- Unknown Binding
- Publisher: The Penguin Press; 1St Edition edition (2009)
- ASIN: B003VCM9JE
- Average Customer Review: 107 customer reviews
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The Gamble Unknown Binding – 2009
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A very honest straight forward book.
Pre-COIN, the US forces were generally housed in large Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) from which they would conduct mechanised patrols. This physical isolation fostered a dehumanization of the other side by both the Iraqis and the Americans.
For the Iraqis the Americans were simply temporary foreign invaders who moved around in fast moving machines encased in protective steel. Psychologically, it is a lot easier to kill a machine than a human being. Similarly Iraqis could see little benefit in helping the transitory Americans, when the real enemy would come and kill them once the Americans had passed through.
For the US soldier the physical isolation from the population encouraged him to dangerously generalize about all Iraqis being the enemy. Generalization prevents you from knowing your enemy; from accurately identifying him, from discerning his motivations, and thus ultimately from accurately assessing the best means to combat him. Generalization also leads to depersonalization which in turn leads to the excess in Haditha with which the books opens.
The COIN strategy was a hugely courageous gamble. It was politically courageous to ask for many more troops at a time that Iraq was going downhill fast. It was professionally courageous. If it didn't work then Petraeus, Odierno and everyone else closely associated with it could kiss their careers goodbye. But most of all it took enormous courage by every soldier who had to implement COIN on the ground. Living amongst the population also meant living closer to the enemy. Being selective as to whom to engage required more fortitude than simply eliminating an entire building through massive firepower.
Once COIN took hold the advantages became palpable. From an Intelligence viewpoint it was a virtuous circle. With Iraqis knowing and trusting the Americans the virtually non-existent HumInt increased dramatically. The better targeting allied to the increased number of surge troops put huge pressure on the enemy which resulted in literally putting them on the run. Forced to become more mobile necessitated greater use of electronic communication, which in turn proved a bonanza for US SigInt.
Better targeting resulted in less innocent victims, which proved a big force multiplier. It decreased the number of families who felt the need to revenge an unnecessary death. Furthermore it gave an increasing number of Iraqis the idea that the Americans had a real investment in the outcome and therefore that they may benefit from aligning themselves against the real enemies.
Fortunately for the Americans, but most of all for the average Iraqi, COIN proved about as successful as any strategy could have been given the chaos that Iraq was in before its implementation. Iraq is still a powder keg, but at least it has been given the chance not to blow up.
There is so much more to this fascinating book which leaves the reader with a better appreciation of the intelligence of the American system of waging war. They may make a lot of mistakes, but they do have the ability to re-evaluate and repair themselves in order to approach the problem in a new way.
You understand through this book the surge was more than just an increase in the troop levels. It was a radically change in stragegy. Those two things together brought about the victory.
This book tells the story in a unique way. You really get to know the principle characters, who they are, their motivations, their background and such. The author also takes time to discuss the principle staff working behind the scenes. This really adds to the story a great deal. I also liked how he integrates certain stories about what happended at the ground pounder level and how that impact things up the chain.
This book also has some inside knowledge. He mentions certain events and subjects that the press didn't know or choose not to report. I know personally some of the events he talks about was classified when it occurred. Now those events are in this book. Those stories really enhances the book and frames things in a new light.
He also covers the Iranian issues in great detail no one else dares to do. This information will cause the reader to again look at the Iraq issue with new glasses.
No matter what your opinion of the war you should read this book. It covers things like nothing else. This book should be the standard textbook about the war.