The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008
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As violence in Iraq reaches unnerving levels in 2006, a second front in the war rages at the highest levels of the Bush administration. In his fourth book on President George W. Bush, Bob Woodward takes readers deep inside the tensions, secret debates, unofficial backchannels, distrust and determination within the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, the intelligence agencies and the U.S. military headquarters in Iraq. With unparalleled intimacy and detail, this gripping account of a president at war describes a period of distress and uncertainty within the U.S. government from 2006 through mid-2008.

The White House launches a secret strategy review that excludes the military. General George Casey, the commander in Iraq, believes that President Bush does not understand the war and eventually concludes he has lost the president's confidence. The Joint Chiefs of Staff also conduct a secret strategy review that goes nowhere. On the verge of revolt, they worry that the military will be blamed for a failure in Iraq.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice strongly opposes a surge of additional U.S. forces and confronts the president, who replies that her suggestions would lead to failure. The president keeps his decision to fire Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld from Vice President Dick Cheney until two days before he announces it. A retired Army general uses his high-level contacts to shape decisions about the war, as Bush and Cheney use him to deliver sensitive messages outside the chain of command.

For months, the administration's strategy reviews continue in secret, with no deadline and no hurry, in part because public disclosure would harm Republicans in the November 2006 elections. National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley tells Rice, "We've got to do it under the radar screen because the electoral season is so hot."

The War Within provides an exhaustive account of the struggles of General David Petraeus, who takes over in Iraq during one of the bleakest and most violent periods of the war. It reveals how breakthroughs in military operations and surveillance account for much of the progress as violence in Iraq plummets in the middle of 2007.

Woodward interviewed key players, obtained dozens of never-before-published documents, and had nearly three hours of exclusive interviews with President Bush. The result is a stunning, firsthand history of the years from mid-2006, when the White House realizes the Iraq strategy is not working, through the decision to surge another 30,000 U.S. troops in 2007, and into mid-2008, when the war becomes a fault line in the presidential election.

The War Within addresses head-on questions of leadership, not just in war but in how we are governed and the dangers of unwarranted secrecy.

Customer Reviews:

  • Right Time, Right Place
    I must have been in the right state of mind because I loved this book! This is Bob Woodward's 4th book on the presidency of George W. Bush and like the first 3, The War Within takes you behind the scenes of the White House and the political/military players between 2006 and 2008 when the war in Iraq seemed to get worse every day.

    Woodward explores the secrecy of a White House not wanted to show the American public it's problems. The war was a mess and no one had a plan. Woodward doesn't come across as someone who is politically motivated to smear the President. In the epilogue he does promote his other books which I found tiresome, but he waits until the very end to express his own opinions on the story.

    Whether you support President Bush or not, this book takes you where the decisions, arguments, and discussions took place without the public knowing. It gives just a taste of how this administration worked...or failed to work.

    One of the reasons why I really enjoyed this book was because of the place I am in. I was connecting with the ideas behind it. I was looking at it from a leadership standpoint. What do you do when a plan is not working, in fact it's doing the opposite?

    This book will not be for everyone. I know there are many people who could care less about government and politics and that's fine. But since this is my blog and I read this book, I decided to post it and let you know that it was a good read.

