View Full Version : Fiasco, the first draft of history

05-14-2007, 10:30 PM
I read Tom Ricks' Fiasco some months ago already. I am seeking feedback from those who visit this site and comment. What do Small Wars Journal participants feel about Ricks' work? Are there any inaccuracies that those with experience in the field during OIF can refute? Are the allegations he made about 4th I.D.'s poor adaptation to COIN true? How will this work stand over time?

05-15-2007, 12:02 AM
A pathetic piece of polemic journalism that is attempting to be passed off as historical record. Ricks' work is flawed, shortsighted, and specious. This work will not stand up over time. Cobra II is much better. i hope this helps.

05-15-2007, 01:20 AM
Good thread. Can Jimbo (and others) elaborate?

05-15-2007, 10:26 AM
I've heard strong opinions against Ricks' book. It would be interesting to hear some examples of where he's off base.

05-15-2007, 12:52 PM
An example of Ricks' doing poor work. The comaprison of 4th ID and 101AASLT. Ricks sums it up as one had it right and one had it wrong. Well, the situations in the two divisonal areas were very different. If tyou were to contrast 4th ID's AO around Kirkuk, and the 101st's around Mosul, you can see a lot of parallels and similarities, while also noting slight differences, Ricks didn't do this. He treats both divisions as as if they had the same problems on the same scale with the same population that handled their problems very differently. Ricks treats Iraq as a homogenous situation, when in actuality it is quite heterogenous as far as the population and thier motivators. As far as I know (and I have asked around) Tom Ricks never went to 4th ID's AO. I have been told that Ricks got his information on Army operations pretty much second hand from Marines assigned to units not even close to where 4th ID was operating. Ricks makes a lot of assertions in his book based on rumors and "the grapevine", many of these assertions are false.

05-15-2007, 02:12 PM
Jimbo, thanks for the insights. Many problems connected to Iraq seem to be related to over-generalizing the conditions there, so I can see why your criticisms/concerns make a lot of sense.

Steve Blair
05-15-2007, 02:17 PM
I believe I mentioned this in an earlier discussion of Fiasco, but one thing that disappointed me about Ricks' work was his lack of decent citations or documentation of sources. Sean Naylor faced the same thing with "Not a Good Day to Die," but he at least maintained good source files and made a good attempt to link his pseudonym sources (mainly SpecOps people) with credible named sources (this isn't to deny the credibility of Naylor's unnamed sources, but he tries to support their positions with comments from people who could appear "on the record"). Ricks relies far too much on "a lieutenant colonel who was in a position to know" type sourcing.

05-15-2007, 02:39 PM
I do not have as strong of feelings as Jimbo (since he was a 4ID guy). My perspective on Rick's book is a little different. I found his treatment of the attempts to train the new Iraqi Army was dead on. I agree that he's missing alot of references and citations that I'd like to see. But from my foxhole, his description of the difficulties in organizing, training and equipping the Iraqi Army, mirrored the reality that we saw on the ground. I was there in Taji when the 2nd Iraqi Battalion was told to go to Fallujah in early 2004...and they refused. I was also there the next morning when a large portion of their battalion was no longer around.

His book marries up pretty well with other books on the same subject including Cobra II, State of Denial, Assassins Gate, Imperial Life at the Emerald City, and Company of Soldiers.

Again, my perspective is different than Jimbos. Is it THE definitive work on the first few years of OIF? Of course not. It is however, one perspective on how the lead up, invasion, and post-invasion operations occurred. If there is one thing Ricks did right in his book, it was picking the title.

05-25-2007, 05:46 PM
I thought Fiasco was a good if not great piece of work. Ricks’ analysis is not as deep as it could be but his basic facts appear to be mostly accurate and match well with other information available.