Thomas E. Ricks: Fiasco The American Military Adventure in Ira



An occupation force for which they were severely undermanned Some were busy hunting for WMDs that didn t exist Others were etting ready to Christmas Countdown (Lost-Inc., go home as they had been promised Irais figured Americans didn t care or simply were incapable of taking control They soon lost any faith they may have had in their liberators Meanwhile on May 1 2003 Bush was uick to claim victory flying in a combat jet onto the deck of an aircraft carrier over which a banner claimed mission accomplished In May 2003 as the situation in Ira continued to deteriorate Paul Bremer was appointed to head the Coalition Provisional Authority He technically reported to Rumsfeld but Rumsfeld thought he reported to the White House National Security Council It didn t matter because Bremer did what he wanted General Franks was replaced by General Sanchez who reported to Central Command in Tampa which reported to Rumsfeld No single person in Ira was in charge and Bremer and Sanchez could barely stand each other Bremer wasted no time disenfranchising Irais First he fired all senior Baathist party members fromovernment run organizations That put 85000 people who knew how to operate the country s infrastructure on the street without jobs Next he dissolved the Irai Army putting 385000 men on the streets with no income and plenty of time to express their resentment Then he let Clay Yeagers Redemption (Trinity Street West, go the 285000 working for the Interior Ministry which included police and security forces The US Army had not been notified in advance of these decisions Even Rumsfeld didn t seem to know about these decisions Bremer s actions ensured the occupation would be a long one and proved to be an excellent way toet the Irai insurgency up and running Bombing and sniping increased and was widespread within a couple of months But back in Washington the Bush administration denied that there was a serious problem and still expressed confidence that that they would find WMD In July when asked about Irais attacking U S forces Bush said My answer is Bring em on A year later the Islamic Jihad Army replied Have you another challenge Bombings increased Particularly significant was the bomb laden truck that crashed into the UN mission in Ira in August 2003 killing twenty two and wounding seventy The blast broke windows a half mile away The UN reduced its presence to a token and ceased being the mediator between the US and Shiite leaders Other international organizations took note and began leaving The insur This is the definitive book on the Ira War to date It provides ample evidence that the GW Bush regime along with the Pentagon and the CIA made a false casus belli for war with Ira keenly anticipating an easy victory with Irais Dark Desires greeting American soldiers witharlands of flowers as liberators That alas was not to be Further what was The Corporate Raiders Revenge (Suite Secrets, galling was that the US had absolutely NO comprehesive plan or set of plans for rebuilding the Irai economy and re establishing basic services for the Irai people By basic services I mean water electricity sanitation services and civil institutions such as the courts and fire and police services Nor were enough troops provided not only for waging the war but also for securing the borders and laying the foundations for a timely return to normality in Ira What was also appalling was that the USovernment principally used the services of organizations sent to restore basic services in Ira which were made up of people who had ABSOLUTELY NO TRAINING OR EXPERIENCE for the reconstruction projects they headed Indeed many of these people several of them were recent college raduates were chosen because of their political fealty to Bush CheneyTo uote the author it now seems likely history s judgment will be that the US invasion of Ira in the spring of 2003 was based on perhaps the worst war plan in American history It was a campaign plan for a few battles not a plan to prevail and secure victory Its incompleteness helped create the conditions for the difficult occupation that followed The invasion is of interest now mainly for its role in creating those problemsI strongly urge any discerning reader with an interest in US foreign policy to read this book with care comparing it with David Halberstam s The Best and the Brightest I ve always enjoyed Thomas Ricks reporting in WaPo WSJ etc as well as his earlier book Making the Corps What I appreciated most about Fiasco was its crisp prose and simple level headedness In that Fiasco confirmed a belief that I have slowly been coming to that even after we invaded Ira it still really might have been ok not ood necessarily but ok But we blew opportunity after opportunity to do the right thing and it really is unredeemable now The thing that weirds me out the most though Realizing how much of this basic narrative was available to me while I was neck deep in rad school Granted I was a military history freak in jr high and high school and still read the news avidly even during seminary But if I could spot so many of our military and policy missteps as an overworked theology student what the hell was our White House and DOD doing Wasn t it their job to pay attention How bad was their information stream anyway Or were they really that arrogantly impervious to uncomfortable truths Depressing but enlightening Thomas Ricks image from the Bangor Daily News Fiasco offers a very detailed look into the disaster that has been the US invasion of Ira For those of us who have read than a few books on the subject there is an unavoidable repetition of information seen elsewhere but there is sufficient new material to justify one s time Ricks covers the range of errors from the political to the strategic to the tactical to the diplomatic and offered analysis as to what went wrong and why But he also shows where lessons were learned from recent experience although one of the When Fiasco first came out naturally there were many opinions on it ranging from fantastic to trash I kept some of the I had initially read the audio book of Ricks follow up to this book The Gamble and was impressed enough to et the print version of Fiasco It did not disappoint as a book even if it highlighted