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All In: The Education of General David Petraeus PDF, ePub eBook Editorial Reviews Relying on hundreds of hours of exclusive interviews with Petraeus and his top officers and soldiers, Broadwell tells the story of one of the key military leaders of our time. She's got the background, having graduated with honors from the U.S. Military Academy; coauthor Loeb, the Washington Post's Metro editor, was embedded with the 101st Airborne Divisi Editorial Reviews Relying on hundreds of hours of exclusive interviews with Petraeus and his top officers and soldiers, Broadwell tells the story of one of the key military leaders of our time. She's got the background, having graduated with honors from the U.S. Military Academy; coauthor Loeb, the Washington Post's Metro editor, was embedded with the 101st Airborne Division under Petraeus's command in 2003. Essential for readers following current events.

30 review for All In: The Education of General David Petraeus

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    By now it is well known that the author of this book had an affair with her subject, leading to his resignation as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. But the true scandal of this book is that it is an unquestionably adoring look at both the general and the army by a West Point graduate and true-believer who writes and apparently thinks in the milit-speak of positive affirmations. The book is peppered with words like "great", "superb" and "progress". Petraeus was always making "progres By now it is well known that the author of this book had an affair with her subject, leading to his resignation as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. But the true scandal of this book is that it is an unquestionably adoring look at both the general and the army by a West Point graduate and true-believer who writes and apparently thinks in the milit-speak of positive affirmations. The book is peppered with words like "great", "superb" and "progress". Petraeus was always making "progress". She writes how Petraeus arrives at a meeting at "7:29 AM". Would he be a different man if it was 7:30? Broadwell describes a world in which war is fought with morning briefings, Powerpoint presentations and billion dollar technology against enemies wearing sandals. She describes one engagement in which a ground force of several hundred Americans required the assistance of an observation blimp, helicopters and a drone armed with Hellfire missiles, as well as F16s with 500 pound bombs in order to kill three insurgents. In the military mind that's a success, but never does Broadwell ask whether that's a war America can afford. Nor does she spend much time evaluating whether any of this will turn the tide of Afghan history. Many have tried, none have succeeded. The American military is extraordinary. They have breathtaking skill and competence. But in some of the big moments of history they have been given jobs that possibly just can't be done, and civilizing Iraq and Afghanistan may be among them. The Powerpoints look great and the future looks grim. Broadwell was apparently given extraordinary access to Petraeus, but you don't see much evidence of it. She doesn't quote him in off the cuff moments and there doesn't seem to be much from personal interviews. Many of her quotes come from e-mails and transcripts of briefings. Petraeus comes off as a bureaucratic stiff. This is a guy who will sign off an email with "RLTW" ... Rangers Lead the Way. There's a good deal of being in the army that's like high school. We don't learn much about what moved the man to spend his life in the military, and much of it at war away from his wife and children. What's it like missing your children growing up and was it worth it? Broadwell doesn't ask. Why is he so driven ... driven for what, and why? The author writes that the general's father used to bark at him "Results, boy!" Is that it? Overall this reads as what it is, an academic paper converted to a book. What we learned from the revelation of Petraeus's romance with the author was something we never got in 357 pages of the book, that the general is human after all. That's where the book should have started.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Socraticgadfly

