Bing West

War Correspondent, Television Commentator, and Best-Selling Author
Bing West
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Bing West is a war correspondent and best-selling author. Stephen Colbert calls him “a tough old bastard,” Don Imus says “he could snap your spine with his eyebrows,” and according to Dexter Filkins of The New Yorker, “West is worth a book in himself.” A profile piece in the New York Times begins, “No armchair general here: At a lean and flinty 70, he can dodge bullets along with the 20-year-olds he accompanies on infantry foot patrols.”

No other writer, policymaker, or military general combines West’s experience as a senior official and a warrior. As a combat Marine and former assistant secretary of defense, he connects the high-level strategy of the White House to the gritty operations of the frontlines, where he has embedded dozens of times in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. As a war correspondent, he explains success and failure in an even-handed way, discussing courage under fire, showing how theory goes awry, and drawing lessons for America in future wars.

Best-Selling Author. West is the author of eight books on Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. These include The Village (an advisor unit in Vietnam) that has been on the Marine Commandant’s Read List for 40 years; No True Glory (the battles for Falluja); The Strongest Tribe (a history of the Iraq War that was a New York Times best-seller); The March Up (an award-winning first hand account of the 22-day march to Baghdad); The Wrong War (a history of the Afghanistan War that was featured on the front page of the New York Times Book Review); and Into the Fire (a best-seller about hand-to-hand combat as recounted by Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer). West’s articles have also appeared in national publications like the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Atlantic, and he has been featured on myriad major media outlets.

Government Roles and Military Service. As President Reagan’s assistant secretary for defense for international security affairs, he chaired the U.S. Security Commissions with El Salvador, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Pakistan, South Korea, and Japan. As the lead official in what is called the Pentagon’s “little State Department,” West negotiated security agreements, arms transfers, and advisory assistance around the world. Other posts he has held include: assistant to the secretary and deputy secretary of defense, vice president of the Hudson Institute, dean of research at the Naval War College, visiting professor at Tufts University, and analyst at the Rand Corporation.

West served in the infantry in Vietnam, where he was a member of the Marine Force Reconnaissance team that initiated Operation Stingray – attacks deep behind North Vietnamese lines. West also fought as an advisor in a remote Vietnamese village where seven of the 15 advisors were killed over the course of a 485-day struggle to control the village.

Awards. West is the recipient of the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal and Tunisia’s Medaille de Liberté. He is also the recipient of the Marine Corps Heritage Award, the Colby Military History Award, the General Goodpaster Prize for Military Scholarship, the Free Press Award, the VFW National Media Award, and the Marine Corps Award for Leadership.

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War Strategy and Combat Decision Making: Enduring Lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan. Bing West has written eight best-selling books about the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. As one reviewer wrote, “If anyone knows combat — and knows how to write about combat — it’s Bing West.” He explains how war strategy was devised at the top, how it was carried out in the field, and why it goes awry. In the view of the Washington Post, “West’s greatest strengths are his exceptional personal courage and his experienced perception of combat.” Illustrating with combat videos he filmed during hundreds of patrols, West moves the narrative effortlessly from the corporal to the general to the White House. He bluntly identifies names and assesses the reasons for good and bad decisions. He then draws lessons about courage and leadership and discusses the nature of war in the 21st century. Drawing upon his first-hand experience as a policymaker and a grunt, he poses the question: Can America defend itself by leading from behind?

Courage Under Fire: Can It Be Taught? West has spent 50 years on battlefields in jungles, mountains, cities, and villages. Using video he filmed during combat, West brings the audience into firefights, pointing out which soldiers were acting bravely. Drawing upon thousands of interviews and the hundreds of firefights described in his books, he focuses upon six men with astonishing valor. Were they born with courage in their genes? Or was courage instilled by their environment – at home, in school, and later in the military? Can courage be predicted before battle? Can it be taught? Or is courage transitory, dependent upon a particular set of circumstances? Is courage transferable from the military to business?

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