The Gamble: General Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq

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1. Purpose: Highlight three main points from the book “The Gamble: General Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq.” Thomas E. Ricks

2. In the book “The Gamble: General Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq.” Mr. Ricks, who covered the military for The Washington Post from 2000 to 2008, takes up the story where he left off in his book “Fiasco.” This volume recounts how Iraq came close to unraveling in 2006, how the Bush administration finally conceded it was off course, and how a new set of commanders headed by Gen. David H. Petraeus and Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno began putting a radically different strategy in place. Elements of the three key takeaways from the article are as follows:

a. Mr. Ricks praises General Petraeus’s success in helping the military regain the strategic initiative in Iraq as an “extraordinary achievement” reducing violence and reviving “American prospects in the war” he also reminds us that the surge was meant to “create a breathing space that would then enable Iraqi politicians to find a way forward,” and that that outcome is still unclear. “The best grade” the surge campaign can be given, he says, “is a solid incomplete.” Mr. Ricks warns that the United States goal of achieving “sustainable security” there may still prove elusive — or at the very least require a long-term American presence. Although Mr. Ricks writes that he is saddened by the war’s “obvious costs to Iraqis and Americans” and by “the incompetence and profligacy with which the Bush administration conducted much of it,” he adds that he has come to the conclusion that “we can’t leave.”

b. Mr. Ricks sees it, the regional and global repercussions of failure in Iraq would be far more dire than those incurred by the United States’ withdrawal from Vietnam ranging, in this case, from a full-blown civil war to “a spreading war in the Middle East,” from a stronger Iran presiding over a Finlandized Iraq to the rise of a brutal...
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