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

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  • Posted May 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A calculated risk

    The travails of us policy and military engagement in Iraq have been dominating the news for the better part of five years since the invasion in 2003 until some time in 2008. The reason is quite obvious: what was supposed to be a very quick and decisive military operation that would turn Iraq into a free and peaceful society turned out to be a military and political disaster. And yet the news from Iraq stopped dominating the headlines some time in 2008. The reason for this dramatic turnaround is quite clear: it is the new US strategy that was designed to increase the number of US troops on the ground and engage with the Iraqi society on a much more direct basis. This strategy and the way that it came about is the theme of this book. Unlike many other books that have come out in recent years, this one is largely written from the military's point of view. If there is a single name that come to symbolize "The Surge" that would be the name of general Petraeus. Unjustifiably maligned by some war opponents early on in his new assignment of turning the situation in Iraq around, he has become a stellar example of professionalism and success with one of the most difficult military assignments ever. But Petraeus was not the only one in the military who contributed to the development of the new strategy. There are many others, either on active duty or as civilian advisers, who have helped shape and develop the new strategy. This book does a very good job of describing those contributions and giving credit to people who have largely labored behind the scenes. It features many combat commanders and their troops, and it gives many examples from the frontlines that help illustrate and affirm the main points.

    What makes this book particularly interesting and valuable is the sheer amount of first-hand interview material. Almost all of the main military protagonists are featured, and many of their most important experiences recoded and presented in an easy journalistic style. The approach to policy that the book adopts is pragmatic rather than ideological. It gives as sober of an assessment of what happened during the war as one can find these days. It concludes with a sobering prediction of where the military engagement is headed, and a prediction that a substantial US presence is likely to remain in Iraq for many more years, if not decades.

    The only issue that I have with the book is that it may contain too much information: some of the points could have been made with far less material. But otherwise this is an excellent read and a must for anyone who is interested in what has really been happening with The Surge and why it worked in the end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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