    It has a few pictures so some of you may enjoy that part of it!...more info
  • It should always be this easy
    Marketing claims are easy to make but execution is much more valuable and difficult to accomplish. Amazon makes it easy and they DELIVER!!!!! They had what I needed, billed me as promised and delivered the book faster than I would have expected. I expect a lot when it comes to customer service and I criticize more often than not. This is all praise, earned by a concientious organization.
    ...more info
  • Great.
    This is Woodward's fourth book on the Bush Presidency at war. It's also, I thought, the best. As with all of Woodward's books, the reader is left to wonder how exactly Woodward acquired all of his insider information. However, it is clear he had access to the biggest players involved in the Bush Administration's efforts in Iraq. He obviously interviewed the most important people. Any criticisms from the pro-Bush crowd can be offered if those insiders feel so inclined. The White House itself issued a rebuttal of sorts, but still it seems that the bulk of Woodward's reporting has gone unchallenged. That may well be because those who know inside stuff cannot talk about it, but that's the way it goes in a democracy that treasures civil liberties and press freedoms. Whiners need not run for office (nor should anyone try to stop anyone else from whining). We can either not have the Woodward book, or we can have it with the understanding that there are likely certain inaccuracies. I'll take the latter, hands down. Those who had their mitts in devising poorly thought-out plans will have their shot at offering other perspectives (see Feith, Bolten, etc.)
    This book covers the Bush Administration from early 2006 until about mid 2008. We see the President try to deal with the increasing problems that were evident in Iraq, problems that contradicted President Bush's overly optimistic public statements. We also see the efforts of those in the Pentagon, State Department, and in Iraq as they tried to come up with a strategy to address the increasing violence. As we mostly now know, the "surge" and elements often incorrectly associated with that title have reduced the violence in Iraq. What we haven't known about, and what we hope Woodward is accurate about, are the discussions, arguments, etc., that went into coming up with the surge. Fascinating stuff. People of all political persuasions can take comfort in knowing that the smartest people in the world of every ideology were hard at work on the problem and all were striving with good intentions. (Certainly, good intentions do not ensure good policy and may at times encourage foolhardy policies.)
    When all is said and done, Woodward offers his thoughts on President Bush's war leadership, and Woodward makes a strong case for weak war leadership. Ultimately, Bush knew things weren't going well and was lying to the American people when he claimed all was well. He should have trusted the American people at an earlier stage of the war. Perhaps the Washington clock would have had a longer run time. The President should have also been more honest with himself. Contrary to claims of the right, the media was more accurate about the state of Iraq than the President was, and it seems that the President willed himself to believe things that were simply untrue. Who paid the price for those huge mistakes? He did to a small degree: his place in history will likely be among the lower ranked of our presidents. At best, he can hope for below average. We invaded Iraq because we believed that Saddam was a threat to us, and we believed Saddam was a threat because we believed he had WMDs. We now know we were wrong, and "the Decider" bears the most blame for that mistake. It was his call, and he got it wrong. Perhaps worse is that the US plan for winning there was disgracefully off the mark in every regard. From the initial invasion until final implementation of the surge, the Bush team made mistake after mistake, and history has recorded those facts. But those who paid the ultimate price for those mistakes are our brave servicemen and women and lots of Iraqis.
    Personally, I don't view George W. Bush as an evil man. His intentions were pure, but pure intentions... Also, though the US effort was in disarray in 2006, and although we know who is ultimately responsible for that tragic state of affairs, perhaps the best that can be said of President Bush is that he may have been the one man who could have made the surge the reality it needed to be because of his own mistakes. Time will tell, but the time that has passed so far is not flattering to President Bush, and Woodward writes about it in captivating detail. ...more info
  • Policy Evolution
    This book is excellent. I think most people will enjoy this book no matter what your point of view is. The book is written really well, just as most of Woodward's books are. He makes you feel as you read it you are in the room with the principles watching events transpire.

    The book serves two functions. The first thing the reader sees in the book is how policy evolves in Washington D.C. Rarely is it the decision of one person. This book shows that. Groups of people working in different agencies and Congress seems to come together from different angles. Of course events push these groups to come up with options. This book shows how that comes about better than anything else.

    The second function is you see how things in Iraq policy work. A reader will see clearly how the mess in Iraq comes about. The over reliance on politics has clearly effected policy. The book shows that very clearly.
    Through the story in the book you can see indirectly how Bush operates. I know everyone will have different opinions on that.

    ...more info
  • Woodward does well again.
    Bob Woodward once again provides excellent journalism covering the Bush administration. As mentioned in the New York Times review of the book, it is not as compelling as his last couple and anyone who reads newspapers will not find much new information.

