Book Review: Achieving Victory In Iraq

Achieving Victory In Iraq:  Counting An Insurgency, by Col. Dominic J. Caraccilo & Lt. Col Andrea L. Thompson

I bought this book from for almost nothing, and in reading this book it is pretty clear why this book was so inexpensive and therefore acceptable as a purchaser of books on the cheap (and a happy reviewer of books for free).  Admittedly, the subject of the Second Persian Gulf War, or even Iraq as a whole, has not been a frequent subject of my reading or writing before [1], but this book was not so inexpensive because it was without value, but rather because it is a book that was written to influence American behavior and policy towards Iraq and its people at a particular time in history and with the passage of that time, the book’s message is no longer timely, and the circumstances are changed to the point where the book would have to be substantially rewritten in order to answer current conditions, although its value is largely in terms of the approach of the authors towards counterinsurgency, and that value is timeless, thankfully.  If you have a strong interest in the theory and doctrine of counterinsurgency within the American military tradition, this is a book that you will likely enjoy as much as I did, even if it is a bit out of date in terms of the facts on the ground it speaks about.

The book itself reads like a brief, and I mean that in the best way, as someone who is used to reading books aimed at influencing American foreign policy [2].  The structure of this volume, which comes in at a bit under 200 pages, is as follows.  After a foreword and introduction, the first three chapters discuss the progress of the Second Gulf War from euphoria to complacency, the diagnosis of the beginnings of the Sunni insurgency, and a look at the justice of the war despite the political view of the war from the point of view of many Democratic voters.  The fourth chapter looks at the decisive nature of leadership, with a lot of praise to General Petreus and a few others–the book is as generous in its praise as it is harsh in its criticism of some of the leaders of the US reconstruction effort in Iraq before the surge.  The fifth and final chapter gives the authors’ perspective of the “good enough” solution in Iraq, which may include its partition if power sharing is unsuccessful.  The authors are certainly grimly realistic, even if this book was written before the rise of the Islamic State and there is no mention of it in this book, which is immensely critical of debaathification and its results in a deeply divided Iraq.

As someone who has long been a student of the Janus-faced nature of the American way of war where one face was pointed towards big wars won through logistical superiority and small wars of little interest or support among the wider American population, and where it seemed that every time the rudiments of asymmetrical warfare had to be relearned every single time, this book was certainly well within my wheelhouse as a reader.  The authors take the approach of Gullah and make plenty of references to the alphabet soup of the American military bureaucracy as well as the various doctrinal statements about small war that have been written over the past few decades, especially after Vietnam.  The authors do not appear as interested in the wider span of writings on counterinsurgency that go back at least to 16th century Chile, if not before, but the authors do know their material and show a solid grasp of what it takes to win the peace and help the Iraqis build the best nation possible that can endure, and that is no mean praise given the immense difficulty of the task.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, Book Reviews, History, Military History and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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