Gen. Petraeus' strategy lessons: All In

Book review: How Gen. David Petraeus developed a new strategy on counterinsurgency and convinced his superiors it would work.

All In: The Education of General David Petraeus
Author: Paula Broadwell with Vernon Loeb

An accomplished military analyst with a specialty in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism and over a decade of military service, Paula Broadwell seems the perfect fit as biographer of one of the most important U.S. military leaders in recent times— and Petraeus appears to agree, granting Broadwell considerable access over the book’s three-year research period.

Now director of the CIA, Petraeus most recently helmed the U.S. effort in Afghanistan, bringing to the field his long percolating theories about counterinsurgency developed during assignments in Iraq and the Balkans. His leadership challenge in Central Asia was not just to implement and get buyin for his “big ideas”—while Petraeus felt he’d found a new approach that should replace outdated strategies, he faced plenty of resistance—but to make his command responsive, learning from his forces’ experiences and crafting best practices to help navigate a volatile environment. All In is not a deeply personal biography, or an attempt at a definitive military history; it’s a study of how a leader was shaped by his mentors and experiences, and how he resolved his most daunting strategic challenge.