Book Review & Notes
Book Title: The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008.
Author: Thomas E. Ricks
Publisher: The Penguin Press
Date Reviewed: May 20, 2009
1. Abu-Ghraib Spring 2004
2. Australian counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen-the way to win at counterinsurgency is not to attack the enemy but instead protect and win over the people. Destroy the enemy, but not by killing him but by isolating him and making him irrelevant. The best insurgent is not a dead one, who might leave behind a relative seeking revenge, but one who is ignored by the population and perhaps is contemplating changing sides, bringing with him invaluable information.p.6
3. Haditha- 7:15 AM Saturday November 19, 2005. Kilo company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. 24 Iraqi civilians, many of them women and children, KIA after a roadside bomb killed 1 Marine and wounded 2 others.
4. June 7, 2006 Abu Musab al-Zarqawi KIA at Hibhib, 35 miles north of Baghdad, by two 500 lbs bombs from an F-16. Arabic copy of Newsweek magazine found in rubble.
5. P.51 David Kilcullen describes the “Kiss of Death” in regards to the American failure to hold territory once it had gained it. “ Then…insurgents kill those who cooperated with us.”
6. P.160 . It is axiomatic that good tactics cannot fix a bad strategy, but that a good strategy tends to fix bad tactics, because the inappropriateness of those actions becomes self-evident when seen against the larger scheme. For example, in a mission where the top priority explicitly is protecting the people, there would be no excuse for an incident like Haditha.
7. Colonel H.R. McMaster , 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment– Rugby player with Ph.D. in History. Clear-Hold and Build. Tall Afar- Northwest Iraq. 2005. A city of 250,000 with smuggling routes to Syria pacified and exemplary of good COIN. First successful large scale Coin-op of the Iraq war.“Every time you treat an Iraqi disrespectfully, you are working for the insurgency.” Cut off the city from supply routes and then established 29 outposts in neighborhoods. COL Sean McMaster did the same in Ramadi in 2006-7.
8. The American Enterprise Institute. Right wing think-tank is the mecca for neo-cons. Birthplace of the Iraq invasion plan. Boxy building across the street from National Geographic Society’s headquarters in Washington D.C. also houses the Weekly Standard and the project for the new American Century (an advocacy group for an aggressive interventionist foreign policy).
9. P.168 Lt. Tim Gross, “Protect the innocent, punish the deserving.”
10. The Golden Dome Mosque in Samarra, 65 miles north of Baghdad. 6:44 AM; February 22, 2006. One of the most holy sites in Shia Islam destroyed by AQI. Not the spark for civil war (already occurring since March 2005) but like gasoline on a fire. Leads to mass exodus of Iraqi elite, sectarian violence and silences any American argument that enough troops are already on the ground. Considered by many as the tipping point for Rumsfeld’s flawed strategy.
11. P. 197. An old military aphorism holds that, “Amateurs talk tactics, but professionals talk logistics. In fact, real military insiders often focus on larger personnel issues—raising, training, and equipping the force—because that is the key to long-term, sustainable success.
12. P198. It is axiomatic that it is indigenous forces that finally put down insurgencies, not foreign militaries.”
13. P.215 LTC Jeffrey Kulmayer…all told the Americans arrived at local cease-fires with 779 local militias…Summer 2007-2008…some as small as 10 men, some as big as 800 armed fighters. We were imitating Saddam Hussein WWSD?
14. P.215. COL Gian Gentile asserts that “we did not fail”… “In my opinion, we succeeded.” Regarding the perception of pre-surge commanders being on a losing trajectory. Argued with COL Peter Mansoor on Small Wars Journal, and asserted that the real successes of the surge beginning in summer 2007 were due to the cease-fires with the Sunni insurgents and the Sadrists militias who then turned on AQI, plus al-Sadr’s decision to stand down.
15. P.231. 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act Military reorganization which made the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs the principal military advisor to the president and the SecDef. Cut the service chiefs out of military operations. Also created the “combatant commanders” the powerful princes of the military: Central com-European com-Southern com- Pacific com-and two specialized HQs: SOCOM and Strategic com (for nuclear weapons)
16. P.249 On the Democrats pointing out that Petraeus’s goal to reduce troop levels down to 130,000 after 10 months only brought the numbers essentially back to pre-surge status. One Centcom officer gleefully summarized: “It was like doing a fifty percent mark-up, and then offering a half-off sale.”
17. P.283. One of the harshest lessons of the Iraq war, as well as earlier ones such as Vietnam, has been that a military victory doesn’t necessarily translate into a political gain—which is one reason that military operation can’t be judged in tactical terms.