on July 26, 2006
I've spent the better part of the past 36 hours inhaling Thomas Ricks' "Fiasco" and I have to say it is easily the best book so far produced on the Iraq War. I say this as someone who supported the original rationale for going into Iraq and who still supports the war effort. But support should never be blind and I think there's much that opponents and supporters of the war can gain from reading Mr. Ricks' "near-term history" of the conflict. He has produced a remarkable book that synthesizes a broad range of information and yet does so in an immensely readable fashion. The author is to be genuinely congratulated. For me, the book was particularly insightful in offering a cogent narrative of how the insurgency came to be. It presented a detailed inventory of the political and military mistakes of the period stretching from immediately after Baghdad's fall in the late spring of 2003, through the rise of the insurgency later that year and into the middle of 2004.
Is the book perfect? No and doubtless as more time passes and as more information becomes available some of the conclusions and narratives presented here may change. But for the time being, the book is the best contemporary record of the events of the past three years in Iraq and I can't imagine it being surpassed anytime soon. I found it far more useful than the somewhat tepid "Cobra II" and the better-but-not-as-good "Assassin's Gate."
What most impressed me was the way Ricks dealt honestly with the shortcoming of the US military and particularly the US Army. I have the deepest respect and admiration for those who serve, but there has been a tendency to only blame the mistakes in Iraq on the civilian political leadership (who certainly deserve their share of the blame) and to forego honest criticism of the tactics and actions of the troops in the field. Ricks does an excellent job of calling into question the wisdom and preparedness of "Big Army" to fight the type of conflict this country has been engaged in in Iraq for the past three years.
As with any substantive work on an issue as politically-charged as Iraq, there will be discussion of the question of bias and motive on the part of the author. Ricks frankly writes with barely veiled contempt for the president and the secretary of defense, though Paul Bremer, General Ricardo Sanchez, and former Chairman of the Joint Staff Dick Myers come off as even bigger villains (if that's possible.) In many cases, I don't think the blame -- particularly as it relates to Bremer -- is misplaced. More to the point, Ricks' assessment of the mistakes made on the ground in Iraq are sufficiently worthwhile and thought-provoking that his "bashing" of certain officials can be tolerated. To be clear, it's not so much that I mind him assigning blame, it's more that he seems to view the handling of the Iraq war -- ironically enough -- in black-and-white terms with respect to senior political and military figures. In short, Ricks has heroes and then he has those who can do nothing right and, to my mind, this is most apparent in his treatment of Rumsfeld.
To cite just one example, early in the book he questions Rumsfeld's decision to bring in Pete Schoomaker, a retired general to replace outgoing Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki; Ricks notes that Schoomaker, in addition to being retired, is a Special Forces general who is removed from mainstream "Big Army" culture. Ricks seems to imply his appointment is a mistake. Yet by the end of the book, Ricks is trumpeting the fact that the Army in Iraq really needs to fight more like Special Operators and less like a conventional force. Wouldn't it therefore seem like a good idea to have Schoomaker at the top pushing for that type of change?
Similarly, there seems to be a basic conflict at times between whether Ricks thinks more troops are needed or not. He mentions (usually in passing) instances where commanders wanted more forces in specific instances, though he never does provide solid evidence of why their requests were denied or by whom, one of the major disappointments I have with the book. However, even as he suggests that more forces would help he also strongly highlights the damage done by large US presence deployments. This seems to be a disconnect -- and one that Ricks is not alone in making -- in criticism of the US strategy in Iraq. Is the problem that we have too many guys stomping around inadvertently making enemies or is that we don't have enough troops over there?
