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The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008 Hardcover – September 8, 2008

4.1 out of 5 stars 130 customer reviews
Book 4 of 4 in the Bush at War Series

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Crisis of Character: A White House Secret Service Officer Discloses His Firsthand Experience with Hillary, Bill, and How They Operate by Gary J. Byrne
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Editorial Reviews

From AudioFile

In his fourth, and most disturbing, analysis of the Bush presidency, Bob Woodward looks at the years 2006 to 2008, during which the nation's chief executive hunkers down with a failing strategy in Iraq. This time around things get positively King Lear-ish as a fawning national security advisor and a yes-woman secretary of state enable an unblinking, righteously guided president, who, by his own admission, is uninterested in diplomacy and obsessed with enemy body counts. Narrator Boyd Gaines, who has read the past three Woodward books, captures the essence of each of the players' voices without using mimicry���right down to Bush's mispronunciation of "nuclear." The result is one of those exceptional author-reader combinations that makes you wish the series wouldn't end. On the other hand . . . R.W.S. © AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"[B]rilliantly reported..." -- Timothy Rutten, Los Angeles Times

"A better first draft of history might be difficult to find." -- Gilbert Cruz, Time

"More than mere anecdotal detail, this is the stuff of history... The fine detail is wonderfully illuminating, and cumulatively these books may be the best record we will ever get of the events they cover... They stand as the fullest story yet of the Bush presidency and of the war that is likely to be its most important legacy."-- Jill Abramson, The New York Times Book Review

"...recalls David Halberstam's iconic The Best and the Brightest...The War Within's controversial revelations are contentions and numerous...But, mainly, it is a study of what happens when men and women, charged with leading the country in wartime or with counseling those who lead, do not tell each other what they really think."-- Josiah Bunting, III, The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (September 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416558977
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416558972
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (130 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #792,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Susanna Hutcheson TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The War Within" is Woodward's 15th book, and his fourth about the Bush administration. I received an advance copy.

Woodward interviewed President George W. Bush twice, and he interviewed Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

I've noticed that in all of Woodward's books about Bush, he seemed to be full of praise for Bush when Bush was flying high in the ratings. But when Bush was low in approval ratings, so was Woodward's opinion. So I've got to question if Woodward has gone from the great investigative reporter he once was to an establishment me-too type.

After reading this, one can only be grateful that the Bush presidency is close to an end. Trouble is, it leaves a mess behind.

According to Woodward, the surge has worked but Bush failed to lead and made numerous blunders that were very costly.

The White House's National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley, put out a statement Friday, Sept. 5, prior to release of the book, disputing some of the assertions made by Woodward.

Woodward says that Bush has not told the American public the truth about Iraq and the war in general. But I found it of interest that Bush allowed Woodward to interview him and give him access. He said that Bush seems to have aged considerably during his long tenure in office --- he has a "paunch" and slumps when sitting.

Of Bush Woodward says, "He did not seek sacrifice from most of the country when he had the chance. He did not even mobilize his own party. Republicans often voiced as much suspicion and distrust as Democrats. The president was rarely the voice of realism on the Iraq war.
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Format: Hardcover
"The War Within" begins portraying the Iraq chaos in 2006 - violence and American casualties are increasing, while Bush portrays a rosy picture and his staff realize our strategy needs to be reviewed. Bush agrees, but the "really bad news" is that this strategy review had no deadline and the emphasis was on it being conducted "under the radar" to avoid causing consternation during an election year.

General Casey, head of U.S. forces in Iraq, is trying to convince Bush to reduce troops in Iraq - we were making the Iraqis dependent on us and our large pressure was a sign of disrespect for them. He and General Abizaid had seen how the ethnic groups in the Balkans didn't reconcile until the violence got totally out of hand. Nonetheless, Bush seemed plugged into an attrition strategy (keep killing them until they run out of bodies), but Vietnam had proved that didn't work. Rumsfeld supported Casey - in fact, this was in line with his "new, light" Army vision.

Bush's decision-making style was "gut driven" - thus, his decisions lacked a process to examine consequences, alternatives, and motives. Further, he refused to allow talks with Iran and Syria - even though wanted by his area chief, Admiral Fallon. Finally, lacking deadlines, strategy reviews were underway, but with no seeming movement to fruition.

Retired General Jack Keane emerges as the hero in all this internal chaos, warfare, and delay. Being a member of the Defense Policy Board, he had access to up-to-date information on Iraq, and was encouraged by fellow member Newt Gingrich to take his thoughts to Rumsfeld. Keane's one-man, self-initiated effort outperformed those of all the other groups (eg.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
From "The War Within":

"In Baghdad, [General] Casey appreciated the president's repeated public votes of confidence. But he kept asking himself: What do civilian leaders bring to such a war? After all, neither the full capacity of the U.S. government nor the American people were ever mobilized. No one ever articulated a grand strategy about what the heck the United States was doing. Nearly everything fell to the military."

Actually, the U.S. did have a strategy in 2006 as articulated repeatedly by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. That strategy was 1) train up Iraqi security forces so they could take over the mission and 2) disengage the U.S. military so it would provide additional impetus to the Iraqis to help themselves. The problem was, this strategy wasn't working and had not been working for the previous three years. General Casey was frustrated and he was right about one thing--there was no "grand strategy" that had been formulated and that was being executed by the Bush Administration to bring both political and military resources to bear to strive towards a successful outcome in Iraq. That would come later.

I have always been amazed at the access that Bob Woodward has to high level sources who share with him the inner discussions, challenges and decisions that are made at the highest civilian and military leadership levels. Even President Bush gave extensive interviews to Mr. Woodward who was able to weave the various point of views together to produce a coherent and fresh look at a complex and vexing situation which has cost an enormous amount of human lives and national treasure. History is still being written. The jury is still out.
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