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Tell Me How This Ends: General David Petraeus and the Search for a Way Out of Iraq Hardcover – September 2, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Robinson (author in residence, Johns Hopkins Univ.; Masters of Chaos) tackles a subject that has been the focus of the nation's attention since 2003. Although it can be easy to overlook yet another book on Iraq, she brings an insider's perspective to the subject. Based on her reporting, interviews, travels to Iraq, and unpublished sources, her book focuses on both military and political issues, lessons learned in the early years of the war, General Petraeus's approach to the latter phase of the war, the results of his approach, and suggestions for the next administration. Robinson does a great job of refreshing the reader's memories about events in Iraq before and after Petraeus; however, her own right-leaning political beliefs occasionally come through, and some readers may find her tone one-sided. For those less well versed in the Iraq War, a map and a list with the "Principal Cast of Characters" come in handy. Recommended for larger public and academic libraries.—Jenny Seftas, Southwest Florida Coll. Lib., Fort Myers
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“New York Times Notable Book of the Year”

James Traub, New York Times Book Review, October 5, 2008

“…the first book about this new Iraq. It’s a first-rate piece of work, probing and conscientious.”

David Kirkpatrick, The New York Times, October 26, 2008
“an admiring account of the troop “surge” in Iraq that Mr. McCain was among the first to embrace.”

Colonel Gregory Fontenot, Military Review, November/December issue
“As a rule, hyperbole is permissible for the ‘blurbs’ on the jacket of books and not in reviews, but in the case of Linda Robinson’s Tell Me How This Ends, it’s a hard one to follow. Robinson’s book is among the best written about the war in Iraq….”

Military Times, November 17, 2008
“The author who persuaded press-shy Special Forces soldiers to open up in the fascinating “Masters of Chaos: The Secret History of the Special Forces” (PublicAffairs, 2004) has done it again. This time, she persuaded Petraeus — now head of U.S. Central Command — and others in Iraq to talk, and she listened. And evidently, she took good notes. The result is not as dramatic as “Chaos,” but given the themes — politics and management — the insights in “Tell Me How This Ends” make the book worthwhile contemporary history and, foremost, military biography.”

John Nagl, Army Magazine, December issue
“Likely to remain the best analysis of General Petraeus’ role in the decisive years of the war in Iraq short of the general’s own memoirs.”


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1 edition (September 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586485288
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586485283
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,238,400 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joseph J. Collins on August 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Linda Robinson's "Tell Me How This Ends: General Petraeus and the Search for a Way Out of Iraq" is a superb addition to the next wave of Iraq War literature: the Surge Assessments. Hitting the ground before new books by Gordon, Ricks, Woodward, et al., Robinson of the "US News and World Report" tells more than the tale of how a General and his wizards turned around a failed military effort. "Tell Me How This Ends" is a holistic picture of the Surge. It takes the reader from fractious discussions in the White House --- where a beleaguered President pushed aside all of his senior military advisors to go the extra mile for success --- down to the burning fighting vehicles of the troops who bought battlefield progress with their blood. Robinson's battle stories of the 5th Cavalry, 26th Infantry, 23d Infantry, 10th Mountain Division, and the Marines in Anbar will quiet those who think we can't take a punch or fight this kind of war.

At the same time, Robinson knows her counterinsurgency theory. She portrays the struggle for Iraq as essentially a political contest and spends many pages discussing how Ambassador Ryan Crocker and his team prodded the Maliki government to act in the whole nation's interest. Among the more interesting pages are those on the Awakening, the process whereby Sunni tribesmen were turned against the vicious, foreign influences of Al Qaeda. Equally interesting were the chapters on how the central (Shiite-dominated) Iraqi government is dealing with those armed Sunnis, who are, at least for now, nominally on their side. Another highlight --- at least for this old soldier-bureaucrat --- was the inner workings of Team Petraeus and how this remarkable General adapted a standard military bureaucracy to the task of politico-military innovation.
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Format: Hardcover
In his acclaimed study of counterinsurgency, LEARNING TO EAT SOUP WITH A KNIFE, John Nagl includes this note from Vicount Montgomery of El Alamein, to the Colonial Secretary,
" Dear Lyttelton, Malaya
We must have a plan.
Secondly we must have a man.
When we have a plan and a man, we shall succeed: not otherwise.
Yours Sincerely,
Montgomery (F.M.)"

Linda Robinson, in her brilliantly conceived and executed, TELL ME HOW THIS ENDS: GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS AND THE SEARCH FOR A WAY OUT OF IRAQ. addresses the Iraq war in terms of both the plan - how it was developed, adapted, and executed - and the man: Petraeus. In so doing, she has written a classic analysis that ranges from U.S. national policy through the levels of strategy and operations down to the tactical and back again. In telling the story of General Petraeus and his plan she also tells the tales of the other actors, American and Iraqi, Ambassadors and Generals, Lt. Colonels, Captains, Sergeants, soldiers and Marines. And she shows how the smoke and sounds of battle (and the silences) flow from policies, plans, and military doctrine.

Robinson's story focuses on David Petraeus and takes the reader through a series of key mentorships and experiences. The most important mentor was General John R. Galvin who encouraged Petraeus to seek his doctorate and brought him into contact with counteinsurgency in 1986 when Galvin was the commander of the U.S. Southern Command in Panama. Robinson notes, in this context, that Petraeus co-authored Galvin's important article, "Uncomfortable Wars" dealing with counterinsurgency in Latin America published in the Army War College journal, PARAMETERS, and later in Max Manwaring's edited volume by the same title.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An overview of American and Iraqi political, military, social and religious histories plus a bio of General Petraeus told in episodic
pivotal moments of choices, impacts and combat. Like the situation, a complicated read. I learnt a ton more than anything aired on tv channel news.
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Great analysis of a great commander. Shows the human side of what it took behind the scenes to accomplish what GEN Petraeus and his people achieved. A book for anyone seriously interested in how to lead people as well as anyone interested in how Iraq has been transformed.
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A few months ago I received a wonderful gift. In anticipation of the likelihood that I would soon have an opportunity to meet General Petraeus, my friend, retired Major General David Harris, sent me a copy of Linda Robinson's carefully researched book, "Tell Me How This Ends."

Ms. Robinson has done a masterful job of presenting both the disastrous first few years of U.S. involvement in Iraq, beginning with the invasion in 2003, and the far more successful time following "the surge" under the leadership of Petraeus. The picture that Robinson paints in this book is consistent with the themes that I heard Petraeus speak about when he was at Harvard's Kennedy School a few months ago.

Of the many worthwhile passages I could have selected as excerpts to share, I have chosen one that highlights the stress of extended deployments, and one that talks about the more recent successes experienced by our troops and their Iraqi counterparts.

"The end of their fifteen-month tour was finally in sight for the Blue Spaders. They were the first active-duty unit to serve the extended tour, and the extra three months in Baghdad's most violent neighborhood had taken its toll. Nearly every day of their 443-day tour was a combat patrol. Of the battalion's 800 soldiers, 35 had been killed in action and 122 wounded, three times the casualty rate of 1-26's previous deployment to Iraq in 2004-2005. It was the highest casualty rate any battalion had suffered since the Vietnam War. Six soldiers had lost one or both legs, and many more suffered lifelong injuries. Thanks to Doc Welchel and the medics, many wounded men had survived, but there were grievous injuries, including ones that would not surface for months.
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