I bring these points up not only because they seem logically inconsistent but because Ricks "do-no-right" attitude towards the administration seems forced at times, almost like he needs to pile on to placate the many readers who doubtlessly will pick up this book hoping to have more ammo to slam Republicans in Internet chat rooms. Did Rumsfeld really do *nothing* right in the past six and a half years? (Don't feel the need to answer that.) My point here is that an attempt to appear even slightly balanced in presenting the viewpoints of the administration would have been nice, as would a different title, which seems primarily designed to capitalize on the polarization surrounding the war. Mr. Ricks has crafted a thoughtful book that deserved a more inviting title, not least because by the end of it, you're left wondering if we really have turned the corner in Iraq and are on the verge of a breakthrough or if it is really "too little, too late" as one Army reservist observes.
Two other quibbles:
I don't personally know Walt Slocombe, but I always thought he seemed a remarkably intelligent man and, moreover, seemed to be of good character. (Slocombe held the job of under secretary of defense for policy under Clinton, the job that the much maligned Doug Feith held under Dubya's first term.) I was always struck by the fact that Slocombe -- who apparently was moved by patriotism to work with the CPA -- defended Rumsfeld's version of the dismantlement of the Iraqi army, i.e., that it dismantled itself through desertions and that trying to maintain it as the force that was in place when Saddam fell would entail essentially a forced re-conscription of thousands of Iraqis who viewed the military as an instrument of oppression. Better to start from scratch, which we did, but which many critics claim freed up a large number of young Iraqi males with military training to fuel the insurgency. Slocombe's view on the subject -- presumably somewhat informed and coming from the perspective of a Democrat and former senior Clinton official -- is dismissed with one line to the effect of "others saw it differently." Pages and pages then go on about the terrible impacts on Iraq of the decision to disband the army. I have long wanted to see Slocombe's position on this explored beyond his own op-ed on the subject and I was surprised that Ricks gave such little emphasis to his view (or at least didn't explore it further.)
Finally, Ricks, like many others, repeats the notion that "containment was working" on Saddam. Not unlike the arguments proffered to justify the war by the administration, the statement that "containment was working" is only a half-truth. It may have held in check the threat Saddam posed to the region and it also now appears to have sufficiently degraded his ability to pursue WMD. But Ricks overlooks the impact of the containment policy on the broader US position in the Middle East and the detrimental impact that sanctions had on the Iraqi people. Clearly, the presence of US forces on Saudi territory (as part of containment) were a major source of ire for Osama bin Laden and in fact were the primary justification in his declaration of jihad against the United States in 1996. There also was the moral question of whether it was "worth it" in humanitarian terms to keep sanctions in place, as Madame Albright was asked once. Amidst the chaos and death of the Iraq War, it's easy to forget that sanctions, according to the World Health Organization and UNESCO, were driving Iraqi infant mortality rates sky high. Ricks glosses over this perspective in less than half a page extrapolating Paul Wolfowitz's pre-war views, but then later repeats the mantra that "containment was working" as he indicts US failures in Iraq towards the end of the book. We should be clear-eyed about the human costs of the current war, but we also should acknowledge the human costs of the course we were on if we hadn't invaded.
Those criticisms aside, I still cannot recommend this book strongly enough to anyone interested in what's happened in Iraq in the past three and a half years and where we may be headed. It is readable, insightful, and informative. You (as I) may not agree with everything the book has to say, but this book has more to say about Iraq than any work yet produced. Read it for yourself and reach your own conclusions.
on September 17, 2006
Thomas Ricks has been the senior Pentagon reporter for the Wall Street Journal and later the Washington Post. He is no enemy of the US military (in fact, he does not advocate US withdrawal). This book really should be read by every American not just for what it tells us about the Bush Administration and the Iraq war, but as a cautionary tale about the limits of military power.
Let me be clear: I opposed this war before President Bush chose to start it mainly because it was a distraction from fighting terrorism. `Fiasco' details the choices made by the Administration, the willful ignorance of facts that didn't fit their chosen path.
Fiasco is strongest in describing the false premises upon which the Administration built its case for war, the lack of planning for Phase IV (post-war plans), and Bremer's enormous false steps. And Ricks' admiration for the US military shines through as he relates its failures, successes, and `lessons learned'. There is indeed much to be admired in the US military - such as the Army's Center for Army Lessons Learned where the whole point is to review what the Army did, what it did right, what it did wrong, and how to apply those lessons in the future. Sounds like something the White House should try.