    Where Woodward deserves credit, though, is in bringing the story together and telling it from an insider's perspective. He brings those desperate pieces of information together into one book backed by solid journalism. Most compelling are the admissions from the administration that the "Sunni Awakening" is based on paying former insurgents to stop killing us and start killing al Qaeda, and also the admission that al Qaeda represented a small part of what fueled the insurgency for years.

    This would be valuable information for conservatives who think that Iraq had something to do with 9/11 or that we have been fighting "evil doers" and "terrorists" for the last five or six years. Too bad people like Sarah Palin choose not to read books....more info
  • Good, even-handed information about the war
    Sometimes you read a book that shocks you, makes you ashamed at how little you knew about something important in the world around you. This book had that effect on me. It's too bad that more Americans won't have read this by the time they vote in November.

    I don't think it will change anyone from one party to another. Some Republicans have reviewed this on Amazon saying "read this if you like to read lies". I don't find this book particularly anti-war, nor do I find it particularly pro-war. It sometimes portrays the Republicans as a little foolish, and it sometimes portrays the Democrats as a little naive, but both of those criticisms are often true of the parties.

    This book won't tell you anything about why the war was started. It's not a conspiracy theory book. It's only interested in what steps have been taken to make the war a success in the last three or four years.

    On that note, this book made a lot of things more clear to me: Whenever someone says "we must succeed" in a speech, I used to think they were just blowing rhetoric around, but the Iraq War, whether it's won or lost, is going to have a huge impact on average Americans and how they relate to the rest of the world. It's also going to make a huge impact on how the rest of the world views us. We invaded a country, yes. Did we fix it before we left? Or did we break it and run?...more info
  • Why George W. Bush Should Have Been Impeached and Removed From Office.
    As a conservative Republican who voted for George W. Bush twice, I was a little leery of Bob Woodward's series on the Iraq War. But after reading State of Denial and The War Within I came to the conclusion that the 43d President of the United States should have been brought up before the House of Representatives on Articles of Impeachment for the woeful mismanagement of the war.

    The War Within gives the reader a sometimes minute-by-minute look at the Iraq War from the vantage point from most of the major and minor pricipals involved. Meticulously researched, sourced and quoted this book sets the gold standard for the body of work on this subject matter.

    Woodward lets this sad story tell itself; Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condi Rice, Stephen J. Hadley and Mr. Bush are not portrayed in a favorable light. The President appears to be in his own insular world oblivious to the realities on the ground in Iraq; his generals and staff, blindly groping for a way out of the morass.

    This book will make you mourn for the loss of treasure, and prestige that our country has suffered because of Mr. Bush's folly. The War Within is a valuable public service. ...more info
  • War Within is a fantastic read
    The behind the scenes look at the decision to proceed with the seige. Fantastic book. It was amazing to see how smart some of the players were and clueless the others were. ...more info
  • Too much here and too little there....
    i find the book to be somewhat evenhanded, albeit slow to build, with speciouz arguments and several ineffective redundancies. but for a neophyte like me, an excellent primer to the internal discussions. Difficult to discern why Hadley and Keane had such preeminentinsights? Werethey doing the most talking to Woodward?...more info
  • The War Within...Bush's struggle with the Iraq and the Iraq insurgency
    'The War Within'; A fascinating book...and aptly named.

    Bob Woodward latest book gives a detailed, in-depth review of the Bush White House dating from early 2006 to early summer 2008. He has chronologically followed events, meetings and discussions that detail the thinking that prevailed in the White House during these years.

    He has researched his work from discussions with first hand participants at meetings, memos, emails, transcripts of press conferences and also extensive personal interviews with the President, as well as many members of the White House staff and other key figures in the book.

    The book deals with the years of the Iraq war that the American leadership never expected. Instead of a grateful, liberated Iraqi people and a helpful and willing, newly elected Iraqi government, things have deteriorated and deteriorated fast. Confusion within the White House and in fact, within the entire Iraqi theatre (military, public service and governmental) is ruling the day...everyday. The end result sees an ever increasing number of daily insurgent attacks resulting in an increasing number of deaths of American soldiers as well as Iraqi civilians. And to make matters worse, there seem no end or solution in sight; suggestions and ideas within the White House seem to be in the 'endless loop' discussion mode, resulting in no decisive direction being shown or action taken.

