THE INSURGENTS unfolds against the backdrop of two wars waged against insurgencies-- wars which the Pentagon's top generals didn't know how to fight. But a small group of soldiers and scholars did have a plan for fighting these kinds of wars, people like General David Petraeus and Colonels John Nagl, David Kilcullen, and H.R. McMaster. In order to push the idea of "counterinsurgency" warfare, they behaved like insurgents within their own army-and very self-consciously so. Fred Kaplan explains where this idea came from, and how the men and women who latched onto this idea created a community (some would refer to themselves as a "cabal") that maneuvered the idea through the highest echelons of power. But this is also a cautionary tale about how even creative ideas can harden into dogma, how smart strategists-the "best and the brightest" of our times-can sometimes sway politicians but don't always win wars. The Insurgents made their military more adaptive to the conflicts of the post-Cold War era, but their self-confidence led us deeper into wars that we shouldn't have been fighting and perhaps couldn't have been won.