Fiasco is such an important book that I would like to give it a `5' star rating and it really should be read, but the book lacks structure, other than simple chronology and after a while begins to read like a string of newspaper articles. The concluding Afterword was especially weak with brief descriptions of what might lie ahead. Ricks is best at description, okay at prescription, and poor at prediction. Fortunately, most of the book is descriptive and very little is predictive.
Nonetheless, I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the story of the Iraq War.
on July 25, 2006
I have just finished the first part of the book and believe that the content needs to be addressed. The book has the right title because it is a fiasco in Iraq. I will not go so far as to say it will never workout because only time will tell; however, I do respect Thomas Rick's viewpoint that ill preparation doomed the Iraq war so far. The soldiers on the ground are doing the best that they can, but the type of battle will have to be shifted to defeat the insurgency.
Ricks discusses alot about the containment theory with Saddam Hussein and how it could have worked; one is to never know now that he has been overthrown. I did like how Ricks did the opposite of what all media has done today and simply blame Bush for all the trouble. Ricks starts off with Paul Wolfowitz and explains his views were the beginning of Iraq for a war target. Ricks does not character assassinate Wolfowitz or anyone else for that matter. Ricks simply looks at the people that brought us to war and compares their strengths and weaknesses. I love how he did this. Ricks lets the reader form their own opinion on the subject.
Ricks points to Tommy Franks, Dick Cheney, and George Tenet at fault for the run-up to war. Tommy Franks is blamed for rejecting ideas from subordinates, "meddling in tactical issues and did not address key strategic questions". Cheney started the run-up to war when he gave a speech on August 26th 2002 to the VFW. Cheney stated at the time that there was no doubt Iraq had WMDs. Bush did not have much choice but to go along with his VP on the issue. Ricks says this really started the ball rolling to war on Iraq. Then Ricks points toward George Tenet for the intelligence failures. Ricks states that after Desert Fox, Iraqi intel went downhill because the sources were afraid to speak out. The Iraq War was based on faulty intel and Ricks does an excellent job pointing this out.
Ricks also makes the point about the run-up to the war was questionable. The Bush administration looked at the WMD situation in the worst case scenerio, and the post-war effort in the best case scenerio. This plan was doomed to fall because of this view. The situations were not realistic by any means.
This war is not over and who knows when the post war occupation will end. In every war the U.S has been involved in there have been questions raised about situations. WWI should the U.S let the Germans start unrestricted warfare. WWII did the U.S know about an impeding Japanese attack? Korean and Vietnam Wars should it be the U.S's job to stop the threat of Communism. The Iraq War will be debated for the rest of history, but I believe Thomas Ricks has given a fresh view to the same old blame game.
I highly recommend Thomas Rick's Fiasco as a fresh look into the Iraq War. In history everyone should learn from its mistakes. How will the U.S learn from our mistakes if the mistakes are never addressed.
on July 25, 2006
I was fortunate enough to read an advance copy of this book passed along by a friend. It truly is a page-turner, and I spent most of last night reading it. Ricks has well documented with intricate and compelling detail the complete failure of leadership which resulted in the Iraq fiasco. While many of the facts he's reporting have been detailed before, Ricks's analysis of the many failures in Iraq is far more focused than any other analyses I've read to date.
I found it particularly compelling how Ricks thoroughly documents the dichotomy of the Bush Administration's schizophrenic thinking on Iraq: the rationale for going to war was based on a worst-case scenario, but all the actual war planning itself was based on a best-case scenario. Hence, the colossal management failure which resulted. The report by the Coalition Provisional Authority that Ricks cites says it all about the Iraq occupation: "pasting feathers together, hoping for a duck."
