"The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008": a review

I just finished reading Bob Woodward’s “The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008.” Typical Woodward in a lot of respects. It is about as substantial as cotton candy. The good guys are mostly the guys who talked to him (I say “mostly” because even though Bush granted a great deal of access there is no way a Washington Post employee is going to move beyond the Bush=stupid/evil meme). The bad guys are the guys who told him to go pee up a rope (neither Rumsfeld nor any of his staff are quoted so you can figure out that part of the narrative fairly easily). He managed to make it through the book without interviewing anyone who was in a coma though the nation would have been much better off if several of the main subjects had been.

My major observation, one which, oddly enough, escapes Woodward entirely: We’ve probably not been as poorly served by our military leaders in the history of the nation as we have been since 2004 and not for the reasons Woodward would claim. The degree to which the military had bought into a strategy that had no objective beyond extricating the military from Iraq regardless of the cost to the nation is nothing short of terrifying. The degree to which the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, and former commander of US Central Command, Admiral William Fallon, actively worked to subvert the President’s military strategy, the “surge,” simply boggles the mind.

Mackubin Thomas Owens Walls Street Journal op-ed titled Our Generals Almost Cost Us Iraq is a must-read. I, myself, wrote on this issue 3 1/2 years ago.

Other obeservations:

  1. Someone should have sent a book of Lombardi quotes to Baghdad . The entire book can be summed up in two: Fatigue makes cowards of us all and Winning isn’t everything it’s the only thing.

  2. Georges Clemenceau was right, war is too important to be left to generals.

  3. Diplomacy is way too vital to be entrusted to the State Department.

  4. I hate #$%^ing admirals.

  5. The lack of situational awareness is appalling. State doesn’t report on the Awakening movement until December 2006 when in open source reporting via BillRoggio and the Long War Journal it had been covered since March 2006 and by October 2006 it was really obvious that the Marines were on the strategic offensive in Anbar.

  6. A corollary to point 6, open source intelligence is real. Woodward includes a vignette where Jack Keane visits American Enterprise to meet with Fred Kagan and his ad hoc work group and he thinks they have access to highly classified materials when they have put together their info from open sources.

  7. The pre-surge strategy would probably have worked if it had been pushed as a strategy to win rather than as a way to get the Army out of Iraq.

  8. Even Bob Woodward can’t make Iraq Study Group members Lee Hamilton or Bill Perry into anything other than asshats.

  9. Even Bob Woodward can’t make Harry Reid and Nancy Plosi into anything other than asshats.

  10. Our intelligence community’s notion of analysis is to take what happened yesterday and project it out to infinity. In Iraq the analysis of the political situation and the military situation was never any more sophisticated than that. In addition to point #5, the Baghdad CIA station was reporting Maliki as a tool of the Shi’a militias up until the actual day before Maliki ordered troops to suppress those militias.

  11. To a certain extent the surge worked because everyone who had a vested interest in Iraq’s survival decided that the level of violence could not be sustained.

  12. Did I mention I hate #$%^ing admirals.?

  13. The American soldier is simply incredible.

  14. When Iraq succeeds, Bush deserves the credit but he will never get it.

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