Small Wars Journal

The Insurgents: A Poetic Book Review

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 4:06pm

This is meant as a poetic book review of The Insurgents by Fred Kaplan. It is about how General Petraeus and others tried to advance Army doctrine by incorporating Counterinsurgency (COIN) techniques/tactics.

SecDef and staff stormed into the room;

Three Generals stood, as SecDef’s stern voice boomed;

“I need unilateral consensus;

Something not too contentious;

A warfare strategy that will keep us from doom.”


“As you know, tensions grow in Iraq.

The President demands a solid plan of attack;

So to each of you three;

Keep in mind WMD;

Give me your views, and please keep fiction from fact.”


The 1st General then boldly confided;

This war is so clearly one-sided;

Massive firepower I’ve found;

With plenty of boots-on-the-ground;

Will end this war easily, he dismissively chided.


“I see, SecDef snarled with derision;

But your view, it lacks insight and vision;

T’would make the war unnecessarily costly;

But what I detest mostly;

Is a lack of weapons with technical precision.”


The 2nd General, with a flair for sensation;

Said “I recommend we adopt a new transformation;

JDAMs and stealth UAVs;

Can find the enemy effortlessly;

And obliterate terrorists from this troubled 3rd world nation.”


“I agree SecDef added with fanfare;

It’s simply a Revolution in Military Affairs;

Why, we could fire-and-forget;

And be one-hundred percent on target;

With a predator constantly armed in the air.”


Then the 3rd General clearly depicted;

“On this scenario, we are strategically conflicted;

In such an emergency;

I’ll say it, “Insurgency”;

We need new warfare guidelines, ones previously restricted.”


“To what I preach, do not recoil with hysteria;

But this war meets all the COIN criteria;

T’is not shock-and-awe;

Above all, not MOOTW;

Think Seven Pillars of Wisdom by Lawrence of Arabia.”


“Are you serious, did I hear right,” SecDef cried;

“This is nothing like what you’ve described;

We want accuracy, speed;

That’s my motto, my creed;

On COIN strategy, this Dude will not abide.”


But long after all was said and done;

Not when the Prez said the Iraq War was won;

It was COIN disciples;

Those Galula archetypals;

Who lead us to this COIN reformation.


Of Petraeus, and Nagl and Crane;

Note their efforts were never in vain;

They persevered, sometimes fought;

Sometimes won, sometimes not;

But in the end, ‘twas for all of us, gain.

About the Author(s)

Jack McCourt attended the US Naval Academy (USNA) (1974-1978) and graduated from Naval Flight School in 1979 and designated a P-3 NFO (Naval Flight Officer). Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) was his warfare specialty. He had a squadron tour (1980-1983) with VP-45 (The Pelicans) and attended Naval Post Graduate School (NPS) (1983-85) in the Operations Analysis curriculum. A tour on USS Nimitz (CVN-68) followed and then a tour in the Math Department at USNA (1987-1989). He was assigned to VP-5 (The Mad Foxes) in 1990 and deployed to NAS Rota, Spain and NAS Sigonella, Sicily and Crete during PG1 (1990-1992). He had a brief stint with OP-65 at the Pentagon as a Theater Analyst for The Nuclear Warfare and Arms Control Division. He finally finished up at the Navy Center for Cost Analysis (1992-1994).



Wed, 04/16/2014 - 5:26pm

In reply to by soldiernolonge…

Clearly you were on a roll! I hope this signifies you are feeling better these days. Miss you at LoD. Thanks for the free laugh "rebate" on tax day.


Tue, 04/15/2014 - 8:30pm

Now, before you say I'm hidden behind a mask,
Taking me and my anonymity to task,
I'll confess that I'm Carl Prine,
My words? Pearls before swine!
And, yeah, "The Insurgents" drove me to a flask.


Tue, 04/15/2014 - 8:25pm

Too bad Kaplan doesn't understand DIME,
American blood and treasure and time.
Like Tom Ricks, he penned a best seller,
Like Tom Ricks, it was more crap than stellar.
So tuck him, or some other verb that might rhyme.


Tue, 04/15/2014 - 8:15pm

Kaplan's tome is a fat load of twaddle.
E.g., it overlooks our Afghan boondoggle.
Petraeus is shown only in the best light,
A messiah! A god! No, a golden knight!
But he's really just a bony John Nagl.


Tue, 04/15/2014 - 7:57pm

McCourt's doggerel is one big question mark,
Why do it? Because of a lark?
The book is by now pretty old,
King David still rakes in the gold,
But has SWJ finally jumped the shark?

Interested Observer

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 11:32am

In reply to by soldiernolonge…

Good work soldiernolonger
Though I know not if you’re righter or wronger
I needed a lift
And you’ve lent us your gift
I can’t remember a laugh I’ve had stronger

“So tuck him, or some other verb that might rhyme.” Bravo.


Tue, 04/15/2014 - 7:54pm

In reply to by soldiernolonge…

Petraeus ate his soup with a knife,
Playing Kaplan like a cheap fife,
But the Surge in Iraq went south,
Then Stan McChrystal ran his big mouth,
And King David forgot about the wife.


Tue, 04/15/2014 - 7:45pm

There once was a hagiographer named "Kaplan,"
Who didn't know an S-3 from a chaplain.
You see, he never fought the urge,
To polish and lap King David's Surge,
And give us journalism worth crappin' ...