In closing, I would caution readers here to consider the reviewers who actually seemed to have read the book, as opposed to those with an ideological ax to grind who toss off one-sentence reviews on the day the book is released. Ask someone who has actually read this book for their opinion.
on August 21, 2006
I recently completed reading Mr. Thomas Ricks' book "Fiasco" which attempts to scrutinize the history of the American-led efforts in Iraq during 2003-2005. The first couple of chapters are a very interesting and compelling look into the inner-workings of our government and how policy and plans slowly become action. I do not pretend to be a staunch supporter of our government's recent efforts in the Middle East, but nor am I a fierce detractor. I am merely a Soldier that served in Iraq (Baghdad and Karbala) from May 2003 to July 2004 with the 1st Armored Division. Reading through his book's accounts I felt a wide-range of emotions. Mr. Ricks does a good job of putting together a broad overview of the U.S. and other nations' activities, but he ultimately fails in his attempt to provide the world's citizens with an accurate image of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His failure does not seem to be because of any political or personal agenda; it comes from the common error of applying "cookie-cutter" or easily defined problems and solutions to a problem and region more complex than anyone can fully comprehend.
Mr. Ricks seems to put much effort into gaining personal accounts and professional documents detailing OUR efforts in Iraq. Much of the criticism is warranted and should be heeded for any future forays into similar situations/campaigns. As he states numerous times in his book, the United States Armed Forces conduct continually reviews of its actions in order to better perform in the future and incorporate these lessons as soon as possible to help its service-members currently engaged in that conflict/issue. The history of the United States shows how we, as a people and an institution, learn from our initial failures and then ultimately succeed because we refuse to give in to defeat. This is not an Anglo-European trait, it is a trait of every contributing culture and ethnicity to the American fabric. Our success comes more from acting, sometimes failing, and then acting once again (though this time much smarter than before) faster and more effectively than any other country. Mr. Ricks talks about this topic, but does not focus on it and instead dances around it.
From reading this book one would think that a very small group of individuals actually "got it" and applied the proper counter-insurgency techniques......and much later than necessary. In reality, the same techniques and tactics this book says should have been the strategy of the American-led effort was actually employed from Day One in many sectors and units. Because the area of Baghdad contained over 100 separate military sectors, it was easy to have a wide range of techniques and procedures meant to solve the Iraq crisis. Some of these techniques were ineffective and quite counter-productive to our efforts, which the book all too readily explains. But just as many units and individuals incorporated the correct techniques and policies into daily operations. This disparity of techniques in our initial efforts during 2003 can be blamed on a lack of a solid plan and guidance at the strategic level. More specific guidance from our strategic leaders would create better operational level plans eventually allowing the military's tactical leaders to succeed and provide a solid foundation for future transformation.
My sector in northern Baghdad, quite close to the area known as Sadr City, is only one example and definitely did not become a Utopia of peace and cooperation. But the sector, and those around mine, benefited from Soldiers and leaders that understood that the hearts and minds of the local populace were more important than their physical weapons. From the beginning we engaged the local leaders, regardless of religion or political affiliation. We lived in forward bases inside the city that gave us 24-hour contact with the population; many translators and police from the neighborhood slept in cots next to ours trying to get a little rest before continuing our efforts .The locals wanted to help us so much that we would have hundreds outside of our gate (in a former civil defense bunker) giving us intelligence on local thugs and higher level criminals. Within a month we established a police force, conducting joint patrols with our Soldiers, and began a neighborhood council. As I turned over command of this sector to a very capable leader, the transition caused few issues as he took my previous efforts and built on them. Business began to re-open at a staggering pace and organized local soccer matches at the schools began again. This occurred by July 2003 and not at a much later date as Mr. Ricks' book would lead people to believe.