    Problems are enhanced by several factors;

    1.)A weak, ineffective Iraqi government lead by President Maliki, who is more concerned with an old enemy, the Sunni sect, than he is about public security or national reconciliation between infighting factions; factions that include his own Shia sect, the Sunni sect, Moqtada al-Sadr (radical religious cleric), the Kurds, and Al Qaeda (not to mention the influence of Iran and Syria that are supplying arms and men to the insurgency).

    2.)A White House staff/elected politicians and a main stream American public that are becoming increasing divided and resentful of a war that goes on and on with no end in sight.

    3.)President Bush, stunned by the realization that the new Iraqi government is unable and/or unwilling to show leadership, is left in the agonizing position of trying to run this increasingly unpopular campaign; all the while receiving conflicting advise from advisers and an increasingly unsupportive American public.

    Conclusion:

    As I finished this book and reflected on the overall scope of what I'd just read, I was stunned by this realization; the events (meetings, think tanks etc.) described within this book that occurred over a two year period were extremely repetitive, that is to say, the same people at the same meetings, the same concerns day after day, month after month, with no one seemingly being able to decide what needed to be done and when to do it. It made me extremely aware of the isolation, loneliness and anguish that is part and parcel of being U.S. President.

    There were times that I forgot I was reading an account of events that were true; they actually happened. I felt like I was reading an international best seller dealing with political infighting and posturing; and in one way, I suppose I was doing just that.

    And finally, this book is an incredible in-depth account of a part of the war the we, the public, never saw. This was a war that no one in the White House every expected, but in retrospect, should have at least contemplated if not readily foreseen. Rulers of this area of the world have been tribal based with sectarian prejudices as far back as history goes; they (the leaders and the people) have had little or no experience with democracy. So is it any wonder the extremist element moved in once the Iraqi power vacuum was evident.

    In addition the back of the book contains:
    1.) a helpful list and explanation of acronyms used
    2.) a list of 'sources' that were used by the author in each chapter*
    3.) an index of all persons mentioned and where they are found within this book.

    4 1/2 Stars

    R.Nicholson

    * the individual chapters have no annotation system regarding 'sources' whatsoever. So when reading a chapter, there was no hint as to where the 'source' came from; if you wanted to find out, you had to stop reading and hunt it up in the appropriate section in the back of the book . This was somewhat inconvenient and interrupted the continuity of reading. Annotations at the bottom of each page, or at worst, the end of each chapter would have been much more useful and effective.
    Thus the 1/2 Star loss.



    ...more info
  • Leadership redux
    Bob Woodward has presented another installment of his assessment of the Bush presidency with an emphasis on the past two years and the situation in Iraq. Thoughtfully weighed and presented, Woodward gives credence to the continuing saga in Iraq and the players that make it happen. In one sense it's a surreal approach...while commenting on very recent history, the whole theatre is still in play. The opera ain't over until the fat lady sings, as they say.

    Reading "The War Within" is like watching a Keystone Kops routine in print with American military uniforms substituted. It's a grand combination of hubris and ego where many have input and no one has a clue. As Woodward suggests, the invasion of Iraq in 2003, while ill-conceived and ill-executed, has produced years of mea culpas without results. It's no wonder Americans have tuned out. The surge? Who is listening anymore?

    I was amazed to read how little Woodward comments on Dick Cheney and his influence on Bush. With the number of books over the years that signal Cheney's immense if not absolute domination of Bush's decision-making processes, Cheney makes but a cameo appearance here. Woodward may put the spin that Bush, technically, is in charge...he certainly loves the bravado of being president... but this won't sit well with the reader who has followed the Bush administration over time.

