Ricks uses hundreds of hours of exclusive interviews with top officers in Iraq and extraordinary on-the-ground reportage to document the inside story of the Iraq War since late 2005 as only he can. He examines the events that took place as the military was forced to reckon with itself, the surge was launched, and a very different war began.
Since early 2007, a new military order has directed American strategy. Some top U.S. officials now in Iraq actually opposed the 2003 invasion, and almost all are severely critical of how the war was fought from then through 2006. At the core of the story is General David Petraeus, a military intellectual who has gathered around him an unprecedented number of officers with both combat experience and Ph.D.s.
The Gamble offers news breaking information, revealing behind-the-scenes disagreements between top commanders. We learn that almost every single officer in the chain of command fought the surge. Many of Petraeus's closest advisers went to Iraq extremely pessimistic, doubting that the surge would have any effect, and his own boss was so skeptical that he dispatched an admiral to Baghdad in the summer of 2007 to come up with a strategy to replace Petraeus's. That same boss later flew to Iraq to try to talk Petraeus out of his planned congressional testimony.
For Petraeus, prevailing in Iraq means extending the war. Thomas E. Ricks concludes that the war is likely to last another five to ten years - and that that outcome is a best case scenario. His stunning conclusion, stated in the last line of the book, is that "the events for which the Iraq war will be remembered by us and by the world have not yet happened".
©2009 Penguin Audiobooks; (P)2009 Thomas E. Ricks
mostly nonfiction listener
I've been wrong twice about Iraq. Supported the invasion. Opposed the Surge. (I also tend to think a military solution to stopping Iran from getting a nuclear bomb might be necessary - so it is a good thing that nobody listens to my thinking on the military). Ricks', "The Gamble" follows up on his masterfully depressing "Fiasco" - detailing everything that went wrong in Iraq before General Petraeus took over. What I had not realized about the Petraeus strategy was the force in which the rest of the armed forces opposed this plan, or the degree to which Petraeus was a marginal figure within the military establishment.
In order to move to a strategy where the Iraqi people were "the prize" rather then the "playing field", Petraeus had to reverse many of the Army's (one of our largest and most conservative institutions) culture and doctrine on war fighting. As I was reading "The Gamble" I kept thinking of how we need someone like Petraeus in other institutions....education, car building, maybe newspapers? Ricks' conclusion is that while the Surge was the right thing to do, a tactical success, it does not represent a strategic victory. We are in for the "long war" in Iraq, with the most salient events of the war still ahead of us.
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