I later returned to my old sector to recruit individuals for the growing police and Iraqi Army. The officer that took over my sector continued his positive work allowing me to recruit over 400 potential candidates ( in a total of 6 days) for the police force even while turning away 100-200 more individuals from either personal screening efforts (medical, educational, and age) or because there was not enough time in the day. The neighborhood council we stood up went through its predictable trials and tribulations, but they all came to me during the recruiting process and thanked us, not just me, for our efforts and promised to do their best. A common comment from these peaceful, dedicated Iraqis was that they did not trust the previous police force and military. The recruiting we did helped jump-start the people's flagging confidence in their local institutions by creating their civil services from the ground up. The former police force tried to return and the citizens protested to me at my bunker in the middle of their sector. They wanted a new force that protected them, not one that intimidated them.
It would be nice to have a full account of our efforts in Iraq that acknowledged every individual's actions both American/Coalition and Iraqi. But this is almost impossible to do because it would never fit in a 439 page book; maybe a 439 volume edition would come closer, but still not complete. And to be fair to the actual truth on the ground the author(s) should interview the Sergeants, Lieutenants, and Captains that interacted daily and hourly with the people and leaders. The Generals do a great job of managing the bigger picture, but they can only regurgitate the reports they receive, usually edited by many staff officers in their headquarters. They do not have the time to get to every house and neighborhood like many of us could; if they did, our higher headquarters would not function. These senior warriors understand that and pushed their Soldiers to tell their story to anyone that would listen.
Mr. Ricks makes a very valiant effort to give us, as creatures demanding instant information and gratification, an account detailing all of the important issues and experiences in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I believe it is impossible to have a complete understanding of the situation unless you actually walked the ground and lived the experience; even then you get a very limited view of events. I thoroughly enjoyed reading his account and recommend it to anyone, but as with many accounts, it gives a very narrow view of actual events.
Mr. Ricks, thank you for providing a more informative account of our efforts in Iraq, now I challenge you to dig deeper and get more of the "ground truth" from the Marines and Soldiers that walked the streets....I look forward to the sequel.
on July 25, 2006
Tom Ricks gets it and he reports it. We should not get mad at him for reporting what he sees. He admits up front that he had more access to criminal information than he had to citations of heroism. Why the departments of the Services would not provide the awards information he requested is stunningly typical. While Ricks does a great job of demonstrating the shifting nature of the enemy, he aims too low in his criticism. I've yet to see a book to hang the responsibility for improper planning where it belongs: on General Tommy Franks, who has demonstrated he couldn't fight his way out of a wet paper bag. He blew it in Afghanistan, refusing send to in enough troops and not having the nerve to pull the trigger on Bin Laden when he was in the cross hairs. And he did worse in Iraq; he cut and run, cutting his tour short by a year so he could retire and make millions on his book instead of properly planning and overseeing the execution of Phase IV. Cobra II is another must read on this topic. Likewise, for a good fiction take of why we are where we are, Rogue Threat by Aiden Rocke also serves us well. In Fiasco, Ricks bites hard on the military, sometimes deserved, sometimes not. At the end of the day, though, the picture he paints from a strategic perspective is accurate. We have a fight on our hands.
The United States is preparing for war against Iraq shortly after September 11, 2001, only its citizens aren't aware of it. From its preparation to execution, a series of blunders will turn Iraq into the equivalent for the United States what Afghanistan was for the Soviet Union.
First, the Bush/Cheney administration has to market it to the American people. They do this through a campaign of spreading fear. They orchestrate a campaign claiming first, Iraq has weapons of mass destruction (nukes), that there is a terrorist relationship between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, and that we need to deliver the Iraqi people from oppression.
After the military successfully rolls up the Taliban in Afghanistan, and are on the verge of capturing Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora, Bush turns his eyes and forces toward Iraq. So, begins a new series of blunders, with Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz insisting the war can be fought on the "cheap." With few troops and a simple-minded strategy, the US will turn Iraq over to an ally, Ahmed Chalabi, who is already spying against the United States for Iran. Army Chief of Staff General Shinsheki challenges this optimistic assessment and retires two years prematurely. The message is clear. Honest military assessments will not be tolerated.
