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Book Review: ‘One Million Steps’

The Wall St. Journal reviews “One Million Steps: A Marine Platoon at War ,” by Bing West, saying the book, “even as it focuses on the relentlessness of the Marines in Sangin, also offers a blistering assault on America’s senior military leadership for purportedly adopting a new counterinsurgency approach that Mr. West depicts as a “quixotic strategy of a benevolent war,” one that “replaced war with social evangelism” and is more “an exercise in civics” than a type of military strategy. He levels these hard-to-fathom accusations against Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and against retired Gens. Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus, each of whom served as ISAF commanders.”  

“In making these allegations, Mr. West draws a bright-line distinction between what he believes to be two antithetical counterinsurgency (COIN) strategies. First, there is Gen. Nicholson and Col. Kennedy’s “Big Stick” COIN. For Mr. West, this is what counterinsurgency is all about: “Attack the enemy relentlessly. . . . That was exactly what 3rd Platoon was doing: attack, attack, attack.’ The second COIN approach, attributed by Mr. West to Adm. Mullen, Gen. McChrystal and Gen. Petraeus, is focused “‘not on killing the enemy'” but on “‘earning the support of the people'” through “‘village-level projects, and . . . visiting a girls school.'”  

The review continues: “Lambasting military leaders for turning American warriors into “community organizers” is attention-grabbing, but it isn’t convincing.”