the problems with the current Ira WarRicks is a very fair judge He speaks well of many of the fine commanders on the Skylars Outlaw ground men like Gen David Petreaus who are doing the best with what they have He faults primarily the dual response from Washington both civilian and some military to see a worst case scenario as a reason too into Ira in the first place while counting on a best case scenario for an exit stradegy This leads to poor planning for the reconstruction phase and not enough people asking What if Likewise Ricks is uick to point out when certain individuals do realize how bad things are and make adjustments for the better though institutionalized problems still exist for example if a battalion or division is making real progress towards uieting things down it seems inevitable that the entire division would be rotated out for a less experienced with the locals replacement division who wouldn t have the trust of the locals Ricks finds fault with the civilian overnment news media Congress and some top commanders but he ultimately explains things in a clear and thorough manner Critically important but very difficult book to read As one who long supported Ira II to read such a thorough evisceration of the justification and strategic prosecution of the war was frankly heart rending There were errors of negligence bull headed ness stress at every level There are two hopeful elements first I learned of this book because it is being taught as part of the curriculum at West Point This demonstrates an atypical and invaluable institutional capacity for self learning Second although slowly the US military itself kept searching for tactical adjustments at the field level to the institutional failings of DC Great innovation rarely occurs at the center a strength of the West in eneral and the US military in specifi. Ncy for what it was and as a result lead their soldiers in such a way that the insurgency became inevitable.

Stated aims of the war Ira wasn t previously involved in terrorism but now it is the Middle East s most effective training Learning Yii Testing ground for radical Islamic terror fighters It would be hard to make up a comprehensive failure of both vision and policy Iuess it is uite an achievement when people like Bush Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz have otten it so wrong and are still able in their own minds to say they have otten everything completely right well at least it defies satireThis isn t just my own personal hindsight bias talking Many people and the deepest and saddest irony being that many of these people were in the US military warned against this absurd adventure only to be ignored and worse by their civilian leaders This is a remarkable book and one that provides a very disturbing insight into the asylum that for a frighteningly long time had been taken over by the lunatics If humans were able to learn from history then this fiasco would be one of the lessons I would put on the curriculum Retrospective on another important book published some years ago on Ira How has the work held upThomas Ricks book Fiasco was part of an increasing body of literature featuring and books based on the words and experiences of insiders overnment and military officials talking after the fact raising uestions about the wisdom of the original decision to invade Ira and the occupation and nation building efforts thereafter This work and others as well raises important uestions about the extent to which the American effort to create democratic nation building in Ira was doomed from the start Any number of books and articles in the subject of what it takes to create democracy and what it takes to engineer democracies speak to a project that had a low chance of success from the et Communicating Effectively go Andiven the strategic and tactical errors of the United States those originally low odds of success became lower still So Fiasco is one among several works that raised serious uestions about the outcome of the American experiment in democratic nation building in Ira Ricks book is useful in this context to this point it is one of the best efforts at The Philosophical Journey getting insights and accounts from insiders Again we need to be somewhat cautious about the many sources who spoke with the author Some have axes torind others are not necessarily the most credible sources Nonetheless this work in combination with others that have appeared raises interesting and important uestions and is an important work to explore Ira as of early 2011 appears to be wobbly but it has become a independent state and the mechanisms of Asset Protection government created over the past several years creak along We probably need a bit time to see how things end up but many of the negative analyses such as Ricks may well have been too negative Again though we need to see how history works itself out Touted by John McCain and others as the definitive Ira War book Fiascoives a detailed blow by blow account of the US 2003 invasion of Ira Writing as objectively as possible Ricks nevertheless Enzymes Enzyme Therapy gives a scathing account of the mismanagement of the war by Donald Rumsfeld Paul Bremer Paul Wolfowitz Doug Feith and the fiasco s chief architectsThe book is fascinating on many levels showing where people went wrong not only tactically but also ideologically Interestingly the only person who comes out lookingood is Petreus who Bush recently put in charge Too little too late What most surprised me about the book is that it Blindsided gives the impression that with better management and a plan the invasion might have actuall The failure of the 1991 Gulf War to take out Saddam Hussein left a small contingent of hawks looking for redress Most notable among these was then Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz who reported to Defense Secretary Dick Cheney As a policy of containment took hold Wolfowitz complained for action against Saddam but in the Bush 41 administration he did not find a receptive ear from Cheney Wolfowitz s disdain for containment may have been due to the loss of most of his Polish extended family in the holocaust Wolfowitz compared Saddam to Hitler and his security forces to the Gestapo Another advocate for action was Donald Rumsfeld who along with Wolfowitz