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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The quest for sustainable security, February 10, 2009
This review is from: The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008 (Hardcover)
In Fiasco, Thomas Ricks told the story of American military involvement in Iraq through 2005. His new book is based on a series of interviews with General Petraeus and other military staff conducted in Baghdad and Washington concerning events from 2006-2008. Although the "Surge" is often characterized as an unqualified success, Ricks argues that the final grade for this part of the American adventure in Iraq is a "solid incomplete." He also suggests that the details of this military reformation and counterattack are, to date, barely known.

The author describes the transition under General Petraeus from traditional warfare to counterinsurgency which is "founded on the concept that the civilian population isn't the playing field but rather the prize." This change represented both an implicit criticism of past military practice in Iraq and "a major intellectual, cultural, and emotional shift" for American forces. Petraeus' unusual advisors in this effort include an Aussie counterinsurgency specialist, a British expert on the Mid-East who opposes the war and a "pacifistic Arab turned New Yorker."

In a brisk narrative, Ricks describes changes in strategy and tactics that aim at creating security for Iraqi civilians rather than racking up body counts of insurgents. Violence is reduced and confidence is built by the provisional government culminating in the Maliki led attack on Basra in March of 2008.

In the end, Ricks agrees that the most that can be achieved in Iraq is Petraeus' vision of "sustainable security." The best case scenario, he projects, is that "in the long run, Iraq would calm down, be mildly authoritarian, and probably become an ally of Iran, but, with luck, not one that threatened the rest of the Arab world." He argues that McCain's campaign rhetoric describing Iraq as a future beacon of democracy is at odds with the General's more realistic hope as well as with all we have learned in the last 5 years of partially successful nation building. Ricks goes as far as to describe McCain's view as verging on fantasy.

In sum, says the author, "the surge was the right step to take, or more precisely, the least wrong move in a misconceived war." The ultimate result of the Iraq war according to Ambassador Crocker is still very much in doubt and "is going to be a very, very long time in unfolding." Petraeus' efforts as recounted by Ricks were both bold and well-executed but their benign impact was circumscribed by the complex nature of the challenges facing Iraq.

Although a more detailed and nuanced analysis probably awaits us in the future, Ricks delivers a timely and convincing narrative of how an intellectual in the military used a non traditional approach to bring the US and Iraq back from the brink of disaster to the edge of "sustainable security."
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 23, 2009 10:29:32 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 23, 2009 10:52:29 AM PDT
Cat Mandu says:
Sounds like a good book, I would have liked to have bought it. Being a member of that team, that does not appear in the media, and does not talk to reporters, I know and have ultimate respect for most of those who contributed to the 'stabilization' of Iraq- most Americans dont seem to see that in addition to the problems with the campaign, the mess in Iraq is a direct result of the Bush administration pulling the new Iraqi government right off the international terrorist list, trying the "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" deal that NEVER worked for us. That is a topic I am yet to see ONE article about- this new Iraqi government is neither democratic nor has the best interest of the Iraqi people in mind, they are Islamic fanatics (both Sunni and Shia) or terrorists who have been using violence to get what they want for the past 30 years, why change now- we basically backed a Shia version of the Taliban, but that is not why I am writing...
I did not buy it as when I picked it up, and read the jacket, I saw that on the book cover the author introduces people I know quite well and worked with in Iraq as 'experts' when they are nothing of the sort, it would have been good if he had done more background research before writing such ridiculous nonsense... In his book he bolsters the fraud sold by many before Gen Petraeus's return to Iraq, selling themselves as 'heroes' when they actually WERE the problem, most of them have been in Iraq in the Bremer days, and contributed to making Iraq the mess it became. Gen Petraeus is one of my few heroes, a very intelligent and competent man, as was most of his staff (such as Col Mansoor, Col Rapp and Col McMasters). I strongly object, though, to comments like "Emma Sky, an anti-military expert on the Middle East"- as, aside from her deliberate actions that put my life at risk, personally, so that she can 'be close to the stars', during the rocket attacks in the IZ in 2008- she is no expert on the Middle East, or any where else, degrees, as has been proven in this war, mean nothing. Add to that she was in Iraq working as an adviser in the North, during Bremer's time, working for the Kurds, whose leadership has been showing their true colors- where the victims of Saddam's gassing, are not seeing any benefit from the US actions. Other areas she worked in are now the most volatile area as a direct result of 'expert opinions' that alienated 1/3 of the Iraqi population. She has malignant reasons for being in Iraq, that do not serve the best interests of the Iraqi people or the US in any way, more like, has every reason to back the exact sectarian and racial divisions that were created by Iraq expatriate liars to grab the power over one of the largest oil rich countries in the world. The people we have backed to rule Iraq have proven that they are even worse than Saddam could have ever been, and one can walk on the streets of Iraq hearing people wishing for the return of Saddam, even those who lost so much under him, as Saddam's hell, was so much better than the hell of the last 5 years of 'democrocy'. Emma Sky is THE MOST hated member of Gen Odierno's current team, even the highest ranking officers leave meetings in rage after listening to her ignorant idiotic comments in matters she has no business commenting on. Her advice and actions are the exact reasons contributing to the rising violence in that country today, why this is tolerated, is a question I can not explore here. I resigned after watching her doing her best to honor 'under the table deals' made by greedy officials in the Bush administration, that had given rise to the sectarian disaster in 2006/2007, which Gen Petraeus's team worked day and night to 'correct' and bring balance back to the power sharing in Iraq today. She claims she 'speaks Arabic'- as a bilingual person myself who is fluent in Arabic, I can assure you, as backed by Iraqi high ranking officials, she does not, she can put a few sentences together in broken Arabic. It is fraudulent 'experts' such as Emma Sky who sold our soldier's lives short for power, fame, and in this case malicious intentions.. When I left, she was authorizing the release of militia members who have killed US soldiers using her position to allow murders to walk free, regardless of how many US soldiers they have killed!!! But she would not care, she is not an American, American lives mean nothing to her, and if by supporting the evil Iranian backed Iraqi government officials she serves her masters in creating cohos in Iraq, which will give them more 'regional power'- with complete disregard for US lives- she will do so!!!!
The truth will come out eventually-I dont understand why the author has not done more background research into this before printing such nonsense, but I am sure, there is so much more to come of heroes in the media who in reality are not heroes at all, it is disgusting....

