Synopses & Reviews
From the #1 bestselling author of Fiasco and The Gamble, an epic history of the decline of American military leadership from World War II to Iraq
History has been kind to the American generals of World War IIandmdash;Marshall, Eisenhower, Patton, and Bradleyandmdash;and less kind to the generals of the wars that followed. In The Generals, Thomas E. Ricks sets out to explain why that is. In part it is the story of a widening gulf between performance and accountability. During the Second World War, scores of American generals were relieved of command simply for not being good enough. Today, as one American colonel said bitterly during the Iraq War, andldquo;As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.andrdquo;
In The Generals we meet great leaders and suspect ones, generals who rose to the occasion and those who failed themselves and their soldiers. Marshall and Eisenhower cast long shadows over this story, as does the less familiar Marine General O. P. Smith, whose fighting retreat from the Chinese onslaught into Korea in the winter of 1950 snatched a kind of victory from the jaws of annihilation.
But Korea also showed the first signs of an army leadership culture that neither punished mediocrity nor particularly rewarded daring. In the Vietnam War, the problem grew worse until, finally, American military leadership bottomed out. The My Lai massacre, Ricks shows us, is the emblematic event of this dark chapter of our history. In the wake of Vietnam a battle for the soul of the U.S. Army was waged with impressive success. It became a transformed institution, reinvigorated from the bottom up. But if the body was highly toned, its head still suffered from familiar problems, resulting in tactically savvy but strategically obtuse leadership that would win battles but end wars badly from the first Iraq War of 1990 through to the present.
Ricks has made a close study of Americaandrsquo;s military leaders for three decades, and in his hands this story resounds with larger meaning: about the transmission of values, about strategic thinking, and about the difference between an organization that learns and one that fails.
"The main points of this hard-hitting indictment of the Iraq war have been made before, but seldom with such compelling specificity. In dovetailing critiques of the civilian and military leadership, Washington Post Pentagon correspondent Ricks (Making the Corps) contends that, under Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith, the Pentagon concocted 'the worst war plan in American history,' with insufficient troops and no thought for the invasion's aftermath. Thus, an under-manned, unprepared U.S. military stood by as chaos and insurgency took root, then responded with heavy-handed tactics that brutalized and alienated Iraqis. Based on extensive interviews with American soldiers and officers as well as first-hand reportage, Ricks's detailed, unsparing account of the occupation paints a woeful panorama of reckless firepower, mass arrests, humiliating home invasions, hostage-taking and abuse of detainees. It holds individual commanders to account, from top generals Tommy Franks and Ricardo Sanchez on down. The author's conviction that a proper hearts-and-minds counter-insurgency strategy might have salvaged the debacle is perhaps naive, and pays too little heed to the intractable ethnic conflicts underlying what is by now a full-blown civil war. Still, Ricks's solid reporting, deep knowledge of the American military and willingness to name names make this perhaps the most complete, incisive analysis yet of the Iraq quagmire. Photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A]bsolutely essential reading for anyone interested in understanding how the United States came to go to war in Iraq, how a bungled occupation fed a ballooning insurgency and how these events will affect the future of the American military." Michiko Kakutani, the New York Times
"[An] extraordinarily well-sourced, highly-detailed portrait....Fiasco is for those who want a serious, on-the-ground picture of what's actually happened with the war." Christian Science Monitor
"Ricks has written an honest book that could help America move beyond the reflexive, red or blue coloring of the war and toward a more dispassionate discussion of the kind of Iraq we hope will emerge from today's near-anarchic state." Oregonian
"In his compelling and well-researched book, Thomas E. Ricks...painfully but clearly reveals an important truth about the Iraq debacle." Washington Post
"Fiasco is not a screed but a well-researched, strongly written account of the miscues that led from shock-and-awe to rampant sectarian strife." Los Angeles Times
The definitive military chronicle of the Iraq war and a searing judgment on the strategic blindness with which America has conducted it, drawing on the accounts of senior military officers giving voice to their anger for the first time.
Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post senior Pentagon correspondant Thomas E. Ricks's Fiasco is a masterful and explosive reckoning with the planning and execution of the American military invasion and occupation of Iraq, based on the unprecedented candor of key participants.
The American military is a tightly sealed community, and few outsiders have reason to know that a great many senior officers view the Iraq war with incredulity and dismay. But many officers have shared their anger with renowned military reporter Thomas E. Ricks, and in Fiasco, Ricks combines these astonishing on-the-record military accounts with his own extraordinary on-the-ground reportage to create a spellbinding account of an epic disaster.