    While there are "sympathetic" biographies in a good sense, like Robert K. Massie's new bio of Catherine the Great, there are sympathetic bios that aren't so good. And this is one of them. It's not quite craptacular, but it's nowhere near a "critical" study. Written by a West Point grad, and, as one other reviewer notes, some sort of "authorized" bio, it's got enough of a suck-up attitude that it doesn't question him at all. (The type of people who blurb it on the back, starting with Tom Brokaw, a While there are "sympathetic" biographies in a good sense, like Robert K. Massie's new bio of Catherine the Great, there are sympathetic bios that aren't so good. And this is one of them. It's not quite craptacular, but it's nowhere near a "critical" study. Written by a West Point grad, and, as one other reviewer notes, some sort of "authorized" bio, it's got enough of a suck-up attitude that it doesn't question him at all. (The type of people who blurb it on the back, starting with Tom Brokaw, also indicate the quasi suck-up nature.) For example, did the "surge" in Iraq, combined with the Anbar Awakening, really work, in part, because a fair amount of Sunni ethnic cleansing had already played out, and in part because some awakeners were content to take some cold U.S. cash and bide their time? Author Paula Broadwell never asks these questions, either rhetorically or of her subject. Nor does she address the questions of whether or not Petraeus is a "political general." (Short answer: Every general is, at least within the Army; career bird colonels are the ones who aren't.) Also, given the subject matter, it's "interesting" that Broadwell apparently made no attempt to see if anybody would talk off the record about Afghanistan, or Iraq, issues. That goes in hand with a quasi-"approved" bio. Surely a two-star or three-star not in the Petraeus mentorship pipeline would have talked anonymously if Broadwell had wanted to pursue that angle. Beyond that, it's bland in that we don't learn much new from this book. Pass. Wait 10 years, until he retires (I hope) from the CIA, and see if a real bio is out.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    An insider’s gripping examination of General David Petraeus’s command of the Iraq surge and then Afghanistan. Broadwell and her coauthor Vernon Loeb deftly weave early battlefield experiences (Kuwait and Bosnia) and personal history (son of a sea captain, top West Point cadet, and competitive athlete) into the contemporary accounts as a means of explaining how his past informs his decision-making today. This is a book for military history buffs and undoubtedly will be studied at West Point, Broad An insider’s gripping examination of General David Petraeus’s command of the Iraq surge and then Afghanistan. Broadwell and her coauthor Vernon Loeb deftly weave early battlefield experiences (Kuwait and Bosnia) and personal history (son of a sea captain, top West Point cadet, and competitive athlete) into the contemporary accounts as a means of explaining how his past informs his decision-making today. This is a book for military history buffs and undoubtedly will be studied at West Point, Broadwell’s alma mater, alongside Petraeus’s own Counterinsurgency Field Manual. But it’s also an appropriate book for anyone who is interested in learning what makes a good leader tick. His “four tasks” that “strategic leaders” must perform are: 1. Get the big ideas right 2. Communicate the big ideas 3. Oversee the implementation of the big ideas 4. Collect best practices and lessons and cycle them “back through the system to help refine the big ideas.” One could imagine Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, or even Mark Zuckerberg subscribing to these strategic principals. Petraeus is portrayed as an advocate of surrounding oneself with brilliant advisors rather than Yes Men. This is not what I expected of a lifelong military man. What struck me again and again was his own ongoing pursuit of education (a PhD from Princeton) and his sincere encouragement to his mentees, like Broadwell, to pursue higher education. Additionally, he expected the best ideas from whomever could supply them, regardless of rank or chain of command. The book concludes with the now-retired General’s confirmation as CIA Director. In his hearings he alluded to his belief in listening to all voices in the situation room. He is a man who has been criticized as having an outsize ego, but the book well portrays a thoughtful, wise, and philosophical intellectual and leader. It is too soon to know if his strategies for Afghanistan will win the war, but Petraeus surely will not be seen as this generation’s Westmoreland.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chris Young

    Being that the author is also the woman patraeus had an affair with I give 4 irony stars for the title alone. That aside I found it an interesting book. I wish I could say he was a brilliant general. I guess in the era of politically correct warfare he is brilliant. He navigates the waters of diplomacy very well. I find the modern military attitude very strange. There is much emphasis on the safety of the soldiers which is good I guess. There is also much emphasis on nation building and getting Being that the author is also the woman patraeus had an affair with I give 4 irony stars for the title alone. That aside I found it an interesting book. I wish I could say he was a brilliant general. I guess in the era of politically correct warfare he is brilliant. He navigates the waters of diplomacy very well. I find the modern military attitude very strange. There is much emphasis on the safety of the soldiers which is good I guess. There is also much emphasis on nation building and getting the different factions to get along and share power and all that. Again a good thing. But all of this is done at the expense of a clear victory. Afghanistan is the only war I have heard of where they take the winter off, like an extended tea time. I thought we were trained to fight in extreme cold, the Chinese army seemed fine with it in 1952. The book is well written and expresses his views and philosophies on war and it's goals well. I just see things from a different perspective.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    A glowing biography of General David Petraeus. He's just an amazing leader, and his accomplishments and perseverance in the face of the conflicts he's been charged to lead are nothing short of incredible. Broadwell is clearly a fan of Petraeus, and while she does acknowledge some of his shortcomings, I would have preferred a bit more skepticism and critique. But I can see why that would be difficult. Petraeus is utterly likeable: A workaholic, who values education amongst his officers, and requi A glowing biography of General David Petraeus. He's just an amazing leader, and his accomplishments and perseverance in the face of the conflicts he's been charged to lead are nothing short of incredible. Broadwell is clearly a fan of Petraeus, and while she does acknowledge some of his shortcomings, I would have preferred a bit more skepticism and critique. But I can see why that would be difficult. Petraeus is utterly likeable: A workaholic, who values education amongst his officers, and requires information (and more information, and then more information) to make the hard decisions. He comes across as doing things for the right reasons, and never losing sight of his humanity or the cost of human lives in battle. The actual layout of the biography was sometimes frustrating - Broadwell would switch between Petraeus's previous service in Bosnia and Iraq, to the current Afghanistan conflict. Just when you were getting going on a thread, she would sometimes switch gears, which was distracting. Some of the battle scenes were also more technically, rather than emotionally, written (Sebastian Junger does it best, so it's probably an unfair comparison). But all in all, it was a tribute to the amazing mechanics of leading military campaigns. I have trouble leading my kids to the car for school. This book was immensely humbling. Recommended. Great biography of a great American leader.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Frank Kelly