    "The War Within" is a good historical account of recent history, written crisply and with a good amount of insight. But I feel it's s set-up to a final book that readers might more want to tune into after January 20 of next year. Look for another Woodward book next year....more info
  • Understanding the Iraq War since 2006
    This follow-up to State of Denial details the progress of the Iraq War since 2006. It starts with the firing of Donald Rumsfeld and the rise of the even-handed Robert Gates. It follows the fall of General Casey and the rise of General Petraeus. It also parallels the two schools of thought in how to handle Iraq: clear and hold or surgical strikes.

    While not quite as readable as State of Denial, this book details more of the political dealings with Iraqi leaders and the attempts to establish a constitution and a central government; the eternal conflict between factions; and the maddening attitudes of Maliki. This book may be more for those who want to understand the gradual progress of developing an Iraqi government and the transformation of US military policy towards securing Iraq....more info
  • Like watching the movie "Groundhogs Day", only without the jokes
    By Cameron Castle:

    I just finished "The War Within: A Secret Whitehouse History 2006 to 2008." by Bob Woodward. It should have been titled, "Letting The Fox In The Henhouse." Woodward's first two surprisingly positive books about President Bush allowed him unbelievable access to the inner workings of the Bush White house. It was both fascinating and tedious at the same time. The point of story is the accurate retelling with regards to the ongoing war in Iraq, of the continual disagreement, secrecy, churning and manipulating of facts, and the unbearable snails pace toward making a decision. The delays in implementing any change in strategy, delays caused by worries of political fall-out, happened during a time when our U.S casualties in Iraq were rising. Reading it was like watching the movie "Groundhogs Day," only without the jokes.

    Many disturbing revelations come out in the book. One particularly painful one was in describing the lack of communication between parts of the administration. Colin Powell, the Secretary of State, one of only a few people with military experience in the administration, was not briefed on the war plans before the invasion. A copy had to be smuggled out of the Pentagon by someone under Secretary Rice, and given to him in secrecy, on the promise he would not reveal he had seen it.

    The book opens up the discussion on so many topics, which before these revelations were speculations on speculations. Now they can be discussed more coherently. One that leaped off of page 357 and slapped me across the face was the childish mindset the President always had of wanting things both ways.

    There was a point when the surge of troops in Iraq, that happened unforgivingly years too late, was starting to work. But a majority of the American public and the majority of those in Congress, including Republicans, were clamoring for the withdrawal of the troops. The situation of asking our troops to take more risks, while they are hearing the mission might be halted, put them in a more dangerous situation.

    The situation was, that if the American people knew the facts they would potentially support the President, this time. But why would the public believe anything coming out of the White House enough to change their views when it had been years and years of secrecy, distortion, or just plain, flat out lies? There is example after example of detailed recounting of meetings in the White House, meetings that moments after they concluded a participant stepped in front of the microphone and told the exact opposite of what had transpired.

    The President was so frustrated that he couldn't, every once and awhile, step up to the podium and say. "Hey, this time I am telling you the truth. Trust me on this one." and have the people buy it. He just did not get it. I try usually to not be directly insulting to George Bush, but after absorbing hundreds of pages of detailed accounts of the actual conversations that took place at the White House, the best analogy seems to be that our country has been run by a spoiled fifth-grader. One with absolutely no figure of authority to put him in his place.

    Why I am so deeply furious that he was allowed to continue to rule our country in that fashion, unchecked for so long, is not only because of the endless list of hurtful decisions he made with regards to the environment, the economy, and society as a whole, but that the result of his style of leading, using misinformation as a tool, resulted in dead people. Lots and lots of dead people.
    ...more info
  • War Within - great for facts, terrible for chronology
    Book appears to be onn the button factually but try to follow chronology
    very difficult. He writes about years 2003 and skips to 2006 or 2005 back
    to 2003. Names of military personnel are sometimes difficult to relate to
    an event or time element.

    Overall good for facts and illumination into the Bush II White House....more info
  • An Abject Failure of Leadership
    CentCom commander Adm. Fox Fallon described the situation best. He told the NSC that the Administration was to blame. He said that they got the country into the mess, went to war without a plan, screwed up how to run it and now take no responsibility.

