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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Fallows, national correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly, compiles in this slim volume a series of five articles he wrote for that magazine between 2002 and 2005, which collectively won a National Magazine Award. Along with an original introduction and afterword, the essays systematically chronicle the mendacity, insularity and incompetence of the Bush administration while developing and implementing its Iraq policy. Relying heavily on inside sources and declassified documents, Fallows (National Defense) shows that, before the war, the government had ample intelligence to forestall many of the disastrous consequences of the occupation, but Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and others ordered their subordinates to ignore the reports. "Bush's Lost Year" addresses a topic that has received little attention: the effects of the buildup in Iraq on the campaign in Afghanistan and the broader war on terror. "Why Iraq Has No Army" studies one decision that has hampered the war effort ever since. For avid news readers, little will be new, though "Will Iran Be Next?"—an account of a high-level discussion convened by the Atlantic Monthly—may pique more interest. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Fallows' series of articles for the Atlantic Monthly between 2002 and 2005 that won the magazine a National Magazine Award are collected in this book, offering a backward look on the analysis that criticized the administration's plan for a preemptive war in Iraq and its woefully inadequate planning for the aftermath of war. Fallows' article "The Fifty-first State," published in November 2002, conveyed the complexity of dealing with Iraq after the war and the likelihood that the responsibility would be long term and consuming. The collection examines the questionable reports of Iraq's cache of weapons of mass destruction and how the administration could have known of the internal tensions within Iraq that would make managing the occupation extremely difficult. Fallows explores why Iraq has no army two years after the invasion and the threats posed by Iran. The collection provides an interesting perspective on the war, looking back on what was anticipated with uncanny accuracy, which raises even more questions about the administration's inability to foresee the difficulties of occupying Iraq. Footnotes provide additional information, background, and commentary since the articles first appeared. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; First Paperback Edition edition (August 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307277968
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307277961
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #372,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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The writing is clear and readable.
Kenneth Umbach
This book is not recommended for those with cardiac or circulatory troubles because it will definitely angry the blood.
I doubt we would be on the same side of the political aisle, but he would not care, and it does not matter.
Jeff Peirce

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Peirce on August 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
I like James Fallows. I doubt we would be on the same side of the political aisle, but he would not care, and it does not matter. He is more objective than most writers, and I have liked his books since I read his work on national defense years ago.

This book confirms what I have come to fear. The war in Iraq was a huge mistake. It never should have been considered, much less launched. Afghanistan was one thing. It needed to invaded, and the Taliban needed to be kicked out. Maybe its not too late to get it right. Iraq, I fear, is the proverbial quagmire.

There were many in the administration who did not want the damned war. Many in the Pentagon felt the same way. The dismal history of Britain's involvement after WWI should have been a clue. Hubris, on the part of a few, blinded Bush--and others-- in their decision making. The Bush crowd seemed to act like Johnson's wizards getting us into Vietnam.

Perhaps the rapid victory in Afghanistan put the administration on a new high of self-confidence--excessive self-confidence. It appears they rapidly came to see themselves as a winning team, the super warriors--able to overrun a country between lunch and breakfast.

Problem is, they put no thought into what would occur once they had Baghdad. Colin Powell warned Bush. So did others. Its one thing to take a country, another to run it.

I believed there were "weapons of mass destruction." Maybe there were. Maybe they were moved to Syria. If so, the invasion made things worse. Now, the Syrians might have them. If not, being in Baghdad with not enough troops, and the vain hope of democracy taking hold, is pretty thin gruel. Bush got us into it, but God only knows how we will get out.
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James Fallows is unique for giving us the only "before and after" book on Iraq. This book, while it consists of a collection of articles published in the run-up to the war on Iraq, is exemplary for showing what was known before the war, and how a combination of ideological bias, bureaucratic timidity, confusion, and general incompetence actually allowed this Nation to be led to an elective war of devastating consequence and cost.

The author provides both an introduction and a conclusion to the book that are unique to the book and set the articles in harmony as a whole.

There are other books that excel as retrospective reconstruction and finger-pointing, among which I would include HUBRIS, Squandered Victory, The End of Iraq, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, and most recently, State of Denial, but this is the only book to focus on all that we knew prior to the war about the daunting difficulties facing us in making the peace, and why the political leadership of the Executive did not want us to think about that, and why the political leadership of the Congress refused to play its role as a co-equal branch with the power of both the purse and the declaration of war exclusive to it.

James Fallows documents how virtually every sensible element of the federal government, from the military to the diplomats to the commerce and treasury and agriculture and others, all KNEW that invading Iraq was going to open a Pandora's box of sectarian violence, ethic conflict over resources, a collapse of good order, the failure of infrastructure the US would not be able to repair quickly enough, and on and on and on and on!
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Steven A. Peterson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 8, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has an unpromising premise: Publish a book based largely on essays that have already been published as articles in the Atlantic Monthly from 2002 through 2005. Despite that, this book ends up working far better than one might expect.

Fallows himself begins by describing the book's perspective (page x):

"The subject of the book is America's preparation for and conduct of its war in Iraq, whose combat phase began in March 2003. because that war played so large a part in the U. S. government response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, assessing the war naturally raises questions about the wisdom, competence, and effectiveness of the overall strategy against Islamic terrorism.

The cumulative argument of the book is that this strategy was gravely flawed in both design and execution."

The chapters cover various aspects of the Iraqi invasion and its aftermath. The chapter entitled "The Fifty-First State?" is based on interviews with knowledgeable players before the invasion of Iraq. The focus was on what was likely to happen after the invasion, since all assumed that the American forces would walk over the Iraqi army. The essay's predictions do not all pan out (and Fallows adds footnotes to note more current information). However, it is interesting to see how a number of these predictions did come to fruition.

Other chapters explore Paul Bremer's terminating the Iraqi Army and his extreme de-Baathification program, how George Bush's original war on terror focusing on Afghanistan began to lose focus with the invasion of Iraq, and so on.

His conclusions are exceedingly harsh and may irritate many readers.
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