    Despite the dalliance between the author and Petraeus, this remains an instructive and well researched book on the theory and practice of Petraeus' counterinsurgency theory - also known as COIN - as applied in Afghanistan and Iraq. Broadwell took her PhD thesis and expanded it to give multiple accounts of the COIN operations at work, describing multiple bloody battles and the soldiers killed and maimed in the process. The book does regularly veer into a hagiographic profile of Petraeus and is, on Despite the dalliance between the author and Petraeus, this remains an instructive and well researched book on the theory and practice of Petraeus' counterinsurgency theory - also known as COIN - as applied in Afghanistan and Iraq. Broadwell took her PhD thesis and expanded it to give multiple accounts of the COIN operations at work, describing multiple bloody battles and the soldiers killed and maimed in the process. The book does regularly veer into a hagiographic profile of Petraeus and is, on the whole, virtually non-critical of him and his efforts. But the book does offer a fascinating biography of the man who came from a modest upbringing to the most important US General arguably since Dwight Eisenhower. Flawed in many ways, it's still an important contribution to understanding how our military - and our senior military leadership - have been forced to change to meet the challenges of a new world where asymmetrical warfare and shadow enemies threaten our nation on a daily basis.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    Broadwell's well-written biography of the premier military officer of our time will certainly go down as one of, if not the, definitive work on David Petraeus - at least, for what he accomplished up until his retirement from the U.S. Army in 2011. (I have a feeling he's not done yet - obviously, today he continues to serve his country as CIA director, but there may be more beyond that, as well.) Read this book now!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sketchbook

    "The Lady in Question" gets Her Guy. I have not read this special prophylaxis of humor--.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Justin Tapp