As many in the military publicly acknowledge here for the first time, the guerrilla insurgency that exploded several months after Saddam's fall was not foreordained. In fact, to a shocking degree, it was created by the folly of the war's architects. But the officers who did raise their voices against the miscalculations, shortsightedness, and general failure of the war effort were generally crushed, their careers often ended. A willful blindness gripped political and military leaders, and dissent was not tolerated.
There are a number of heroes in Fiasco inspiring leaders from the highest levels of the Army and Marine hierarchies to the men and women whose skill and bravery led to battlefield success in towns from Fallujah to Tall Afar but again and again, strategic incoherence rendered tactical success meaningless. There was never any question that the U.S. military would topple Saddam Hussein, but as Fiasco shows there was also never any real thought about what would come next. This blindness has ensured the Iraq war a place in history as nothing less than a fiasco. Fair, vivid, and devastating, Fiasco is a book whose tragic verdict feels definitive.
Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
One of the Washington Post Book World's 10 Best Books of the Year
One of Time's 10 Best Books of the Year
USA Today's Nonfiction Book of the Year
A New York Times Notable Book
The definitive account of the American military's tragic experience in Iraq
Fiasco is a masterful reckoning with the planning and execution of the American military invasion and occupation of Iraq through mid-2006, now with a postscript on recent developments. Ricks draws on the exclusive cooperation of an extraordinary number of American personnel, including more than one hundred senior officers, and access to more than 30,000 pages of official documents, many of them never before made public. Tragically, it is an undeniable accountexplosive, shocking, and authoritativeof unsurpassed tactical success combined with unsurpassed strategic failure that indicts some of America's most powerful and honored civilian and military leaders.
The definitive military chronicle of the Iraq war--and a searing judgment on the strategic blindness with which America has conducted it--draws on the accounts of senior military officers giving voice to their anger for the first time.
Coming from The Penguin Press in February 2009, Thomas E. Ricks's The Gamble
Thomas E. Ricks 's #1 New York Times bestseller, Fiasco, transformed the political dialogue on the war in Iraq. Now Ricks has picked up where Fiasco left off-Iraq, late 2005. With more newsbreaking information, including hundreds of hours of interviews with top U.S. officials who were on the ground during the surge and beyond, The Gamble is the natural companion piece to Fiasco, and the two are sure to become the definitive examinations of what ultimately went wrong in Iraq.
About the Author
Thomas E. Ricks is The Washington Post's senior Pentagon correspondent, where he has covered the U.S. military since 2000. Until the end of 1999, he held the same beat at The Wall Street Journal, where he was a reporter for seventeen years. A member of two Pulitzer Prize-winning teams for national reporting, he has reported on U.S. military activities in Somalia, Haiti, Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Kuwait, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He is the author of Making the Corps and A Soldier's Duty.
Table of Contents
PROLOGUE: Captain William DePuy and the 90th Division in Normandy, summer 1944
WORLD WAR II
1. General George C. Marshall: The leader
2. Dwight Eisenhower: How the Marshall system worked
3. George Patton: The specialist
4. Mark Clark: The man in the middle
5. andldquo;Terrible Terryandrdquo; Allen: Conflict between Marshall and his protandeacute;gandeacute;s
6. Eisenhower manages Montgomery
7. Douglas MacArthur: The general as presidential aspirant
8. William Simpson: The Marshall system and the new model American general
THE KOREAN WAR
9. William Dean and Douglas MacArthur: Two generals self- destruct
10. Army generals fail at Chosin
11. O. P. Smith succeeds at Chosin
12. Ridgway turns the war around
13. MacArthurandrsquo;s last stand
14. The organization manandrsquo;s Army
THE VIETNAM WAR
15. Maxwell Taylor: Architect of defeat
16. William Westmoreland: The organization man in command
17. William DePuy: World War IIandndash; style generalship in Vietnam
18. The collapse of generalship in the 1960s
- a. At the top
- b. In the field
- c. In personnel policy
19. Tet andrsquo;68: The end of Westmoreland and the turning point of the war
20. My Lai: General Kosterandrsquo;s cover-up and General Peersandrsquo;s investigation
21. The end of a war, the end of an Army
22. DePuyandrsquo;s great rebuilding
23. andldquo;How to teach judgmentandrdquo;
IRAQ AND THE HIDDEN COSTS OF REBUILDING
24. Colin Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf, and the empty triumph of the 1991 war
25. The ground war: Schwarzkopf vs. Frederick Franks
26. The postandndash; Gulf War military
27. Tommy R. Franks: Two- time loser
28. Ricardo Sanchez: Over his head
29. George Casey: Trying but treading water
30. David Petraeus: An outlier moves in, then leaves
EPILOGUE: Restoring American military leadership