troops in Afghanistan as they try to employ a strategy that has no chance of success and is wasting our scarce human and financial resources.
Dave Beeman
Excellent account on what is happening in Afghanistan at the battalion and company level with short passages updating the reader of what was going on at the national and international level.
I appreciate Bing West's observations as much for the soldiers view as from the ability to provide a cohesive macro view of the situation. I did find the conclusion concise but certainly true.
This is a very accurate account of what is going on in Afghanistan, and in my opinion it describes what needs to be done in order to pacify the quagmire and responsibly withdrawal.
Very worthwhile reading on the war both from a what-is-happening perspective, and a what-should-be happening perspective in Afghanistan as far as US involvement is concerned.
An excellent examination of military tactics and strategy in Afghanistan. The author concludes that our overall strategic plan is wrongheaded, impossible to carry out.
This was hard to put down. It mixes battlefield reporting with strategic analysis of the Afghan War, and ends with the author's recommendations.
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Francis J. "Bing" West is an author and former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs during the Reagan Administration. His 2004 book The March Up: Taking Baghdad with the First Marine Division, written with United States Marine Corps General Ray L. Smith,was awarded the Marine Corps Heritage Prize for non-fiction, as well as the Colby Award.
More about Francis J. West Jr....
No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah The Village The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics, and the Endgame in Iraq The March Up: Taking Baghdad with the 1st Marine Division The Pepperdogs

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