Thomas Ricks on Iraq

I read Thomas Ricks’ Fiasco earlier this year. That was all about the invasion and bungling of the war in Iraq. He has a new book out, The Gamble, about the surge. Despite being frustrated by the book, I thought it was illuminating. I may pick up The Gamble because I don’t think I’ve got nearly the same coverage of information on the surge as I did on earlier efforts in Iraq. I haven’t decided yet.

I did take the opportunity to attend a speaking event he did at the Seattle Public Library on Thursday. It’s kind of the 20 minute version of his book. Here’s the points I took away from it (some of these came from the Q&A):

  • Ricks sees Obama’s approach as somewhat similar to Bush’s, pre-surge days. At the time, Bush’s policy was to turn as much stuff over to the Iraqis and get the hell out. They weren’t ready, and the things we did were counter-productive. Obama’s policy is to get out by middle of next year. Which means we’d have to turn as much stuff over to the Iraqis as possible and get the hell out. It could be doomed to as much failure as Bush’s attempt.
  • There’s no good options anymore. It’s trying to figure out the least bad option.
  • The surge failed. Security is better, but there’s been no political compromise. The point was to improve security so political compromise could be made.
  • Shiites believe they won, so they don’t want to compromise. Sunnis believe they are linked to Sunnis in the region and so should have more clout. Kurds will attempt to be as separate as possible de facto, no matter the result. None have any proclivity to compromise.
  • He sees Pakistan as the real danger. Iraq won’t be solved, but they don’t have the infrastructure to be dangerous. Afghanistan might be solved, and they don’t have the infrastructure either. Pakistan might fall apart, and they have nuclear weapons.

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