Posted on Mar 23, 2009 10:52:45 AM PDT
Cat Mandu says:
Sounds like a good book, I would have like to buy it. Being a member of that team, I know and have ultimate respect for most of those who contributed to the 'stabilization' of Iraq. I did not buy it as on the book cover the author introduces people I know and worked with in Iraq in an incorrect way, it would have been good if he had done more research... In his book he bolsters the fraud sold by many before Gen Petraeus's return to Iraq, selling themselves as 'heroes' when they WERE the problem, most of them have been in Iraq in the Bremer days, and contributed to making Iraq the mess it is. Gen Petraeus is one of my few heroes, a very intelligent and competent man, as was most of his staff. I strongly object, though, to comments like "Emma Sky, an anti-military expert on the Middle East"- as, aside from her deliberate actions that put my life at risk, personally, so that she can 'be close to the stars', when she had more than one option of 'a safe place to be' during the rocket attacks in the IZ last year- she is no expert on the Middle East, or any where else. Add to that she was in Iraq working as an adviser in the North, during Bremer's time, working for the Kurds, whose leadership has been showing their true colors- where the victims of Saddam's gassing, are not seeing any benefit from the US actions. Other areas she worked in are now the most volatile area as a direct result of 'expert opinions' that alienated 1/3 of the Iraqi population. She has malignant reasons for being in Iraq, that do not serve the best interests of the Iraqi people or the US in any way, more like, has every reason to back the exact sectarian and racial divisions that were created by Iraq expatriate liars to grab the power over one of the largest oil rich countries in the world. The people we have backed to rule Iraq have proven that they are even worse than Saddam could have ever been, and one can walk on the streets of Iraq hearing people wishing for the return of Saddam, even those who lost so much under him, as Saddam's hell, was so much better than the hell of the last 5 years of 'democrocy'. Emma Sky is THE MOST hated member of Gen Odierno's current team, even the highest ranking officers leave meetings in rage after listening to her ignorant idiotic comments in matters she has no business commenting on. Her advice and actions are the exact reasons contributing to the rising violence in that country today, why this is tolerated, is a question I can not explore here. I resigned after watching her doing her best to honor 'under the table deals' made by greedy officials in the Bush administration, that had given rise to the sectarian disaster in 2006/2007, which Gen Petraeus's team worked day and night to 'correct' and bring balance back to the power sharing in Iraq today. She claims she 'speaks Arabic'- as a bilingual person myself who is fluent in Arabic, I can assure you, as backed by Iraqi high ranking officials, she does not, she can put a few sentences together in broken Arabic. It is fraudulent 'experts' such as Emma Sky who sold our soldier's lives short for power, fame, and in this case malicious intentions.. When I left, she was authorizing the release of militia members who have killed US soldiers using her position to allow murders to walk free, regardless of how many US soldiers they have killed!!! But she would not care, she is not an American, American lives mean nothing to her, and if by supporting the evil Iranian backed Iraqi government officials she serves her masters in creating cohos in Iraq, which will give them more 'regional power'- with complete disregard for US lives- she will do so!!!!
The truth will come out eventually-I dont understand why the author has not done more background research into this before printing such nonsense, but I am sure, there is so much more to come of heroes in the media who in reality are not heroes at all, it is disgusting....
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