The Best Defense

Getting punchy at Counterpunch

Just as my respect for today's academicians threatens to improve, something like this comes along: Vijay Prashad, a professor at Trinity College up in Hartford, Connecticut, asserts in an article that my recent book, The Gamble, states that the surge was success and "a great victory."

I write to him saying he is flat wrong and quoting my book. Here is my note:

Professor Prashad,

When I saw your comment on my book this morning, I nearly fell out of my chair:

"A new book by The Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks, The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008, claims that the great victory in Iraq is not far . . ."

Look, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But this is not an opinion. Your statement is flat wrong. I actually say that there is no prospect of victory in Iraq, and that we are stuck there for years to come even to reach a mediocre outcome. In addition, I also conclude that the surge failed.

In fact, I don't think your comment could be written by anyone who actually has read the last 100 pages of my book.   

Would you please correct your statement?


Tom Ricks"

Simple enough, right? I had in mind the section in my book beginning on page 295 titled "The Surge Falls Short," in which I concluded that the surge "succeeded tactically but fell short strategically."

Apparently not so simple. Prof. Prashad wrote back saying this is his interpretation of my book: "I am interested in your comment that you conclude that the ‘surge failed.' My reading of your book leads me to conclude that you write that the surge did succeed."

I wrote back and said he is entitled to his view but shouldn't put words in my mouth. I repeated my request for a correction. He didn't respond.

The Best Defense

Good for Obama

I thought the president did well in his press conference last night, but I was especially taken by his answer to the awkward question of what "enchanted" him about his first 100 days in office:

Enchanted?  (Laughter.)  Enchanted.  I -- I will -- I will tell you that, when I -- when I meet our servicemen and -women, enchanted's probably not the word I would use.  (Laughter.) But -- but -- but I -- but I am -- I am so profoundly impressed and grateful to them for what they do.  They're really good at their job.  They are willing to make extraordinary sacrifices on our behalf. They do so without complaint.  They are fiercely loyal to this country.

And, you know, the more I interact with our -- our servicemen and -- women, from the top brass down to the lowliest private, I -- I'm just -- I'm grateful to them." 

It didn't make headlines, but it was well said. Obama is not a military natural. But this struck me as from the heart. And I liked his phrase "fiercely loyal," which should warm Scottish-Irish hearts all over. Sure, he's an impressive politician, but he didn't have to go to the military in answering this.

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