April 10, 2009

Arguing the Surge

I'm not sure I understand (Abu Muqawama reader) Michael Massing's review of The Gamble. Massing spends three pages taking Tom Ricks to task for writing a book about the surge in Iraq without speaking with many Iraqis. But at the end, Massing asks Ricks a question:

In February, I attended a talk Ricks gave at the Carnegie Council in New York, and I asked him if his heavy reliance on military sources had affected his account. "Absolutely," he said. "I cover the US military. I don't cover Iraq as such. At The Washington Post, I have colleagues who do that much better than I ever could -- Anthony Shadid, for example, who wrote the terrific book Night Draws Near." The Gamble, Ricks went on, "is very much a view of the Iraq War through the eyes of the US military."

In that exchange -- and in conversations I have had with him -- Ricks has been open about the limits of his book. A month or so ago, I spent about an hour talking to Massing about The Gamble, the war in Iraq, and counterinsurgency theory. I told Massing that while I greatly enjoyed The Gamble, there were a lot of good books on the Surge remaining to be written. Namely (and this is just off the top of my head):

  • The Surge from the perspective of tactical leaders -- squad leaders, platoon leaders, platoon sergeants.
  • The Surge as seen by the residents of Baghdad.
  • The role played by special operations forces in Iraq in 2007.
  • The history of the Surge as seen from 20 years on, when everything is declassified.

Does the fact that other good books on the Surge remain to be written detract from Tom's book? I don't think so.