    It would be interesting to know whether Petraeus' wife and other associates would have determined that this book was written by a mistress if it had not been leaked by an FBI inquiry. It's clear, especially toward the end, that the author either had too much information or was making things up, and is blatantly biased. How does she know, for example, what his expression was when he was the "only one in the room"? How does she know what he was wearing when he went out "jogging alone"? Broadwell w It would be interesting to know whether Petraeus' wife and other associates would have determined that this book was written by a mistress if it had not been leaked by an FBI inquiry. It's clear, especially toward the end, that the author either had too much information or was making things up, and is blatantly biased. How does she know, for example, what his expression was when he was the "only one in the room"? How does she know what he was wearing when he went out "jogging alone"? Broadwell writes in the foreword that she took "full advantage of Petraeus's open door policy" is thankful for her "luck." Knowing the full history of her level of access makes it particularly awkward. Things he confides to "another close friend" in the book are probably things he confided to her alone. There is no criticism raised of Petraeus (or many others under his command) that Broadwell does not immediately and repeatedly rebut. A couple of Petraeus' speeches are quoted at length, making it much more of a puff piece than a true historical work. Which is a shame, because there is probably real value in the historical information; Petraeus is one of America's most decorate and most-experienced generals. Much of the detail in the book come from Afghanistan where Broadwell was embedded and posting reports from the front line on Thomas Ricks' blog. There is value in the historical overview of the Afghan war under Petraeus and McChrystal and the decisions which were made, but it will be left to future historians to determine how much was shaded by Broadwell's bias. The structure of the book was not completely chronological. The book begins with McChrystal's firing as ISAF commander in 2010 and follows Petraeus' appointment to replace him up to Petraeus' appointment to CIA in 2011. Between these two points are roughly chronological flashbacks to earlier parts of Petraeus' career from West Point to the 101 Airborne to Haiti, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan with a stops at Princeton and the Army War College. This makes the flow of the book somewhat hard to follow. The minute details of the time in Afghanistan make up most of the book as Broadwell was present. Petraeus was the son of a Dutch immigrant and married the daughter of a 4-star General who became a mentor and inspiration to Petraeus. Gen. Knowlton had led the inquiry into the Mei Lai Massacre and developed a reputation for his hands-on approach on the ground visiting troops under his command in Vietnam. One gathers that Petraeus is ultra-competitive, especially in the athletic realm. He's a prostate cancer survivor and has experienced near-career-ending accidents both on the shooting range and while free skydiving. He pushes himself to train harder and do more push-ups than enlisted men half his age. Broadwell refers to his "Team Petraeus" staff but deflects criticism by others (most notably in my mind Defense Secretary and CIA chief Leon Panetta in his memoir) that Petraeus was an egotistical primadonna. Broadwell writes that Petraeus got that reputation, in part, from his being aide to several top generals. She responds that the generals did not pick him for political reasons, they picked him because they saw he was able to get things done that others couldn't. Panetta remarks in his memoir that Petraeus' office was a "shrine to himself" with his challenge coins, metals, flags, etc. Broadwell never really details that, but it's clear Petraeus is the alpha dog eager to prove himself better than others and remind them of it. The title "All In" comes from Petraeus' demand of President George W. Bush during his decision on the Iraq "surge"-- if the decision was made, the government had to be "all in" giving Petraeus' soldiers everything they needed for as long as they needed it. If anyone comes across badly in the book, it's Afghan President Hamid Karzai followed by US VP Joe Biden. Karzai is repeatedly caught in a web of lies and corruption, trying to play the media to his advantage and the U.S.' detriment. Biden, and unnamed entities in the White House, are portrayed as second-guessing and paranoid about Petraeus and other U.S. commanders trying to undermine Obama, something the Rolling Stone story on McChrystal exacerbated. The paranoia and awkwardness of the Obama Administration and the military are captured well in Robert Gates' memoir and, to a lesser extent, Panetta's book. The concern was that the generals were trying to "box Obama in." Petraeus was at least once quoted anonymously in an unflattering light by a source close to him. Broadwell defends the General at all points and writes that Petraeus repeatedly remarks that he is the most loyal general that Obama has and felt perplexed that he could be considered disloyal. I was hoping the book would have more on Petraeus' leadership and management skills. When he first took command of ISAF he held 20 meetings a day. Whatever senior staff decided would be posted in key locations and sent out in bullet point memos to commands across Afghanistan. Petraeus' strategy focused on the following: 1. Get the ideas right. 2. Communicate the ideas effectively. 3. Aggressively oversee their implementation (Petraeus was criticized by some for micromanaging). 4. Get continuous feedback. Petraeus considers himself a "relentless communicator," and Broadwell recounts those he contacted for advice in the early ISAF days. One friend who served with him in Iraq pointed out that the "dirty little secret" of COIN, the counterinsurgency strategy, in Iraq was that the police were never competent. The Americans just made the army good enough that the problem was overlooked, a point on which Petraeus disagreed. One key point that Petraus pushed in Afghanistan was the need for the State Department to provide more FSOs to work with both the central government and regional governments to build cohesion. There needed to be cooperation between local tribal leaders within a region and the central government in Kabul. COIN involves managing expectations, "under-promise and over-provide." It evolved out of Petraeus' graduate work in the 1980s on low-intensity conflict and evolved as Petraeus oversaw some nation-building efforts in Haiti that prepared him for Afghanistan. COIN's implementation in Iraq is what earned Petraeus the phone call to take on ISAF. Thomas Ricks' points out in The Generals that Petraeus got many things wrong about the Iraqis that went unpublicized. Petraeus, according to Broadwell, took inspiration from T.E. Lawrence. In Iraq, he was dealing with the aftermath of de-Baathification, hubris in Washington, and trying to train up police forces without adequate resources. What Ricks and others have pointed out is that COIN is quite expensive-- you essentially pay the enemy not to fight while at the same time you spend a lot of money to build and repair infrastructure, on top of supplying your troop base. The Coalition spent roughly $10 billion/year for army and police in Afghanistan at one point. Broadwell takes on Joshua Foust's account of the razing of villages in Kandahar in the book under Petraeus' orders. Foust has angrily responded, noting that Broadwell's own accounts of what happened are contradictory, and that she glosses over what other pro-American reporters have written. At the end of the book, Broadwell notes that villages that were razed were rebuilt with stronger infrastructure and that violence had fallen and reportedly trust regained. It's worth noting that Petraeus' son was deployed in Afghanistan so his orders directly affected him. Broadwell writes of the "mask of command" worn by Petraeus, not to betray emotions. Petraeus reportedly wanted to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs but Sec. Gates visited Kabul and told him it was "out of the question." Outside of that position, Petraeus only wanted to be in a position that would continue fighting the Taliban and suggested CIA himself, according to Broadwell. Panetta opines in his book that he was skeptical of having primadonna Petraeus over the CIA, but Gates was "excited" about the idea. In the end, Petraeus makes an emotional decision to take of the uniform in order to head the CIA and move back to Washington. It's there that the details of the book become too intimate and glowing for obvious reasons. In all, I give this book 2.5 stars out of 5. It contains valuable information and history about the war Afghanistan but not a great level of detail about Petraeus' work in Iraq and elsewhere. If you're looking for insights into leadership and management look elsewhere. It's written by a biased source who works hard to defend her subject/lover.

  10. 4 out of 5

    B. Aaron

    Good book on leadership in combat. The leadership principals presented can be applied to multiple industries. This book also provides a good perspective on the war in Afghanistan, with a lot of information that was previously unknown (to me).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jean philippe couture

    Great story of an exceptional general. At times it has a self-serving and romanticized flavor to it... I don't think it was needed, the general's story is in and of itself an amazing story.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    This was a pretty interesting book about David Petraeus, but it was a little too academic for me.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