With generals willing to do the administration's bidding, an incompetent viceroy named L. Paul Bremer, and a bungling, civilian organization (CPA) created from inexperienced but sycophantic republican party loyalists, the stage is set for the creation of an insurgency.
Generals Franks and Sanchez lack a cohesive strategy and objectives for the occupation never planned for. Some generals in their area of operation will fuel the insurgency by breaking into homes, holding females as hostages, and robbing Iraqi's of their dignity. Then, abu Ghraib happens. When one officer asks a group of marines what they are watching on the TV, a description of abu-Ghraib, a marine responds: "We're watching us lose the war." So much for the third reason for invasion.
Thomas Ricks describes the Iraq experience as valuable lessons lost. First, there is no strategy. Second, and equally important, US forces are unprepared for counterinsurgency operations and training of Iraqi forces, which is the expertise of the badly misused Special Forces (Green Berets). It is the Vietnam experienced replayed. Although some farsighted generals have shifted gears, it may be too little and too late. Worse, al-Qaeda now has what it never had before and always wanted, a base of operations in the Middle East, courtesy of Messers Bush and Cheney.
The president has often promised that he will not interfere with the generals' decisions, nor make politically expedient ones regarding Iraq or our military. In this fact-based, unemotional narrative, it is clear Bush has done everything he promised not to do e.g. he forced the marines into a battle at Fallujah after Blackwater Security personnel were butchered. The culprits are never found. He knew of Bremer's extreme incompetence by 2004, but did not wish to make a change because it was an election year. The Coalition Provisional Authority was manned by short-time, incompetent politically-appointed personnel.
This book is the only one of its kind about Iraq. It is well-written. It changes direction frequently as sub-plots to an overall picture. While this may annoy some readers, I enjoyed the change of "scenery," as well as the author's ability to make dry facts, interesting.
When you finish reading you can only come to the conclusion that this administration has been playing with the lives of our sons and daughters.
It is time they are called to account for their actions.
Much of what Thomas Ricks offers in this work can be found elsewhere, the material covered in other books and articles including Mr. Ricks' own excellent coverage. That said, no other work so thoroughly reviews the data of the lead up to the Iraq war and the occupation. The author's contacts, garnered as the Washington Post's Pentagon respondent remain second to none and thus many of his sources come from within the uniformed services, both currently active and retired. What comes forward is a frightening picture of a Bush administrations hell bent on going to war and willing to go to any length to sell the policy.
Mr. Ricks methodically combs through the data, showing how the administration hyped up the threat posed by Iraq while minimizing the risks. Where Bush defenders continue to accuse all those who disagree with the policy of being "Monday morning quarterbacks," Ricks shows how time and again the critics of their policy, at the time they were being implemented, were brushed aside as being defeatist. Generals like Anthony Zinni and Norman Schwarzkopf, both of whom made clear that any occupation of Iraq would be the most difficult operation undertaken by the US since WW II were accused of "not understanding" the facts. Paul Bremmer's CIA liaison's advice that disbanding the Iraqi army and debathificaiton would provoke a mass insurgency found himself ignored.
More frightening still is the continual demonstration of the arrogance of power and how bureaucratic infighting in Washington led to soldiers returning home in flag draped coffins. Don Rumsfield's desire to undercut the State Department led to the rejection of all American expertise in reconstruction. Far from a coherent plan for what to do after defeating Saddam, the White House relied on an ad hoc policy. Instead of leaving it in the hands of experts, the primary job qualification for work on reconstruction seemed in most cases to be a demonstrated loyalty to the GOP. Most shocking of all, as Ricks points out, the only one to pay the price for the Administrations failings remain the grunts being wounded and killed in battle.
The very fine Cobra II offers greater detail on the military failures of the current war. However, that work ends in 2003 and does not offer as greater detail on the internal policy formation that left us with the current debacle. Anyone wishing to understand where we are and how we got there must study this important work.
on September 25, 2006
I enjoyed Fiasco a great deal, but it had a few too many flaws for 5 stars.
