Pulitzer Prize winner talks war

New York Times bestselling author and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Ricks shared his experience of the military situation in Iraq along with his thoughts on America’s future in Afghanistan at the Elliott School Thursday night.

Often considered one of the best defense reporters in America, Ricks spent 20 years reporting on U.S. military issues for the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal before writing two books, “Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq” and “The Gamble: David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008,” about the war in Iraq.

While Iraq is his specialty, Ricks started the night discussing Afghanistan and how it would be an easier country to stabilize than Iraq because of the “national identity” – Afghan – that all the separate ethnic groups share.

Even with this hope, Ricks said he thinks the government run by President Hamid Karzai is a “real, strategic problem” within the country, causing corruption and military ineptness.

“All we need to provide is a somewhat useful, a less-corrupted government to succeed in Afghanistan,” Rick said. “That can be achieved by changing the behavior of the Karzai government.”

Switching the topic to Iraq, Ricks said he is worried about the country’s general elections coming in March and if those elections will yield only more corruption in the country.

“I’m more pessimistic about Iraq because the surge ultimately failed. There may have been greater security in the country but it didn’t lead to an Iraqi political breakthrough as originally thought.”

Ricks said he believes the upcoming election will play an important role in the future of the country.

“It is crucial for the Sunnis, especially given recent events, and it is vital that a successful coalition government be set up a few months after the election results are finalized,” he said.

He disagreed with President Barack Obama’s plan to pull many U.S. soldiers from Iraq this coming summer, saying the country and government are still too “shaky.”

“It would be unwise to leave as soon as possible since it’s not the right thing to do given that political progress is still shaky,” he said. “And, there is still the possibility for a renewed civil war once troops start vacating the more and then less secure areas of Iraq.”

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