A Secret White House History 2006-2008
This is the forth book about the Bush White House by the Washington Post's most famous reporter. I think by now the secret is out. His 2002 book Bush At War was very complimentary toward the President and his white house team, dealing with the events of 9/11/01, the invasion of Afghanistan and the preparations to invade Iraq. Woodward was convinced, as most of us were that weapons of mass destruction would be found and destroyed. When no WMDs were discovered Woodward's coverage toward the Bush team turned increasingly negative.
In The War Within Woodward portrays the Bush administration as a dysfunctional family. Each of his senior advisers is shown to be playing a separate game, the enemy is found in the other branches of government and not on the battlefield of Iraq. There is little mention of Afghanistan at all in the book.
Woodward portrays Bush as a man who is unable to grasp the implications of his own decisions, going with "his gut" and ignoring contradictory facts, having unshakable faith in his generals, until they are replaced, then having unshakable faith in his new generals. Donald Rumsfeld is shown to be so wedded to his small lean military concept that he is unable to concede the value of increasing troop strength in Iraq even as the sectarian violence grows exponentially. Condoleeza Rice is portrayed as being excluded from the decision making process.
How the "surge" came about is the central focus of the book. Woodward shows that this was an amorphous concept, basically just "lets throw a bunch more soldiers and Marines into Iraq and see what happens." It was not until after the "surge" was decided upon, when it was decided that a new commander and a new Secretary of Defense would be needed, or it wouldn't happen, that David Petraeus was chosen to lead in Iraq. Petraeus' tactic of moving US troops, with their Iraqi counterparts, into the neighborhoods of Baghdad and his willingness to accept the assistance of both Sunni and Shia militias into the defense structure were key to the success of the "surge" in reducing the level of violence in Iraq.
One has to wonder how President Obama will fare in Iraq. Can he successfully reduce the numbers of US troops to 35,000 by August 2010? The political situation in Iraq remains unsettled. The Maliki government is laughably weak. There has been no reconciliation between Sunni and Shia factions. The Kurds remain a part but apart. Iran continues to stir up trouble. Will the violence return or will the Iraqi's begin to build a civil coalition to address their own governance?