Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

How the U.S. Army learned to fight in Iraq

Last week, the two authors of The Defense of Jisr al-Doreaa dropped by good old CNAS, the little think tank that could, to discuss their work. I think their book is terrific — as some guy says in a blurb on the cover, it should be in the rucksack of every soldier heading to Iraq, ...

586365_090427_bookbb2.jpg
586365_090427_bookbb2.jpg

Last week, the two authors of The Defense of Jisr al-Doreaa dropped by good old CNAS, the little think tank that could, to discuss their work. I think their book is terrific -- as some guy says in a blurb on the cover, it should be in the rucksack of every soldier heading to Iraq, and studied by anyone who cares about the Iraq war. You can read the whole book, which is based on the old E.D. Swinton classic, The Defense of Duffer's Drift (which actually is included in their new book) in an evening or on a two-hour flight.

Over a fine lunch of greasy chicken, white rice, stuffed zucchini, smooth hummus, and pita bread, I asked Army Capts. Michael Burgyone (great military name) and Albert "Jim" Marckwardt why the U.S. military was so slow to adjust in Iraq. Marckwardt responded that actually in his view, "we've done it pretty quickly." (After their talk, a British officer present told me he agrees with Marckwardt, and believes that the U.S. military adapted astonishingly quickly to a new way of war in Iraq.)

They also reported that they've gotten a broadly positive reaction to their work. The sole exception they could remember was comments by Col. Gian Gentile, a thoughtful officer who objects to the dominant COIN narrative (and, full disclosure, sees me as one of the bad narrators).

Last week, the two authors of The Defense of Jisr al-Doreaa dropped by good old CNAS, the little think tank that could, to discuss their work. I think their book is terrific — as some guy says in a blurb on the cover, it should be in the rucksack of every soldier heading to Iraq, and studied by anyone who cares about the Iraq war. You can read the whole book, which is based on the old E.D. Swinton classic, The Defense of Duffer’s Drift (which actually is included in their new book) in an evening or on a two-hour flight.

Over a fine lunch of greasy chicken, white rice, stuffed zucchini, smooth hummus, and pita bread, I asked Army Capts. Michael Burgyone (great military name) and Albert “Jim” Marckwardt why the U.S. military was so slow to adjust in Iraq. Marckwardt responded that actually in his view, “we’ve done it pretty quickly.” (After their talk, a British officer present told me he agrees with Marckwardt, and believes that the U.S. military adapted astonishingly quickly to a new way of war in Iraq.)

They also reported that they’ve gotten a broadly positive reaction to their work. The sole exception they could remember was comments by Col. Gian Gentile, a thoughtful officer who objects to the dominant COIN narrative (and, full disclosure, sees me as one of the bad narrators).

Another reason to buy it: The authors are donating any money they get to the Fisher House charity. The authors also have created a Web site to aid those wanting to delver deeper into the issue.

I am told their talk will be posted soon on this CNAS page.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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