    In this the fourth book of the Bush White House, Woodward shows the logical conclusion of anti-intellectual, anti-strategic foreign policy. The war based on George Bush's "gut feeling" of how to handle a complex world with known unknowns and then managed, or not managed, from the top down with a system of "pass the buck" could only end in abject failure. Rumsfeld attempted to guide the war through unsigned memos called snowflakes in order to have deniability. Bush and Cheney used a retired general as a back channel to the field commanders to evade the chain of command. Strategic decisions were never made. Tactical decisions were passed on to committee meetings. No one wanted to get blamed for the disaster so no one wanted to make a decision.

    The Administration treated the Iraqi government apparatus as Peter the Great treated his. They tried to give it latitude to act on its own. But, once the Iraqis didn't do what the Administration wanted, they would step in to change it. On the other hand, when generals and ambassadors tried to get Maliki to do something he would decline saying he had the confidence of the President, who would then confirm that.

    Alas, Obama and his new foreign policy team will find a failed state in the Middle East that by virtue of the failure of leadership and lack of intellectual rigor it owns. There are many who want to move forward and are trying to make this disastrous policy work; but a policy built on the sands of ignorance, the hubris of the Project for a New American Century and the gut instincts of an anti-intellectualist commander-in-chief is doomed to fail. Thanks, George.
    ...more info
  • GOSSIP GIRL IN IRAQ
    One thought kept coming to mind time and time again as I read THE WAR WITHIN and that was: what's the rush?

    This is a slender book, short of new material and is less any real study of the events of the past years, but more a collection of interviews, musings and notes on a broader, larger and bigger book on the Bush Years down the road. In short, this is Woodward's idea of writing a BLOG, without publishing it on the Internet. Another big problem is the time frame: 2006 - 2008, almost, literally, yesterday. And that feeling of having just heard this, already read this, or have seen this on TV recently drags Woodward's points down to mere grinding out the facts about what we already know. The plan in Iraq was not working and it took hundreds of people, seven committes, sixteen meetings, five hundred articles and a thousand TV interviews for everyone involved to come together and start fixing it. Wrong from the start, wrong in the middle and a little better by the end... progress.

    But not enough to justify this book for the casual reader. For hardcore fans and those who collect, then, like me, THE WAR WITHIN is one you will pick up reguardless. But, if you're just curious, then avoid this book. There is nothing in here that draws any real conclusions and Woodward seems to go out of his way to avoid making any kind of point or forwarding any real view. It's just him working the VERBATIM machine and getting out of the door before the election has come and gone and your head has been turned.

    Which is why this book should not have been published. We are not going to forget Iraq, nor Bush, so, why waste the time putting out a book with such a cliffhanger (you can almost literally here an announcer in your head say: WILL THE SURGE WORK?, WILL BUSH EVER GET OUT OF THE WHITE HOUSE? WILL CONDI RICE EVER HAVE A THOUGHT THAT DOESN'T BEIGN WITH: WHAT WOULD BUSH DO?, AND WHAT ABOUT DICK CHENY? DEMON, DEVIL OR JUST LORD OF EVIL? FIND OUT NEXT BOOK, AS THE WOODWARD CHURNS) instead of taking the time to write a real study... money, true, but I think Woodward is truly grasping here... for dollars, headlines and the top spot on AMAZON and little else.

    A bigger, better book awaits us all after January 20th, 2009, and I, for one, am looking forward to it. But for now, THE WAR WITHIN reads just like gossip, frothy, hot and dangerous, but cools quickly and disappears....more info
  • Those who do not learn the lessons of history...
    This is the fourth of a series of books Bob Woodward has written on the Bush presidency. I have not read the other three although they have graced my bookshelf for a substantial amount of time. (The realtime events were so difficult for me to witness, I didn't want to dive deeper.)The last Woodward book I read was All the President's Men All the President's Men
    book, DVD All the President's Men which was an amazing chronicle of the disaster presidential hubris and greed for power could create. We clearly didn't learn not to elect a president who was narrow minded, dogmatic and preyed on our fears, bigotry and basest instincts, was afraid to admit mistakes, propagated lies, pursued personal agendas at the expense of national best interests. History repeats itself.

