Learning to Forget: US Army Counterinsurgency Doctrine and Practice from Vietnam to Iraq
Dr David Fitzgerald Learning to Forget: US Army Counterinsurgency Doctrine and Practice from Vietnam to Iraq (Stanford Security Studies). (Stanford University Press, 2013).
Learning to Forget analyzes the evolution of US counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine over the last five decades. Beginning with an extensive section on the lessons of Vietnam, it traces the decline of COIN in the 1970s, then the rebirth of low intensity conflict through the Reagan years and the conflict in Bosnia, culminating in the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. It explains how the lessons of Vietnam led the Army to Iraq and the way in which their confronting and reimagining of these lessons offered them a way out of that war. In the process it provides an illustration of how military leaders make use of history and demonstrates the difficulties of drawing lessons from the past that can usefully be applied to contemporary circumstances.
The book outlines how the construction of lessons is tied to the construction of historical memory and describes the interplay between the two processes—demonstrating how histories are constructed to serve the needs of the present. In so doing, it creates a new theory of doctrinal development.