Bush at War
focuses on the three months following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, during which the U.S. prepared for war in Afghanistan, took steps toward a preemptive strike against Iraq, intensified homeland defense, and began a well-funded CIA covert war against terrorism around the world. The narrative is classic Woodward: using his inside access to the major players, he offers a nearly day-by-day account of the decision-making processes and power battles behind the headlines. Woodward's information is based on tape-recorded interviews of over a hundred sources (some unnamed), including four hours of exclusive interviews with the president, along with notes from cabinet meetings and access to some classified reports.
Woodward's analysis of President Bush's leadership style is especially fascinating. A self-described "gut player" who relies heavily on instinct, Bush comes across as a man of action continually pressing his cabinet for concrete results. The revelation that the president developed and publicly stated the so-called Bush Doctrine--the policy that the U.S. would not only go after terrorists everywhere but also those governments or groups which harbor them--without first consulting Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, or Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is particularly telling. Other principals are examined with equal scrutiny. Though National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice emerges as soft-spoken and even tentative during group meetings, it becomes clear that Bush is dependent on her for candid advice as well as for conveying his thoughts to his cabinet. The relationship between Powell and Rumsfeld (and to a lesser degree Powell and Cheney) is often strained, exposing their differences regarding how to deal with Iraq and whether coalition building or unilateralism is most appropriate. Woodward also describes how CIA director George Tenet prepared a paramilitary team to infiltrate Afghanistan to set the groundwork for invasion, and how this ushered in a new era of cooperation between the defense department and the CIA. A worthwhile and often enlightening read, this is a revealing and informative first draft of the Bush legacy. --Shawn Carkonen
From Publishers Weekly
Quoting liberally from transcripts of National Security Council meetings and hundreds of interviews with those in the presidential inner circle, including four hours of interviews with Bush himself, the Washington Post assistant managing editor, best-selling author and Watergate muckraker manages to provide a nonpartisan account of the first 100 days of the post September 11 war on terror. While Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, President Bush and CIA Director George Tenet are impressive, Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz come off as hawkish and reactionary, repeatedly calling for a strike against Iraq in the first days of the conflict while pushing for a more widespread, global war. Woodward does an excellent job of exposing the seat-of-their-pants planning sessions conducted at the highest levels of power and the hectic diplomacy practiced by Powell and Bush in trying to get the air war against Afghanistan off the ground. He also brings to light the divisions among the planners concerning the bombing in Afghanistan, which made little impact until late in the game, when the Taliban lines were finally hit. In addition to recounting the heated arguments about when and how to retaliate against Al Qaeda, Woodward also follows Special Ops agents flown into Afghanistan with millions in payoff money weeks in advance of any other American presence. Living in harsh conditions with little to no support, these "110 CIA officers and 316 Special Forces personnel," in this account, ran the show, and effectively won the war with their intelligence gathering operations. While at times relying a bit too heavily on transcribed conversations, Woodward nonetheless offers one of the first truly insightful and informative accounts of the decision making process in the war on terror. 16 pages of b&w photos.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.