    2.6 stars rounds up.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    This is an approved biography of the career of General Petraeus, with a focus on his development of counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy and his tenure as the commander in Iraq and Afghanistan. The author is a doctoral student in political science who also happens to have been a West Point graduate and who received considerable access and support from Petraeus. She is also the person who challenged John Stewart to a push-up contest on "The Daily Show". It is an amazing story and Broadwell's telling This is an approved biography of the career of General Petraeus, with a focus on his development of counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy and his tenure as the commander in Iraq and Afghanistan. The author is a doctoral student in political science who also happens to have been a West Point graduate and who received considerable access and support from Petraeus. She is also the person who challenged John Stewart to a push-up contest on "The Daily Show". It is an amazing story and Broadwell's telling of it is well done and rings true. There are several layers to the story and most of them are intriguing. First, there is how someone manages his career to reach the very highest levels of the US Defense establishment - this is not just substantive training, but also the choice/good fortune to receive good assignment, the ability to receive guidance and support from key mentors, and the personal ability to handle the increasingly demanding political, technical, administrative, and military skills of higher and higher roles. Another key story for Petraeus is his role as a "soldier/scholar" -- a soldier who is also a skilled academic with specialized knowledge to put the military trade in context. Petraeus not only received his Ph.D. from Princeton but also actively supported other soldier/scholars as a brain trust to help him develop and implement his strategies. This is part of a broader history of the US military following Vietnam in which training and doctrine were given a hallowed place in the fundamental organization of the armed services. What other organization do you know of that places training and manuals (such as Petraeus' famous counterinsurgency manual) in a position of such high visibility that the University of Chicago Press will issue a version? A third critical portion of this story is the idea of counterinsurgency strategy - or the idea that the critical value of a war/combat situation is protecting the local population rather than defeating the enemy (although this is still important). This is a very complex multidisciplinary strategy is must come across as alien to traditional military logic. It was the key behind the "surge" in Iraq and the book gives a good description of how the strategy played out in Iraq in 2006-2008 -- although other books (also mentioned in this book) such as those by Tom Ricks are more informative. The COIN strategy in Iraq is arguably one of the chief claims to fame of General Petraeus and is worth reading about regardless of one's orientation to the conflict. The core of the book concerns how this strategy was applied to Afghanistan - which differs considerably from Iraq. Here, Broadwell's book is informative by going beyond Petraeus and focusing on the situations of three (actually more) unit commanders facing a variety of different situations in the war. The descriptions are well done and bring out many of the conflicts of this complex strategy with the more traditional parts of the military establishment. The book is very positive towards Petraeus -- although I must admit that I don't disagree with this focus very much -- he is a huge figure with much about him worthy of admiration. I would have preferred a bit more "deep" analysis of some of the lingering issues about Afghanistan and COIN strategies. For example, given the size, complexity, and population densities of Afghanistan, is it reasonable to expect that COIN could work? In some parts, you get the idea that it cannot, in others, it is presented as reasonable, in other parts of the book it just isn't clear. It is reasonable to address this head on and consider whether the strategy means the same in the Afghan setting as it did in Iraq. There are also other conflicts with COIN. For example, it is to some extent a holding action that is valuable by giving time and space for a political settlement -- which means that the strategy can be done perfectly and still fail for political reasons beyond the control of the soldieers -- not a very satisfying conclusion and one that looms large with Afghanistan under Karzai. How does one balance COIN with other strategies? The author addresses this a bit towards the end but it could have been raised earlier and in more depth. More generally, how does the need for context and continuity that seems critical for COIN square with the regular rotation of troops and commanders that seems inimical to that continuity? I don't mind a good hagiography every now and then, but a bit more analytic edge would have been appreciated. For example, compare this with Bing West's book on the Afghan war, "The Wrong War". Maybe the author's doctoral advisers (including Petraeus?) will spur her to this as she finishes her studies. These are relatively minor points, however, and the book was hard to put down, even after reading lots of other books on these wars.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sabina Kelly