and John Bolton belonged to an advocacyroup that issued a letter to President Clinton in 1998 demanding regime change in Ira Even though in the 2000 presidential election Bush and Cheney doubled down on a non interventionist policy Bush made Donald Rumsfeld Defense Secretary and Wolfowitz Deputy Defense Secretary Initially however Wolfowitz s only strong interventionist ally in the Bush administration was Scooter Libby Cheney s chief of staff911 changed everything Rumsfeld became disillusioned with the intelligence community and again sided with Wolfowitz Then the New York Times chimed in with reporting by Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Judith Miller claiming Ira had a WMD program housed in multiple hidden sites None of it was true but it had a big impact Bush made sure everyone knew that his administration s attitude had changed in his 2002 state of the union speech when he declared Ira along with North Korea and Iran to be an axis of evil arming to threaten the peace of the worldtime is not on our side I will not wait on events while dangers At Land gather Cheney reiterated in August 2002 saying We must take the battle to the enemy claiming There is no doubt Ira has WMD This would be proven false and to have been based on cherry picked bits of intelligence selected to prove what the hardliners already believed Cheney radically changed after 911 perhaps from fear of a repetition but also perhaps because he was suffering from serious heart problems The hardliners reinforced each other and Cheney in particular intimidated the intelligence community Cheney s pressure culminated in CIA Director George Tenet releasing a made to order National Intelligence Estimate summary supporting the WMD case that heavily influenced President Bush The detailed report was far less clear than the summary In September 2002 NY Times columnist Judith Miller struck again this time on page one writing that Saddam Hussein was actively searching for A bomb parts later proven false By the fall of 2002 with the decision too to war made and Congress offering no serious opposition Rumsfeld began planning Unlike Cheney in the Gulf War Rumsfeld overrode his military scaling back reuired force estimates particularly for the aftermath Calling it planning is really a misnomer Inexperienced civilian hardliners put together PowerPoints on what to expect Input from experienced people in the State Department or military was largely ignored Those that objected such as knowledgeable former On the Run generals Shinseki and Zinni were vilified The official line was that the troops would be welcomed as liberators uickly turn theovernment back over to the Irais and leave It was all politically The Price Of Blood (Phil Broker, generated and na ve In February 2003 Secretary of State Colin Powell with Tenet sitting behind himave a speech at the UN offering evidence of Irai WMD This abysmal low point in his career came about because he accepted the CIA summary and unverified input from the administration all of which was crafted to support a decision already made The US attacked in March 2003 Taking Baghdad proceeded pretty much as planned Little else did The Irai troops didn t defect in mass and support the Americans as the administration had predicted Once defeated most waited to see what the Americans would do Some melted into the civilian population and began organizing resistance starting by stocking up on arms that Saddam had stashed around the country General Franks did not take responsibility for what followed in Ira after his victory in taking Baghdad The US had no plan to administer Ira after Saddam s fall US forces didn t secure the borders seize Saddam s arm stashes or maintain order Chaos ensued with widespread looting and vandalism American troops never expected to be. Has never been told before is that of a Military occupation whose leaders failed to see a blooming insurge.

Thomas E. Ricks ð 3 summary

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Although there is lots of detail provided in this aptly titled book about the fiasco that has been the US adventure in Ira that isn t really the main point of this book or the reason why anyone should read it It is also not the main lesson to be Russian Winter gained from reading it This book is than anything else an extended meditation on the central importance that military strategy ought to have played in the preparations execution and most importantly the peace that was to have followed the invasion of Ira To make this plain early in the book an important definition is provided strategy That is arand sounding word and it is freuently misused by laymen as a synonym for tactics In fact strategy has a very different and uite simple meaning that flows from just one short set of uestions Who are we and what are we ultimately trying to do here How will we do it and what resources and means will we employ in doing it The four answers Meg and the Mystery in Williamsburg (Meg Duncan, give rise to one s strategy Ideally one s tactics will then follow from them that is this is who we are this is the outcome we wish to achieve this is how we aim to do it and this is what we will use to do it But addressing the uestions well can be surprisingly difficult and if the answers are incorrect or incomplete or theoals listed not reachable then the conseuences can be disastrous As someone once said strategy is the science tactics the art The failures in Ira were in both science and art but the reasons for these failures are placed suarely on the failure of strategy and leadershipThe fact is repeatedly made that the US was never uite sure who the we were in this conflict and therefore made repeated mistakes in understanding what we were supposed to be doing in Ira and therefore what it would take to do itThere is a wonderful part where it is explained that one of the major strategies was that a truly international force would spontaneously assemble to manage the peace when this miracle assembly of an international force did not eventuate there uite simply was no Plan B The central link to all of these mistakes was the leadership in Washington who so strongly believed their own version of reality that they simply could not conceive the possibility of their being wrong A truly stupid person is