Man, Jack Keane is working overtime to spin the history of the surge, isn’t he? Last week we saw Keane’s attempt to force Obama to adopt the insubordinate position of Generals Odierno and Petraeus. And today we see the product of a two-year plan to mythologize the origin of the surge: Thomas Ricks’ story describing Ray Odierno as the "dissident General" who birthed the surge.
Using the language of paternity, Ricks assigns ownership of this to Petraeus and–above all–Odierno.
The most prominent advocates of maintaining that commitment are the two generals who implemented the surge and changed the direction of the war: Odierno and David H. Petraeus, who replaced Casey in 2007 as the top U.S. commander in Iraq and became the figure most identified with the new strategy. But if Petraeus, now the head of U.S. Central Command, was the public face of the troop buildup, he was only its adoptive parent. It was Odierno, since September the U.S. commander in Iraq, who was the surge’s true father.
But there are problems with Ricks’ story. First of all, at least in this excerpt from his larger book, he mentions neither the Iraq Study Group nor the AEI-Kagan plan for the surge. Silence about the former leaves out the entire context of the decision to push a surge–not least Saudi pressure not to adopt the ISG’s recommendations. And silence about the latter leaves out a critical force in the generation of the plan; plus, Ricks describes the decision as happening shortly after December 19, after the AEI-Kagan plan was already released.
Ricks also offers no explanation for the critical motivating factor needed to claim Odierno was the father of the surge: how he came to reject his former strategic approach and adopt a radically different one.
Retired Army Col. Stuart Herrington, a veteran intelligence officer, concluded that the approach that many U.S. commanders used in the early days of the Iraq war effectively made them recruiters for the insurgency, and he was especially bothered by the actions of Odierno’s division. "Some divisions are conducting operations with rigorous detention criteria, while some — the 4th ID is the negative example — are sweeping up large numbers of people and dumping them at the door of Abu Ghraib," Herrington wrote in a 2003 report to Brig. Gen. Barbara Fast, the top Army intelligence officer in Iraq.