    glad to finally have this off my list. Shame he threw away his career

  16. 5 out of 5

    Hal

    In the wake of the affair scandal that cost General Patraeus his job as CIA Director and besmirched his distinguished military career I wanted to find out what his paramour had to say in this lengthy book she wrote on his career. General Patraeus should not be seen as less than a most honorable man who dedicated his life to this country through his distinguished military service. Yet it seems puzzling that he could risk it all for an affair that tarnished it so and put so many on a national spec In the wake of the affair scandal that cost General Patraeus his job as CIA Director and besmirched his distinguished military career I wanted to find out what his paramour had to say in this lengthy book she wrote on his career. General Patraeus should not be seen as less than a most honorable man who dedicated his life to this country through his distinguished military service. Yet it seems puzzling that he could risk it all for an affair that tarnished it so and put so many on a national spectacle that no one would care to be. For all his intelligence and savvy to climb his way through a military career to the very pinnacle he did not seem to take heed in what a woman’s unpredictability could do to jeopardize and indeed bring it all down. The book itself was the result of an extending embedding of Paula Broadwell with the general as he served commanding troops in Afghanistan after a more or less successful command in Iraq halting a deterioration of the political landscape there. The book was extensive in its very detailed account of strategic and tactical operations in Afghanistan as the US military plodded from village to village in pursuit of infiltrated Taliban insurgents. I would estimate 80% of the content covers these day to day decisions and undertakings in the field that at times for me became tedious. She would then skip back in time to give snippets of General Patraeus’ career path to this top position in the Army. Limited personal information on the Patreaus family, his wife Holly and two children would enter into this narrative also. We learn of the Generals’ drive and determination as he takes on each significant challenge through his career as a military officer and completes these assignments for the most part successfully. There will likely be a number of books to come on the scandal that brought his career in public service to an unfortunate conclusion. This book adds considerable background leading up to the tragic event and of course is unique that the key player, Paula Broadwell, is the messenger in the tale. There will be much dissecting and speculation as to why he would risk it all as he did. As he stated himself on the matter, he screwed up royally. The real story of the wars we have been in for over ten years now is there also to see first hand. As we prepare to leave the scene in the next several years we will have to consider what we really accomplished in this considerable toll of lives and resources. The Taliban who will certainly still be in the picture after we are gone, the Afghan government which has its element of corruption, the Pakistan equation, and the cultural ramifications are all matters that will continue to play out and we will witness just what impact we had in it all.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    First time book author Paula Broadwell and her associate, Vernon Loeb, used five pages of mostly military acronyms and seventy-one characters spread over 357 pages to document General David Petraeus’ leadership of America’s war in Afghanistan. All those acronyms and all those characters make this a very tough, complicated and slow-going read. It was an outgrowth of Broadwell’s PhD dissertation research and that may explain why it reads like a term paper. As she points out in this volume, Petraeu First time book author Paula Broadwell and her associate, Vernon Loeb, used five pages of mostly military acronyms and seventy-one characters spread over 357 pages to document General David Petraeus’ leadership of America’s war in Afghanistan. All those acronyms and all those characters make this a very tough, complicated and slow-going read. It was an outgrowth of Broadwell’s PhD dissertation research and that may explain why it reads like a term paper. As she points out in this volume, Petraeus’ legacy includes instituting counterinsurgency as a division commander in northern Iraq, authoring a new field manual, commander of the Iraqi surge in 2007 and 2008, and he “helped craft the campaign strategy for Afghanistan and then . . . executed it.” Petraeus’ life and military education and career are chronicled here, but, Broadwell focuses primarily on the general’s conduct of the war in Afghanistan. What should impress you the most is Petraeus’ intellect, his servant attitude, his love and devotion to his troops and most of all his unshakeable loyalty to his commander-in-chief even when POTUS fails to heed his advice. In my book, those qualities alone put America’s newest director of the CIA on a pedestal along side of Grant, Lee, Pershing, Macarthur, Patton, Eisenhower and all the other great military leaders in our history. Broadwell and Loeb paint a picture of a solder’s soldier.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gordon

    A well written and enjoyable narrative that intertwines the defining moments of GEN Petraeus's early military career (assignments, mentors, Princeton studies, operations in Haiti and Bosnia) with his final decade as a senior leader and theater commander of first operations in Iraq, then Afghanistan. His early career study, then extensive practice and doctrinal development of counter-insurgency is a theme worthy of review of the modern military leader. The book offers a number of very recent pers A well written and enjoyable narrative that intertwines the defining moments of GEN Petraeus's early military career (assignments, mentors, Princeton studies, operations in Haiti and Bosnia) with his final decade as a senior leader and theater commander of first operations in Iraq, then Afghanistan. His early career study, then extensive practice and doctrinal development of counter-insurgency is a theme worthy of review of the modern military leader. The book offers a number of very recent personal and collective refinements of COIN doctrine that will surely be part of the ongoing revision and rewriting of FM 3-24. Finally, the personal stories of various 101st Airborne Division units in Afghanistan and of Aghan advisors are well chosen to highlight the nature of the fight in Afghanistan and the outstanding efforts of the Screaming Eagle troopers and by extension all who have served at the cutting edge of our Nation's main effort. It is very interesting that the people GEN Petraeus repeatedly singled out for mentorship or inclusion is his inner circle are those that best embody the characteristics of audacity, creativity, and initiative. I would recommend to all, but to junior company grade and field grade leaders in particular.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Betsy Ashton

    Forget the scandal around Paula Broadwell and General Patraeus. None of that is in this biography. What is here is a decent look into Patraeus's life and military career. Yes, he was a great general by most accounts. Again by most accounts he modernized the army from a traditional ground force supported by air. Given the two major wars where he led troops were not standard ground wars, he was asked to develop and execute a counterinsurgency program. Think "winning hearts and minds" of the locals. Forget the scandal around Paula Broadwell and General Patraeus. None of that is in this biography. What is here is a decent look into Patraeus's life and military career. Yes, he was a great general by most accounts. Again by most accounts he modernized the army from a traditional ground force supported by air. Given the two major wars where he led troops were not standard ground wars, he was asked to develop and execute a counterinsurgency program. Think "winning hearts and minds" of the locals. Readers all know how well that's worked in Afghanistan. While the book is well-researched and well-written, two questions remain. What was the real Patraeus like, meaning how did what he did affect him? He never drops the mask of general and leader. The other question that is asked several times but never answered: why was he passed over for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs? By his own accounting, that was his goal, yet more than one time he was told to forget it. Readers never learn why. If you are looking for a decent book about a personality that is larger than life, this is a good one to read. I suggest, however, you read it with Thomas Ricks's The Generals for a different view of our military leaders.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne Auckerman

