Thomas Ricks

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Thomas E. Ricks, (1955-) a military historian, analyst and journalist, is a Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). Concurrently with his duties at CNAS, Ricks writes an online blog for called, “The Best Defense," and serves as a contributing editor for Foreign Policy. He also writes for the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI).


He is analyzing a U.S. engagement at Wanat, Afghanistan, in July 2008, in which there were numerous American casualties, although they held their position against the Taliban. [1]


He has written two major books on Iraq, The Gamble: General Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-08[2] and FIASCO: The American Military Adventure in Iraq.[3]

Explaining the "Surge" for FPRI, he says the American public has difficulty understanding: [4]

  1. "how difficult the surge was and how different it was from the previous four years of the war
  2. that the surge failed, judged on its own terms
  3. the war is not over. In fact, I suspect we might be only halfway through it, which is to say that President Obama’s war in Iraq may well be longer than George Bush’s war in Iraq, which was five years and ten months old when Bush left office."

Emphasizing how much of a change it was, he said "With the advent of the surge, the Army effectively turned the war over to its internal dissidents." GEN Petraeus took command after being deeply involved in a writing a counterinsurgency manual,[5] the guidelines of which were not followed in the first year of the war. Ricks says Ambassador Ryan Crocker "reveals in my book that he had essentially opposed the original invasion of Iraq."

Ricks covered the U.S. military for The Washington Post from 2000 through 2008, and at the Wall Street Journal for 17 years before that. He has been part of two teams awarded the Pulitzer Prize, one at the Wall Street Journal, in 2000, for changes in the U.S. military, and the other, in 2002, at the Washington Post for the early U.S. counterterrorism programs.

While the Iraq books are at a high strategic level, he also analyzed the individual by following recruits through United States Marine Corps boot camp, in his book Making the Corps.


He grew up in New York and Afghanistan and graduated from Yale in 1977. Ricks is a member of the Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society, the Society for Military History, and the International Institute for Strategic Studies.


  1. Inside an Afghan battle gone wrong: What happened at Wanat? (I),, 28 January 2009
  2. Thomas E. Ricks (2009), The Gamble: General Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-08, Penguin, ISBN 1594201978
  3. Thomas E. Ricks (2006), FIASCO: the American Military Adventure in Iraq, Penguin, ISBN 159320103X
  4. Thomas E. Ricks (May 2009), "Understanding the Surge in Iraq and What’s Ahead", E-Notes, Foreign Policy Research Institute
  5. John Nagl, David Petraeus, James Amos, Sarah Sewall (December 2006), Field Manual 3-24: Counterinsurgency, US Department of the Army. Retrieved on 2008-02-03