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The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics, and the Endgame in Iraq Hardcover – August 12, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 80 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This is West’s third book about the war in Iraq; his previous one (No True Glory, 2005) is an account of the ferocious battle of Fallujah in 2004. This one pivots on the war’s major strategic development since then, President George Bush’s December 2006 decision to reinforce American troops; describing the so-called surge—its political origin, strategic concept, and tactical implementation—is West’s purpose here. Subscribing to the general opinion that the initial occupation of Iraq was bungled, West briskly dispenses his critique of the years 2003–5 to intently examine the situation as of 2006. His inspection assumes the narrative form of accompanying American units on patrol, conveying a gritty sense of counterinsurgency war and the frustrations American officers have experienced conducting this one. West seems relieved to introduce the commanders of the surge in Iraq, Generals David Petraeus and Ray Odierno, and he unreservedly extols the courage of soldiers and marines who have carried it out. Arguing they have retrieved the situation, West encourages optimism about the outcome of America’s war in Iraq. --Gilbert Taylor


"Balanced, panoramic assessment of the Iraq War by former Marine and Reagan administration veteran West (No True Glory, 2005, etc.), who heralds American soldiers as its unsung heroes amid the "fog of Washington". . .A timely, eye-opening historical analysis that provides clarity around the difficult choices the next president faces." —Kirkus, starred review

"In this important new chronicle of the war in Iraq, Bing West reveals how America reached the brink of defeat in 2006 and then managed in 2007 to stage a stunning turnaround. With its vivid, on-the-ground reporting, his book is a fitting tribute to the honor, valor, and toughness of our soldiers. Notwithstanding numerous mistakes by their leaders, West shows that their sacrifices have made success possibleas long we do not withdraw prematurely."Senator John S. McCain

"Sometimes the best way to support the troops is to criticize the generals. Bing West does both well in this book, showing a sympathy for our soldiers and Marines, but also a great ear for military truth and a determination to render events accurately. This is his third and most important book about the Iraq war. Read it."
Thomas E. Ricks, author of FIASCO: The American Military Adventure in Iraq

"A brilliant exposition. Based on extensive experience in the war zone, Bing West recounts how Soldiers and Marines showed the President and the Pentagon the way to solve the Iraq insurgency problem. Echoing the admonition that "all politics are local", The Strongest Tribe convincingly argues that it was a grass roots strategy developed by on-scene officers who forged ties at the tribal level that brought stability to Iraq's turbulent Anbar Province and provided hope for all Iraq."
Lt. Gen. Bernard E. Trainor USMC (Ret.) Co-author of The Generals' War
and COBRA II: The Inside Story of the Invation and Occupation of Iraq

"Some four decades ago I told Bing West that his book, the Village, would become a classic in counterinsurgency warfare. And so it did. "The Strongest Tribe" will surely be West's second classica moving and detailed account of almost six years of war in Iraq." Dr. James R. Schlesinger, Director of Central Intelligence Agency, Nixon administration; Secretary of Defense, Ford administration; Chairman, The Mitre Corporation

"West calls it like he sees it, and there is probably no American not wearing a uniform who has seen more of this war." —Washington Post Book World

"An authoritative testament . . . full of eyewitness accounts . . . [Bing] West, who served in Vietnam as a Marine infantry officer, is more than a battlefield observer. He is a military analyst who wants to show how counterinsurgency works."—Wall Street Journal

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (August 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400067014
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067015
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,065,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By maskirovka VINE VOICE on August 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book with some apprehension, because I was somewhat disappointed with the author's earlier book, "No True Glory." It rather annoyed me to read a whole slew of gunfights between the Marines and insurgents in Anbar Province but have no maps to give me some sense of how the engagements were unfolding.

Fortunately, Bing West's account of the war up to the present time in Iraq doesn't get down into the weeds like "No True Glory" so the handful of maps he provides are basically adequate for the narrative.

Reading "the Strongest Tribe," I find myself thinking two different things. One is "Finally! we're getting it right in Iraq!" The other is "Why did it take this long to get it right?"

I think West's book is invaluable for anyone who wants (as I so badly did) a good idea of the ebb and flow of the conflict and the various strategies that we employed before finally hitting (or should I say rediscovering) the methods that appear to be working so well over there now: using American soldiers to provide security for the Iraqi population and winning their trust and using that trust to get intelligence on the insurgents and terrorists.

I don't really have any major criticisms of the book. West might give the Marines more attention in his account than their actual share of the fight would justify. But if that is a bias, it's understandable since the Marines were at the forefront of the bloody fights in Fallujah and played the lead role in pacifying Anbar. Moreover, West is a former Marine himself and it is logical he would gravitate toward them and have his best contacts with there as well. In any case, if there's a bit of bias, it's only very slight.
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Format: Hardcover
Bing West is one of the foremost military authors about the War in Iraq.

His new book, The Strongest Tribe, is about the history of the Iraq war. It begins and ends, very appropriately with Major Doug Zembiec, whom, if you don't know, you should.

The path of The Strongest Tribe takes us through the invasion to the point in 2006 where we essentially were losing the war, then figured out how to win and implemented the Surge strategy. Bing West was there dozens of times and he chronicles the good, the bad, and the ugly - straight up, neat, no ice.

The best part about this book is that it is the book that Cobra II wanted to be (and many others). Bing West is not afraid of offending and his sources speak for themselves (and he is highly critical of LTG Sanchez and L. Paul Bremmer). The only part that I disagreed with was West's assertion that we could have somehow kept the Iraqi Army together after the invasion. Certainly, some units would have remained but, for the most part, I didn't see many Shia conscripts returning to serve Sunni Officers in most situations. I had spoken with a lot of soldiers about this - COL (ret) Greg Gardner, in particular, who was the Army's representative at the CPA's Ministry of National Security.

From a tactician's point of view (and an expert in COIN), Bing West gives you the perspective to see what went wrong and what went right. [Edit Note: This is the first book that I've read that also correctly describes John McCain's fight against Secretary Rumsfeld, Congress and the administration to see a Surge strategy put into place.]

There is much talk of tribes in the book. You can't discuss Iraq and not talk about the tribal system. In the end, the strongest tribe wins.
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Format: Hardcover
Books worth reading once are worth reading twice - John Morley.

My own 800 days of service in Al Anbar Iraq as the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Bn, 7th Marines and as the G-3 of the 1st Marine Division have undoubtedly shaped my perspective of The Strongest Tribe, but until now I have felt ill-equipped when asked by intelligent and well meaning friends to explain the broader war in Iraq. Mr. West latest book is a tour de force that provides a vibrant, honest and hard hitting look into the realities of close brutal combat as well as a sophisticated and nuanced exposé of the complex strategic, political and social narratives that must be understood if one is to fully understand the war in Iraq. The author's deep understanding of war born of his considerable personal combat experiences and service in the Defense Department's highest offices, uniquely position him to give a thorough yet accessible treatment to this most complex and misunderstood conflict. Mr. West's love and genuine respect for the young men and women who so selflessly serve our nation in harms way is felt in the stories of their courage and sacrifice as well as in his often biting criticisms of leaders and policy makers who he feels could and should have served them better. My own understanding of the war has been stretched beyond the boundaries of Al Anbar to places like Mosul, Basra, Sadr City and the Green Zone. I highly recommend this book to Marines like me who desire a fuller, broader understanding of their war. More importantly, this will be the book I will give friends to read because it treats our young warriors with the reverence and respect they deserve and delivers the scholarship and insights the War in Iraq requires. I will certainly read it more than once.

Joseph A. L'Etoile
LtCol, USMC (Ret.)
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