    Interesting to really understand the change in strategy and from what I saw when I was there in 2008, was the right thing to do. I was impressed by several things: 1. How much he and the other generals were concerned about the well being of the ground troops and how much time they took to thank them and recognize them for what they were doing, including their families. 2. The commitment to get the injured out and the concern over the number of injured with multiple amputations. I hope these are ac Interesting to really understand the change in strategy and from what I saw when I was there in 2008, was the right thing to do. I was impressed by several things: 1. How much he and the other generals were concerned about the well being of the ground troops and how much time they took to thank them and recognize them for what they were doing, including their families. 2. The commitment to get the injured out and the concern over the number of injured with multiple amputations. I hope these are accurate representations. 3. What a "good old boy network" the military is--got to know someone. Makes you understand the VMI network in VA. 4. How the big picture strategy is disseminated. 5. There is no waiting list for this book at the local library. I think I may have been the first person to read it. Skeptical as few shortcomings were mentioned--makes you wonder considering everything that came out later. Obviously, he was a bright and driven man. Ending career as he did had to be devastating.

  21. 5 out of 5

    SA

    I had actually checked this out of the library in September, but didn't end up reading it until November when the scandal hit and suddenly there were a slew of holds on the book. Petraeus is a very intriguing figure in our contemporary war history. Unfortunately, Broadwell (whatever the context of their relationship) did not do him justice here as a biographer. There is little critical lens applied to him or his actions; even the thread of what I believe was her doctoral thesis, on the matter of I had actually checked this out of the library in September, but didn't end up reading it until November when the scandal hit and suddenly there were a slew of holds on the book. Petraeus is a very intriguing figure in our contemporary war history. Unfortunately, Broadwell (whatever the context of their relationship) did not do him justice here as a biographer. There is little critical lens applied to him or his actions; even the thread of what I believe was her doctoral thesis, on the matter of counterinsurgency application in the Afghan and Iraq wars, was only tenuously argued, to the book's detriment. It's disappointing: all future biographies of Petraeus will inevitably reference this one and the newsreels surrounding it, but this all too affectionate take means that there is still a great deal of work to be done on the subject of his life and leadership. To be honest, I mostly played Gulf Wars Bingo with the different people that entered the narrative; sadly that was more interesting than the book itself.

  22. 5 out of 5

    K.J. Wetherholt

    This was an informative book that revealed some about what could be considered the Petraeus psychology of war--but the structure was a bit irritating, in going back and forth in time. It would have been better for it to have run solely chronologically. There was also the sense, having been written by a former West Point graduate and officer, that there was a bit of hero-worship going on. One thing I did appreciate, and something that I, too, have had to deal with--that this was written by a woma This was an informative book that revealed some about what could be considered the Petraeus psychology of war--but the structure was a bit irritating, in going back and forth in time. It would have been better for it to have run solely chronologically. There was also the sense, having been written by a former West Point graduate and officer, that there was a bit of hero-worship going on. One thing I did appreciate, and something that I, too, have had to deal with--that this was written by a woman and could transcend the usual incredulity about someone writing substantively about war who happens to be female is important. Some of us are able to write about war with the same measure of substance and lack of over-the-top "emotionalism" of which some have been accused. This is as hardcore an analysis of COIN and low intensity conflict (LIC) as any scholar could write--incidentally, the author is getting her PhD at the University of London.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Spencer Willardson

    Reading this book now, knowing how things all ended between Petraeus and his biographer felt a bit invasive at times. It was clear that he was sharing parts of himself with her (about burdens of command) that he wasn't sharing with anyone else. My problem with the book is that it makes Petraeus out to be a saint. It is impossible to believe that he never made any mistakes or faced any challenge that he couldn't tackle. The book lends ammunition to the critics that slam him for shameless self-pro Reading this book now, knowing how things all ended between Petraeus and his biographer felt a bit invasive at times. It was clear that he was sharing parts of himself with her (about burdens of command) that he wasn't sharing with anyone else. My problem with the book is that it makes Petraeus out to be a saint. It is impossible to believe that he never made any mistakes or faced any challenge that he couldn't tackle. The book lends ammunition to the critics that slam him for shameless self-promotion. I am saying this as a "Petraeus guy." I served under his command in 2003 in Mosul and was in Iraq during the Surge when he was in command over the entire theater. I think that he was right about the way to conduct operations. The book was interesting, but not challenging in any real way - either to critics or supporters.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    I was disappointed with the book, especially given the access and background available to the author. She should have decided if this was a book on Petreaus, his background and leadership, or whether it was a book on the Afghanistan war, or on the Iraq war. All could have been covered, but bouncing across topics and time weakened the presentation. In place she seems to have lost objectivity and presented a one-sided view of positions. When those lapses in objective completeness showed up, it cau I was disappointed with the book, especially given the access and background available to the author. She should have decided if this was a book on Petreaus, his background and leadership, or whether it was a book on the Afghanistan war, or on the Iraq war. All could have been covered, but bouncing across topics and time weakened the presentation. In place she seems to have lost objectivity and presented a one-sided view of positions. When those lapses in objective completeness showed up, it caused me to question the completeness of the rest of the material. Granted, a solid biography or history of either war will not, cannot, be written for a number of years. The material is still coming to light and including all the relevant facts, correlating actions wit actual results will take time.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Arno Hartholt