    It is now 48 hours from the end of GW Bush's presidency,six months after this book was written, and we are about to be freed from our 8 years' national nightmare. We finally woke up. The world we woke up to is now in economic crisis, the Iraq War has made strides, but continues, the War in Afghanistan is worsening, America has lost its respect in the world, the Mideast is embroiled in yet another Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Crises continue between India and Pakistan, in Darfur, Somalia, the Congo, North Korea and in many areas of Asia. The Tibetan culture has virtually been wiped out in China. How could this have happened?

    Woodward chronicles of the events preceding and during the change in course in Iraq. This gives us a window through which we can witness the profound dysfunction of our government first hand. We see the end result of failure to deal with reality, have big vision, state precise goals and plot appropriate courses of actions.

    Woodward has put the pieces of this puzzle together in a highly readable, page turning drama. I had actually written Dick Cheney off as the axle of evil, but we discover that he actually was key to the positive change in Iraq. (By backing Petraeus and his counterinsurgency strategy)

    Woodward reveals how conflict, secrecy and egotism combined with total lack of analytical thinking and contact with reality at the highest reaches of power in America and the inability of people to communicate with one another made for disaster in the Mideast. Woodward covers the roles of Condi Rice, Cheney, the Iraq Study Group, the end of Rumsfeld and beginning of Gates. Particularly compelling is the story of General David Petraeus. I first learned of Petraeus in Tom Ricks' phenomenal book Fiasco Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2003 to 2005 where Ricks documented the success at Tall Afar and counterinsurgency tactics put forth by Petraeus which the Bush administration totally ignored until the war was almost lost. Petraeus is clearly one of the unsung heroes of the Iraq War. He soldiered on often with little support from the Chain of Command while unfairly and ignorantly blasted by Move-On.org and being the whipping boy of members of Congress who took their anger at Bush out on him. His forward thinking and perseverance are largely responsible for the current success in Iraq.

    Woodward has sources and references within the military and highest levels of government. He fairly and evenly treats the characters whose actions he chronicles. There isn't any demonization here, but he also doesn't sugar coat. This is an essential read for all Americans.

    ...more info
  • The War Within
    On the whole the book provided a great deal of insight into the why and the how of this disasterous and unnecessary war.Of most importance was insight on how to prevent this from happening in the future.(hopefully!)It depicted the recklessness and cluelessness of those in power and how it will impact upon us for generations to come.

    ...more info
  • very readable..not dry.
    I found this book to be such an easy read. My compliments to Woodward in that regard.

    The book goes to great lengths in dissecting the administration's difficulties in coming to grips with the obvious failure of the pre-surge Iraq war.

    My opinion of Condi Rice has risen to some degree after reading this book, although I continue to think the Iraq war was a historic blunder of epic proportions.

    This book details the time from mid year 2006 until mid 2008, roughly.

    How retired General Keane was forced to circumvent the Joint Chiefs, and even its Chairman, Admiral Fallon, in whipping up support for Petraeus and the surge, is detailed in some length in the book, as is Rumsfeld's fall for grace.

    In view of the book's readability, I give it a solid 4 Stars(out of possible 5).

    In my modest opinion, I believe Woodward to be slightly too sympathetic with Bush, and even Woodward reveals as much in that only at the very end of the book, the last few pages, does he question why Bush was so late in deciding to change direction on Iraq.
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  • The Most Wrenching of the Bush at War Quartet
    `The War Within' by Bob Woodward

    In the 4th of the Bush at War quartet, Bob Woodward's `The War Within' offers the most scathing portrait of the George W. Bush administration's prosecution of the Iraq War. As a person who badly wants to see a successful conclusion in Iraq (whatever that may be, at this point) the reporting in this book was, at times, difficult to digest. Moreover, it's alarming to realize just how disorganized and inept the White House appeared (and appears) at key junctures during the defining crisis in this nations foreign policy.