Firstly, I think Ricks is courting controversy with the title, and occasionally the tone. I enjoyed it because it gave some insight into the minds of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Bremmer. It explained why they refused to trust certain people, or negative intel reports, no matter how dire the warnings. Of course, this explanation is not an excuse, and the fiasco of the first few years of the Iraq war rests squarely on their heads.
The controversy rears its head again when Rich uses words like arrogant, ignorant, and reckless to explain the behavior of many in the administration. This may be true, but its not a neutral analysis of the facts, which speak for themselves. Ricks should allow the reader to do the name-calling.
The facts, as presented by Ricks, are this:
*** Nobody involved in the invasion of Iraq had a clear and consistent idea of why we should invade Iraq. This is a huge red flag for a lack of a coherent plan. The newbie war architects mistook a series of tactics for an actual strategy. Find WMDs? Depose Sadam? These are tactics, but what is the actual goal? And why should it involve invasion? Without an answer, your generals and COs cannot adjust their tactics to achive the goal.
*** There was no plan for post-war Iraq. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz sincerely believed it would be a breeze, and refused to draw up any realistic plans for the occupation, reconstruction, or counter insurgency. The Pentagon and the State Department gave warnings multiple times, but they were ignored by those who refused to come up with a Plan B in case we weren't greeted with flowers.
*** Nobody had a strategy for how to define "victory." Therefore, tactical success could never translate into strategic success. Several Special-Forces units did an excellent job, because they assumed that the strategy here was similar to previous anti-terror campaigns in the Philippines. However, their work was frequently undone by short-sighted and ignorant bureaucrats, meddling bloodthirsty politicians, or selfish security contractors.
*** There was, basically, nobody in charge. Therefore, nobody would be held responsible for the fiasco. Therefore, it happened... and those would should have been held accountable were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom... which is not good for troop morale.
There are many more, all well documented, and supported by hundreds of named and unnamed sources.
Because of its controversy, this book has many detractors. There are several on Amazon who give it a paltry one star. However, it is pretty clear that these people did not read the book at all, and are reacting to just the controversy.
Ricks may have won over some of them if with a different title, and with a more neutral point of view in the book. Or perhaps some people will never accept that their favorite politicians make serious mistakes.
on July 29, 2006
I first learned about 'Fiasco' while listening to Mr. Ricks on Charlie Rose, and was immediately impressed by Ricks' understanding of fighting a CoIn(counter-insurgency) war.
I'm also completely appalled at what he says has been happening and has happened since the first three months after Saddam's government was toppled.
As a combat veteran and journalist from a counterinsurgency war in which the US did effectively use the hard-earned lessons of Vietnam, I was almost in disbelief to read that what was learned in Vietnam and so well-applied in Central America was totally lost and forgotten when the US needs it the most: fighting the counter-insurgency war of the new millenium.
Shivers were already running up my spine when I heard in a CSPAN interview of fellow Cold War veteran, Bob Baer, when he mentioned how this is the new 'Cold War', but now what is so well described by Mr. Ricks really just blows the mind...the late Col. Hackworth was right: "they just threw out the well-learned lessons of previous war."
...yet again, the military forgets that battles are won on the field, and wars are won through politics...and one does not equate the other--win over the people and you win the war.
Ricks recommendation is to drop military personnel by 2/3rds and make that military force all advisors in Iraq...something well accomplished in counterinsurgency wars during the time between Vietnam and the fall of the Soviet Union...but yet, again Bush is learning the lesson of Johnson, who should have stayed with Kennedy's small military advisors group instead of the ramping up he did in Vietnam from 1964 to 1968.
Mistreat the local civilian populace and you add to the ranks of the enemy...
Thomas E. Ricks knows his stuff...and the military personnel who Ricks interviewed--if only the higher-ups will listen to these men and women in the field. Ricks also recommended one of his sources: Col. H.R. McMasters who wrote a book on the lessons of Vietnam, called 'Dereliction of Duty'...well worth reading, too!