    In general very interesting to read about how Petraeus combines many differs thinking backgrounds into one, including military, academic and civilian. I enjoyed the strategic and tactical thinking elements, especially on how he combined on the ground needs with big visions and how to communicate these. The accounts of his life and wars are somewhat disjointed, although that may have been cause I was listening to the audio book. Worst though, is that the author is not critical at all, constantly In general very interesting to read about how Petraeus combines many differs thinking backgrounds into one, including military, academic and civilian. I enjoyed the strategic and tactical thinking elements, especially on how he combined on the ground needs with big visions and how to communicate these. The accounts of his life and wars are somewhat disjointed, although that may have been cause I was listening to the audio book. Worst though, is that the author is not critical at all, constantly praising Petraeus and always excusing his failings. The fact that they slept together obviously throws some new light on this. It's too much of a young person looking up to an experienced mentor rather than an objective exploration.

  26. 5 out of 5

    False

    I've read a great deal about the Middle East, and everything on Petraeus. One reviewer called this book craptacular. That about sums it up. Given her most intimate access to the General, this book falls flat in prose and could use some Viagra. She falls guilty of dropping SATC POTUS NRC and if it's a battalion you get the FULL name and numbers. Your eyes glaze over. Hardly an unbiased full portrait of a complex man. My own pet peeve with him? He won't admit he married the General's daughter at W I've read a great deal about the Middle East, and everything on Petraeus. One reviewer called this book craptacular. That about sums it up. Given her most intimate access to the General, this book falls flat in prose and could use some Viagra. She falls guilty of dropping SATC POTUS NRC and if it's a battalion you get the FULL name and numbers. Your eyes glaze over. Hardly an unbiased full portrait of a complex man. My own pet peeve with him? He won't admit he married the General's daughter at West Point to further advance himself. She herself has said, "Do you think I was stupid and would allow someone to marry me for position?" Uh. Yes. Why yes I do. The wife is always the last to know.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Allan Colgan

    I pity the people who will have to read her doctoral dissertation. As for this book, it was so badly written that it defies description. In over 60 years of reading books, I can honestly say that there were only two books I started to read that I never finished. This is the second one, the first one was in 1958. I thought it might be a good book considering all the publicity of the people in question. Wrong! As a writer, she is bad. She might be better at being the alleged mistress in question. I pity the people who will have to read her doctoral dissertation. As for this book, it was so badly written that it defies description. In over 60 years of reading books, I can honestly say that there were only two books I started to read that I never finished. This is the second one, the first one was in 1958. I thought it might be a good book considering all the publicity of the people in question. Wrong! As a writer, she is bad. She might be better at being the alleged mistress in question. Please, forget about getting this book unless you have tendencies to want to feel abused.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    Pretty good coverage of an amazing career. My only quibble was that there were inadequate breaks to indicate when the narrative was flashing back 5 or 10 or 20 years. Several times, it jumped from the war in Afghanistan to Gen. Petraeus' earlier life and career without warning, and back again. In addition, there was essentially a "subplot" of a Major Lujan, and his tour in Afghanistan and after. I kept waiting for this officer to interact meaningfully with Gen. Petraeus, but I didn't see it happen Pretty good coverage of an amazing career. My only quibble was that there were inadequate breaks to indicate when the narrative was flashing back 5 or 10 or 20 years. Several times, it jumped from the war in Afghanistan to Gen. Petraeus' earlier life and career without warning, and back again. In addition, there was essentially a "subplot" of a Major Lujan, and his tour in Afghanistan and after. I kept waiting for this officer to interact meaningfully with Gen. Petraeus, but I didn't see it happen. (If it did happen, it was early in the book, and I lost track of it.)

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tracie

    I picked this up on a whim I guess, having just read Black Hawk Down. It is light on personal details and heavy on technical stuff--I feel like I know more about counterinsurgency than I will ever need to, but again, I have a new found respect for what our troops are trying to accomplish in Afghanistan. I am simply amazed at their dedication to protecting, training, and rebuilding the Afghan people and their villages. And General Petraeus is an absolute wonder.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I thought Broadwell's book was neither well-written, nor well-organized. Tracking the chronology of events was tricky. While I read the book well before the scandal broke, I felt that Broadwell painted a one-sided portrait of Gen P without any nuance of what makes him human - she put him on a pedestal and failed to give us an even-handed journalistic account. I did learn a lot about Petraeus, though!

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