We will soon have a new President making decisions about the war in Iraq. So is this book ancient history? Unfortunately, the answer is no.
I had read all three of Bob Woodward's previous books about the Bush White House, starting with Bush at War in 2002, followed by Plan of Attack in 2004, then State of Denial in 2006. So when the fourth and final volume in the Bush series was published earlier this year, I got on the hold list. The War Within is primarily about the downward slope toward civil war in Iraq and the contentious decision to implement the Surge in the spring of 2007.
A lopsided majority of Americans now think that it was a mistake to go to war in Iraq. But there is still speculation about whether we can get out without duplicating our tragic experiences with Vietnam.
Here Woodward pieces together the deliberations of various top level players in Defense, the military, the State Department, the White House, the Iragi government, and various Iraqi factions concerning the 2007 decision to send additional troops to secure vital regions in Iraq. Most would agree that the Surge has worked; the question becomes once again whether or not our withdrawal will just see Iraq fall back into chaos.
Woodward doesn't give us a failsafe plan for the future -- but at least he acquaints us with how complicated the withdrawal of troops might become. And he gives flesh to some of those who will be involved with the pullout, including current (and possibly future) Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.