42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
good, but not as good as Cobra II
, October 2, 2012
This review is from: The Endgame: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Iraq, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama (Hardcover)
This a book covering the Iraq war and in particular the wind-down of the war. Its mostly from a military perspective. The authors are very serious writers and have a good track record in terms of past works on the war.
The problem with the book is that the authors lose their objectivity and distance. Rather than covering the war, they become cheerleaders for "the surge" and the individuals (like Petraeus and company) associated with the strategy. The book is in three parts: Why the war was bad before the surge, how great the surge was and how things got worse after the surge. The research is good. The writing is generally good. But the book bends over backwards to warp events to promote its designated heroes. That brings it down.
I think the book overvalues the idea of "counterinsurgency" and often fails to consider other aspects of the situation. How much does one really credit counterinsurgency and how much does one credit the simple fact that a "surge" puts more boots on the ground. Was the so-called Sunni Awakening due to American troops acting tough and how much was it due to political changes within Iraq as regards the Sunni. By its nature, a military study like this tends to neglect wider issues and effects. But when the authors crossed the line from looking at counterinsurgency to promoting that strategy and its leaders, they probably needed to widen their focus.
The book is not particularly kind to either the Bush or Obama Administrations. At some level, it doesn't tend to see their strategies (around the surge) as being all that different. The authors also buy into the questionable idea that AQ operating in Iraq was a serious issue. There is AQ and there is the Zarqawi organization "AQ in Iraq". They are different things. Far too often, the book uses "AQ" when it means Zarqawi's "AQ in Iraq" organization. That slight difference in words can create a radically different perception of the insurgency in Iraq for the reader.
Despite the title, the authors have a difficult time suggesting what a better "endgame" might have looked like. The thing about the counterinsurgency strategies they have come to believe in is that while they can improve a situation, they can't end the situation. As in Iraq, the best they could seem to offer is a better stalemate.
The book presents an enormous amount of detail about the later years of the conflict and perhaps in time the book can serve as a jumping off point to more objective analysis done from a greater distance than the authors of this book managed.
I gave it three stars because I think its a flawed book, but did enjoy reading it. While its not a perfect history of the war, it does make the case of the counterinsurgency crowd in a very credible way.
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