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The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008 Hardcover – September 8, 2008
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A first printing with #1 in line. Publisher priced dust jacket. No remainder marks. A fine copy of the jacket and the book with no markings or wear.
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I particularly appreciated the parts of the book devoted to Meghan O'Sullivan's role, who was seen by several elements in the administration as someone who was undercutting their authority. The reality was, her role was to describe what was happening on the ground, the real situation. Tome after tome has been written about Iraq, a lot of it being simply finger pointing, but little about what was actually being accomplished. The State Department was completely cut out of any postwar planning until several years had passed.
George Bush, for all his faults, was strong in his decisions. Once he made up his mind, he stuck with his decisions.
The above comment can be a blessing or a curse especially to the President of the USA. Standing alone in your decisions when everyone else in the world is against you takes a massive amount of guts but, it can also be a double edged sword that brings about your downfall. You want that ability to stand firm in a world leader but, where's the line drawn between guts and, what may be termed, Presidential decorum? There is a point where you have GOT to start listening and maybe review your decisions. The inability to review, I feel, was Bush's major downfall.
Bob Woodward interviewed all the Senior cabinet members and the upper echelons of the military and from all that came this 500 page account of post invasion Iraq from 2006-2008. The book mainly focuses on the politics and decisions that led up to the surge. The surge can be seen as Bush's last major decision prior to his departure.
Bush was not going to allow a lost cause in Iraq to be his legacy so he was very in favor of the surge. Some on the ground were hesitant due to a concern that Iraq should be getting used to less American force on the ground not more. The violence was escalating and therefore more troops were needed. The American public were growing wearier, day by day, of the costly war therefore, the surge is a bad idea. Seasoned veterans and military buffs explained that to effectively fight an insurgency more, not less, troops are required. Back and forth, round and round.
Many asked, "what does the end in Iraq for America look like?" "What does winning look like?" "What's our measure of success?" These questions were hard to find answers for and, maybe should have been answered prior to 2003.
As his 2nd term wore on Bush became less and less popular so, denying the surge for political and popular reasons made no sense. He, above everything else, wanted to win due to his ideology of a free and prosperous Iraq. Having found no WMD it was now a humanitarian issue and Bush knew he couldn't just back out and leave the warring factions to slaughter each other. Talk about a quagmire.
This book is fascinating and very well written. It's purely politics so it wont appeal to everyone as it can drag a little here and there but, that's sometimes the nature of politics. Surprisingly absent is the voice of Cheney who many believed ran the presidency.
If you're interested in Iraq 2006-2008 and the politics surrounding the surge, this is a great read.
This is a book about the Bush Administration's change of policy with respect to Iraq. It begins before the elections of 2006, when things were falling apart in Iraq. Even stalwart Republican Senators began to question the war and the Administration's policy regarding it. Even while the President was telling the country that progress was being made, several evaluations of policy were occurring simultaneously (and not always informing one another): the military evaluation, centered on a platoon of colonels assessing matters; Stephen Hadley's examination (he was National Security Advisor); the Iraq Study Group, led by James Baker and Lee Hamilton; a group headed by Meghan O'Sullivan. One thing that is clear from all the groups' examination of the status of the Iraq war--things were not working. Generals and Administration figures were speaking positively of the war, and these various groups were telling a far different story. In fact, the President, saying one thing in public, had come to embrace the perspective of Hadley and others. Things began to happen--Donald Rumsfeld was replaced by Robert Gates at Defense; the concept of the "surge" began to gain some degree of support.
Some of the high points: discussions of the President's own thinking (based on interviews with Woodward), inside accounts of meetings among military leaders and war critics, within the Iraq Study Group, and so on. At the end of the book, Woodward notes how this book builds on his third in a series on the Bush presidency, "State of Denial." He notes how, in that work, how the President was not openly acknowledging problems in Iraq and the deterioration of conditions on the ground. As Woodward said in the final passages in that book (Page 433 in "The War Within"): "With all Bush's upbeat talk and optimism. . .he had not told the American public the truth about what Iraq had become." He goes on to say "My reporting for this book showed that to be even more the case than I could have imagined."
His final evaluation (Page 437): "There was no deadline, no hurry [in the President's leadership on Iraq]. The president was engaged in the war rhetorically but maintained an odd detachment from its management. He never got a handle on it, and over these years of war, too often he failed to lead." Fairly bracing language from Woodward. Does he make the case? I think that that judgment should be left to each reader. Whatever one might think of Woodward and the president, this book does spark thinking about the subject.