someone who can never admit to being wrong ever And this maxim has never held true than it did in Washington throughout the Bush Administration s handling of the Ira invasion No amount of evidence from the field was ever allowed to stand in the way of the absolute conviction that everything was Pregnant Man going along swimmingly and working out to planIf like me you wouldladly eat Bill Gates alive for inflicting PowerPoint on the world this book will help you to justify your loathing It seemed that orders were rarely iven from the Pentagon other than in the form of a PowerPoint presentation Oh Microsoft you have much to answer for Before the War I saw an interview on Australian television with a military historian of some description He was asked what will happen if it turns out that no weapons of mass destruction are found in Ira no chemical weapons plants no stores of biological weapons People were already wondering why these weapons hadn t been used against the forces while they were assembled on the Irai boarder rather than waiting for these to invade when it would seem a bit too late The uy responded in much the way I would have responded I Kawaii Manga guess in a way that utterly confirmed every cynics deepest fears by saying that the US would either find WMD or the US military would have to manufacture them Either way it was simply not an option to invade Ira and then not find weapons of mass destruction that much was abundantly clearWhen I was younger I liked to believe that somewhere in the US there were aroup of conspirators maybe the CIA or perhaps something even shadowy and secret who would sit around a table and maybe that table would even be round and develop plans for total world domination I couldn t say if they sat with cats on their knees that they stroked constantly or even if they had revolving bookcases where those who sought to undermine US interests would be brought to be punished or even if this punishment would involve large numbers of piranha All I was sure of was that someone was in charge and someone knew what was The House Girl going on and when stuff happened it happened for a reason of their choosing and that reason was designed to always further US interestsI imagine some people might well think that this was a terrible and frightening vision of the world and of US foreign policy Iuess they would even be The Accursed grateful that I have been proven wrong I m not so sure that I amlad I ve been proven wrong I still haven t uite Pinkalicious: Merry Pinkmas! gotten over the shock of Bush effectively saying Well heck we ve looked and looked but I ll be damned if we can find those WMDs anywhere Oh well I d probably say C est la vie but I hate those damn cheese eating surrender monkeys so much I ll just have to say at least we re all free It is one thing to mess around with the world when you have a plan but to do so when the full extent of your post invasion plan is Once we ve kick in the door the people who live there will be so delighted to see us that they re bound to throw a party is terrifying I think I would prefer theuy with the cat to be uite honestThere were parts of this book where it was clear that if there had been a strategy to win the peace in Ira that is if US soldiers had not so consistently alienated the civilian population then things might have worked out uite differently My favourite uote was from a soldier who said that the only things the Irais understood were force and violence Given the soldier was unable to speak any of the local language and had no awareness of the local culture that he was slamming his boot into the face of his assessment was probably completely accurate the only way he could possibly make himself understood was by smashing someone and nearly frightening them to death That this could not be in the long term interests of the invading power hardly needs to be said Or maybe it needs to be said over and over and over again I can t decide whichNot everyone in Ira not even all of those in the leadership of the US forces comes out of this book badly General Petraeus seems like a man with his head screwed on properly and one of the very few people of any authority who comes out of this book reasonably well Many people soldiers invariable understood early on in the piece that they were fighting an insurgency and therefore knew that what was needed was to use counter insurgency tactics to win the hearts and minds of the local population that they needed to do whatever it took to not further alienate the locals That those who ought to have been providing the strategy to facilitate this understanding were in fact actively undermining any talk of an insurgency meant that any hope of a coordinated effort that followed an effective strategy was doomed to failure When those with the task of providing leadership run around saying that every American soldier killed is proof that things are etting better I uess the logic being its counter intuitive so therefore it must be right can t but have made those on the Swing Sideways ground feel increasingly cynical and dispirited As someone said we will win every battle here and still end up losing the war because we aren t fighting the kind of war that would allow us to win As you can see this book s long meditation on the importance of strategy continues from start to finishIt is interesting to note that every aim stated prior tooing to war by the Bush administration has subseuently failed to be realised If you wanted to believe in a God that finds ironic ways to punish hubris this could easily serve as a defining example of that God s works I don t just mean that we never found WMD but Ira could hardly be seen today as the example to the rest of the Middle East of the benefits of democracy that was once one of the. This is the Story of The American Military Adventure in Ira The Heart of the story Fiasco has to tell which.

Thomas Edwin Tom Ricks born September 25 1955 is an American journalist who writes on defense topics He is a Pulitzer Prize winning former reporter for the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post He writes a blog at ForeignPolicycom and is a member of the Center for a New American Security a defense policy think tankHe lectures widely to the military and is a member of Harvard University