Reading Guide The Gamble

Thomas Ricks: The Gamble [5 weeks: Week #1 through Week #5]

Condensed Schedule


Cast of Characters
Acronyms and Abbreviations
Part One: The Old War Ends
Chapter 1: Things Fall Apart (Fall 2005)

Chapter 2: How to Fight this War (Fall 2005-Fall 2006)


Chapter 3: Keane Takes Command (Fall 2006)

Chapter 4: A Strategy is Born (Winter 2006-7)


Part Two: A New War Begins
Chapter 5: If You're so Smart … (Spring 2007)

Chapter 6: Gambling on a "Shitty Hand" (Spring and Summer 2007)


Chapter 7: Signs of Life in Baghdad (Summer 2007)

Chapter 8: The Domestic Opposition Collapses (Summer and Fall 2007)
Part Three: War Without End
Chapter 9: The Twilight Zone (Winter 2007-8)


Chapter 10: Big Wasta (Spring 2008)
Chapter 11: After the Surge (Summer 2008)

Chapter 12: Obama's War (Fall 2008)
Epilogue: The Long War

Detailed Reading Schedule

Maps—always look for these and refer to them as you read

Cast of Characters:
Look at this list in detail.
Add to it Prime Minister Malaki and Moqtada-al-Sadr.

Acronyms and Abbreviations:

Throughout this and all our readings: who are the people [where are they today]; where are the places [how have they changed today]; what are the events to remember [how have we reevaluated how we remember them]

Chapter 1: Things Fall Apart (Fall 2005)

6 David Kilcullen's observation about an insurgency
8 "hidden tale to this phase of the war…begins with Keane"
11 "a kind of drift…and by default, an emphasis on transitioning to Iraqis"
13 Entire paragraph beginning "The White House was in denial"
14 Decision "to pursue almost the opposite course"
14 Entire paragraph about having no "serious strategic review"
15 Critical views about the war necessary to build a new foundation
15-23 Who are the different key people mentioned?
What is your impression of General David Petraeus?

Chapter 2: How to Fight this War (Fall 2005-Fall 2006)

26-27 People: David Galula, John Nagl, David Kilcullen
29 New Counterinsurgency Manual
33 "The real effect of the bombing" [Golden Dome Mosque in Samarra]
34 "the capital resembled a pure Hobbesian state"
37 selection of Malaki a starting gun for a small civil war
38 Rumsfeld versus Condi
42 Doing the right thing the wrong way
44 Short-term v. long-term result of the meeting
46 Entire paragraph "The core of the Iraqi state was rotten."
49 continued to judge actions only by input
50-52 Read these pages completely. Many important points for our discussion.
60 Overall role of Colonel McMaster. Willing to apologize for past mistakes.
61 Why did you put the Syrian border in the middle of my sheep?

Chapter 3: Keane Takes Command (Fall 2006)

74 Key role of elections.
76 Entire paragraph "Even as the ghosts of Vietnam"
77 Commissar style of management. Was Rumsfeld inept.
79 Dilemma of Democrats: how to escape blame for how the war ends
79 Entire paragraph at bottom of page
82 "His worry was that the American strategy didn't protect the people"
84 Supposed lessons of past insurgencies. Need a decent indigenous govt
85 "the guys doing it don't think it's failed"
85-88 Petraeus is one tough cookie
89 Entire paragraph on Keane's advice to Rumsfeld
89 Why does a retired general "get it" and chairman of JCS doesn't
94 Bush finally acknowledges events on the ground
102 Entire paragraph "It wasn't quite put to Bush in such blunt terms"
104 Bottom of page. "Why did the American military establishment….?"

