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This Book Works Better than It Should,
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This review is from: Blind Into Baghdad: America's War in Iraq (Paperback)
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. He notes, to provide a flavor of his reflections, that (page 229):
"The country failed because individuals who led it failed. They made the wrong choices; they did not learn or listen; they were fools. No one responsible for these errors was dismissed from the administration. No senior officer was relieved or reprimanded."
In the final analysis, because of the approach, some of the material does appear dated. However, this perspective also provides an interesting test of how well (or poorly) Fallows and those people whom he interviewed perceived accurately what the longer term situation would actually be.