Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Fiasco- Thomas E. Ricks on the Iraq conflict
This books seems to me a fairly good complement to Sandra Mackey's The Reckoning- the U.S. side. The NY Times review linked above probably is more interesting than my own commentary. A couple of points that struck me were:
1) even in this text the U.S. doesn't seem to understand how fractured or sectarian things are here- it is not just Shia, Sunni, and Kurd, but multiple factions within each of these groups. And the difference between those factions and say multiple factions within the democratic or republican party, these are deadly differences, such as the Badr/Sadr shootout in Karbala this past month. A good deal of the violence can be attributed to Shia vs Shia, most especially here in the south.
2) the types of soldiers that are ideal for counterinsurgency, the Special Forces, are in short supply, and can't cover all of the terrain here, so we have a large force that in many cases (as Ricks notes) works against the efforts of the Special Forces contingent. He notes the laments of many Civil Affairs guys as they see their "bridge building" efforts torn apart. The larger force is getting SOME training in counterinsurgency, and some units do it better than others, but my suspicion is that we could all do it much better.
As for those who think this book is a left-wing rip of the military and its highest leaders, both civilian and military, I think he was entirely fair, and he was using plenty of documentation to support his assertions. It doesn't