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War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism Hardcover – April 8, 2008

3.9 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Indispensable. . . . The best account to date of how the administration debated, decided, organized and executed its military responses to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Much of what makes War and Decision so compelling is that it is, in effect, a revisionist history.” (Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal)

“Extraordinarily frank and persuasive. . . . [O]ur first in-depth look at the inside of the Bush administration’s national security top leadership from one who was there. [Feith] has been criticized harshly and, I think, unfairly.” (Michael Barone, U.S. News & World Report)

“Meticulous. . . . A convincing refutation of unfair allegations about the author [and] a balanced analysis of policy debates about Iraq inside the administration. . . . Will be studied for years by journalists, historians and aspiring political appointees.” (National Review)

“Extraordinary. . . . I was unprepared for the thoroughness of the documentation, the sweeping nature of the narrative and the highly readable prose. It is the first attempt by a serious student of history to lay out the myriad, challenging choices confronting a president. . . . Splendid.” (Frank J. Gaffney Jr., Washington Times)

“If you want to read a serious book about the origins and consequences of the intervention in Iraq in 2003, you owe it to yourself to get hold of a copy of Douglas Feith’s War and Decision.” (Christopher Hitchens, Slate)

“One would have expected, as in the case of all the other Iraq exposés, that [Feith] would use the memoir genre to get even. Instead, he is self–critical, even admits to occasional hubris, but, more importantly, also chronicles the contortions and reinventions of many post–2003/4 critics of the war.” (Victor Davis Hanson, National Review Online)

“As Americans turned on the Iraq war, anti-war forces tried to portray the war as not only a mistake, but the result of a neoconservative coup. . . . In his new memoir, War and Decision, Mr. Feith does an admirable job in dispelling this hokum.” (Eli Lake, New York Sun)

“By far the most balanced, detailed, and lucid account of this story that’s come out yet. . . . Feith makes the first intellectually serious attempt to explain how the government tried to answer that question [of settling post-9/11 defense strategy] in the years after 9/11.” (“The Corner,” National Review Online)

“What’s needed now? More memoirs, more data, more information, more testimony. More serious books, like Doug Feith’s. More ‘this is what I saw’ and ‘this is what is true.’ Feed history.” (Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal)

About the Author

Douglas J. Feith served as U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from 2001 to 2005. He is the Director of the Center for National Security Strategies at the Hudson Institute and a Belfer Center Adjunct Visiting Scholar at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He lives near Washington, D.C., with his family.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1St Edition edition (March 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060899735
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060899738
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,042,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have now finished the book but the number of negative reviews posted here still suggests that half a review by someone who has read the book carefully was better than what else is on offer so far. I have not altered my comments since reading the rest but have a few additional observations. This is a personal story of Feith's career in the DoD, before and during the Iraq War. He comments on contacts with others but he does not offer general statements or philosophy about matters that he is not personally familiar with. He does, however, offer some conclusions at the end about what was done well and what the mistakes were. He is honest about identifying his opinions and what he believes to be facts. This is a source document for the history that will be eventually written, hopefully fairly, about this period. I marked a number of sections because they impact the mythology of the war as illustrated in the other reviews and comments.

He is critical of Colin Powell, and especially, Richard Armitage, who seemed not to be as concerned with the post-Saddam situation yet who resisted anyone else treading on their turf. His first skirmish was in 2002 (page 173) when he attempted to set up an office, called Office of Strategic Influence, to counteract the Islamist propaganda about why violent jihad was becoming a threat. Some went back to the old "root causes" excuse yet the Saudi hijackers of 9/11 were upper middle class educated men. His effort came to naught when the office was attacked in a strategic leak from within the administration, followed by a sensational NY Times article that accused them of planning to spread false information. Another similar article was printed recently about another DoD effort to reach Muslims with honest information.
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Format: Hardcover
From [...]

A Tale of Two Tell-Alls

By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, June 2, 2008, at 11:40 AM ET

When Bush's Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill defected from the Cabinet in 2002 and Ron Suskind told O'Neill's story of being surrounded by fools, Michael Kinsley observed that the president deserved all he got from the book. Anyone dumb enough to hire a fool like O'Neill in the first place ought to have known what to expect. So it goes with the ludicrous figure of Scott McClellan. I used to watch this mooncalf blunder his way through press conferences and think, Exactly where do we find such men? For the job of swabbing out the White House stables, yes. But for any task involving the weighing of words? Hah! Now it seems that he realizes, and with a shock at that, that there was a certain amount of "spin" or propaganda involved in his job description. Well, give the man a cigar. Beyond that, the book is effectively valueless to the anti-war camp since, as McClellan says of the president, "I consider him a fundamentally decent person, and I do not believe he or his White House deliberately or consciously sought to deceive the American people."
Bertrand Russell's principle of evidence against interest--if the pope has doubts about Jesus, his doubts are by definition more newsworthy than the next person's--doesn't really justify the ocean of coverage in which the talentless McClellan is currently so far out of his depth. For one thing, he doesn't supply anything that can really be called evidence.
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Format: Hardcover
Like many of my neighbors, I scraped the faded American flag decal off my back window in, oh, about 2005 when I became disgusted with the war in Iraq. Two questions kept popping up in my mind: "Why are we still in this?" and "Why didn't the planners see this mess coming?"

Like many, I had forgotten (or perhaps had never really understood) the purpose of the war which I think Feith summarizes best in one of his chapter titles: "Change the Way We Live, Or Change the Way They Live". His explanation took care of my first question.

Feith's book takes long strides to answer the second question, and it was well worth my time. Without a doubt this book is from Feith's viewpoint, as it should be. As he recounts, others disagreed with his views. But even if you disagree with Feith's viewpoint, you should read this book. After reading it, I am grateful to Doug Feith for this book, not to mention his service to this nation.
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Format: Hardcover
The New York Times and Washington Post have steadfastly refused to review this book, which is a strange form of flattery for Douglas J. Feith. Having printed numberless falsehoods and distortions about Feith, these guardians of the truth as they want it known, do not want the actual truth disseminated, the truth contained in "War & Decision".

It is indeed lamentable that so few will read this book. First, the subject is too serious for most people. They will continue to rely on newspapers, magazines, blogs and so on. Second, reading Feith's book requires dedication. While well written and eminently comprehensible by virtually any reader, it is packed with detail and detail to the uninterested becomes quickly tedious.

Fortunately, though the Times and Post have declined to review "War & Decision", many other honest people have - and the conclusion has been generally that Feith has written the first serious history of the Iraq war. It is comprehensive. It covers the planning, the execution, the aftermath. It is unsparing in praising the successes - and lamenting (as well as explaining) the failures.

Many myths and outright lies of the mainstream media and left-wing are exposed here and supported not only with profuse sourcing, but in some cases with copies of the actual documents as well. No anonymous sources as you would find in a Woodward book or a Times or Post article.

It will take dedication to work your way through the entire book and, frankly, I doubt that it is totally comprehensible with a single reading. This book invites scholarly researching and multiple readings.
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