Chapter 4: A Strategy is Born (Winter 2006-7)

107 Entire paragraph "If Jack Keane was the spiritual godfather"
110 Odierno's son lost an arm in Iraq
114 Bottom of page. Iraq Study Group report. What did it conclude?
115 How did Robert Gates differ from Rumsfeld?
122 Why did it take President Bush so long to change course?
124 "the new strategy was a plan for a 'long' war"

Part Two: A New War Begins
Chapter 5: If You're so Smart … (Spring 2007)

133 "one of the most selective clubs in the world"
140 Kilcullen's book is terrific.
147 Openness of the American Army versus the Brits
148 "show enough genuine progess"

Chapter 6: Gambling on a "Shitty Hand" (Spring and Summer 2007)

149 Play the poor hand to the best of your ability. Win ugly.
149 How audacious a venture it really was
151 Kilcullen's bottom line: good team, right strategy, possible too late
152 Mansoor: odds are against it
153 Commander should stay publicly optimistic. Always? Did Bush go too long.
155 Sustainable stability
156 Entire page. AIF. Avoid Sadr City. Opening filled by militias.
157 What were the six major departures
160-165 A Foundation for Strategy [This whole section is important. Read it all.
160 Military had been slow to learn
161 Pay attention to the most basic human elements
162 Thunder Runs
163 Change of Manichean mind-set
163 Countless minor contacts
164 Respect
164 Tolerable level of violence.
165 Democracy versus stability
168 Entire paragraph "There was a new savviness"
172 Read the caption of each one of the photos.
173 Entire paragraph "Analyzing the patterns of Iraqi violence"
173 Cement barriers criticized as what the Israelis were doing
175 "an operation that was in the red"
175 Not overreact
175 Americans make promises but nothing happens
180 All the stupid insurgents are dead
187 Bottom of page. Contractors
191 Partnered relationships
195 Evidence that Guantanamo and U.S. prisons may be extremist breeding grounds
197 Which leaders in history have been shaped in prison
197 Training under Petraeus
199 Training approach used in World War II as a possible model

Chapter 7: Signs of Life in Baghdad (Summer 2007)

200-201 Five major reasons for change
202-208 A Separate Peace
215 "Least bad"choices
216 Same as Saddam but this time the central govt did not like this move
217-219 Summarize the differences between Gentile and Mansoor
219 Cooperate with Iraq's tribal structure. Gertrude Bell: who is she
221 working with the tribes requires tactical patience
223 Realpolitik. Conservation of enemies.
224 Did Petraeus overstep his bounds
225 Tribal strategy versus democracy

Chapter 8: The Domestic Opposition Collapses (Summer and Fall 2007)

231 Compare this section about Goldwater-Nichols with Tommy Franks view.
234 Fallon the boss, but Petraeus was Brett Favre
235 Generational shift
248 What about the "tunnel"
254 Why did America tune out the war?

Chapter 9: The Twilight Zone (Winter 2007-8)

260 Key paragraph: "It was a time of assessment."
261 Knitting together at the top
262 People: Malaki. Look up material about him.
267 People: Moqtada al-Sadr. Look up material on him.
268 What do you think about using private contractors.
See FRONTLINE Private Warriors video
271 Iraq political structure could not do what we wanted. Can Afghanistan?
272 Interesting Cold War perspective comparing Germany to Iraq

Chapter 10: Big Wasta (Spring 2008)

283 Let's try to tap into news coverage of that very Basra battle.
284 Various signals sent by the move into Basra
290 Paragraph beginning with "Obama's bottom line"
293 Mission creep

Chapter 11: After the Surge (Summer 2008)

304 Ricks has a high opinion of General Odierno
Where is Odierno in 2014?
305 Who is getting out of the Army?

Chapter 12: Obama's War (Fall 2008)

306-307 Read these pages carefully
312 The entire paragraph on the "gamble"

Epilogue: The Long War

315 Why does Ricks think that the war in Iraq is far from over? Do you agree?
317 What might Sadr be planning. Where is he anyhow?
320-322 Iran.
323 Paragraph: "Some American advisers reported that…"
325 Read this entire page.


326-334 Read all of this