Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Never Mind

Thomas Ricks, of Fiasco fame that failed to see our progress in the Iraq War and mistook normal errors in war for American defeat, writes about our victory in Iraq:

Back when I was regularly writing about Iraq and talking about it on television, I read everything the Washington Post's Thomas Ricks wrote about the war. From his devastating book "Fiasco" to his daily reporting from Baghdad and the Pentagon, Ricks was the nation's top expert on the folly of the U.S. mission in Iraq, from inept prewar planning to postwar execution to a botched occupation that led the U.S. to the brink of defeat without its leadership having a clue how bad things really were.

Imagine my surprise, and also perhaps Ricks', to find his new book, "The Gamble: General Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq 2006-2008," telling an admiring, often inspiring story of the way the American military came back from humiliation thanks to the so-called surge, which so many Democrats, myself included, passionately opposed. If you enjoyed "Fiasco," thrilled to have your prejudices about the clueless Bush administration confirmed, it's your responsibility to read "The Gamble" to have some prejudices challenged. In "Fiasco" decisions are made by knaves and buffoons like Donald Rumsfeld, Iraq reconstruction czar L. Paul Bremer and Iraq's first commander, Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez; in "The Gamble," the action is dominated by men Ricks respects, like retired Gen. Jack Keane, along with David Petraeus and his deputy, Gen. Raymond Odierno.

He appears to square the circle by arguing that the war was all disaster until the latest crew reversed a sure defeat with a gamble that led to military victory. Lots on the right argue this way, too. They are wrong. We were defeating the enemies we faced in Iraq until the Samarra Golden Dome mosque bombing signalled the start of the Iranian and Syrian effort to spark a civil war using Sadrists and their Iranian pals on one side and al Qaeda in Iraq on the other.

We reacted in the summer 2006 to this new phase of war but our reaction failed to stem the tide. The surge was our adaptation that defeated the enemy civil war strategy. Petraeus and the crew deserve credit for coming up with the plan, getting it adopted by President Bush, and executing it to victory, but the surge built on past success from 2003 through 2005. And even 2006 saw progress in training Iraqis that would bear fruit in the surge in 2007.

The only surge gamble was that we could win the war before the Left and their enablers in the press like Ricks could write about Fiasco II: The Surge and lose the war that our military was winning.

I still think Ricks is a good reporter. But he is in over his head with strategy and military history. And even writing a book about how we won is unlikely to change my mind on that score.