    While the selection and elevation of General David Petraeus to MNFI was a tremendous success, and has rightly received the praise it deserves, Woodward examines the decisions of General George Casey's time in that same role. The lack of clear dialogue between he and the JCS, State & White House seem frightening at times and demonstrate the haphazard nature of policy making. I found the reporting on the Colonel's Committee particularly interesting: a group of highly respected colonels assembled for the sole purpose of examining our situation in Iraq and trying to establish, I suppose, a "clearer way forward". The valuable work this group put forth, and in the end, seeming disregard for their effort was jolting to anyone thinking the administration was listening to all smart military & policy minds.

    Many on the right and left have had their particular gripes with Woodward over the years; I never had. I consider his reportage smart and incisive, peerless and timely. I've never been one to believe that his writing is tendentious or overtly biased. `The War Within', in my opinion, is no different. Mr. Woodward keeps his reporting between the chapters and waits to offer his own opinions in the epilogue; some I disagree with, others I do not. Regardless, I consider his writing superb and am happy that he's made this solid contribution to American journalism.

    `The War Within' is a must read, in addition to the preceding 3 books in Bob Woodward's Bush at War quartet. ...more info
  • Woodward does it again!
    Woodward's hatred of George W. goes beyound the normal, but I'm sure that is for book sales alone. He writes as if someone put him up to making all these accusations, but no facts to back them up.
    Why waste your money, read the New York Times on a daily basis, it gives you just as much contrived information as this book!...more info
  • More Horifying than anyone could have imagined
    This is the concluding volume on Woodward's account of the Bush administration and it represents a significant departure from the way that this team was represented in the first and second books. Here all the chickens appear to have come home to roost and it is not a pretty picture. Conflict brings out the best and worst in people. In this book there is plenty of the latter and often too little of the former.

    The portrait of the president is interesting. After reading Woodward's book I cannot imagine a more unpleasant event than to actually meet George W. Bush. I have never been a fan, but the portrait that Woodward draws here is one of a man who is at times boorish, profoundly ignorant and seemingly incapable of critical thought. Bush is eager to associate himself with past chief executives who were "war presidents" such as Washington, Lincoln and FDR. One should bear in mind that Buchanan was also a "war president" and this is the person who he seems to bear the greatest resemblance. The primary difference is that where Buchanan, even as secretary of state was too cautious, Bush was too rash. He appears to be convinced, for no apparent reason that he will prevail merely because he was convinced of the correctness of his course. Right may make right, but to prevail one needs to come up with a strategy that will work and not be unafraid to change course. Woodward cites Bush's failure to lead, I would add that he also demonstrates a failure to think.

    This book is not a kind of non-fiction "Vanity Fair," which was subtitled "the novel without a hero." There are plenty of heroic and dedicated individuals in the book. General Petraeus is probably the person who comes off the best. In the previous books this role was filled by Colin Powell whose views are cited at the beginning of the book and who is as usual correct in his analysis of the situation. If I had to critique this book for any negative reason, I wish Woodward would have interviewed Colin Powell and even Rumsfield as he did Bush and Rice for the summing up chapter.

    Another person who is particularly compelling is Col. (now General) H.R. McMaster. In some respects the statements made by this member of the armed forces filled the role that Colin Powell did in previous volumes. He always has a good sense of what was necessary and ground truth on the situation. Not only is he a hero from the 1991 war in Iraq, but he is also shown as an outstanding strategic thinker. I think that his book on Kennedy, Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs, and Vietnam probably is essential reading and probably something that might be read in conjunction with this series by Woodward. I was very happy to learn that McMasters was promoted in Sept 2008 and hope that he has a long career with the military. The nation needs people such as McMaster to lead.

    In conclusion, this is outstanding book, somewhat scary in terms of how the government operates and how individuals can avoid responsibility. It is worth reading by every citizen interested in the war in Iraq and how we gotten to where we are. ...more info
  • Flat and tepid and full of facts but little news
    Bob Woodward must be given credit for his ability to gain access to the highest levels of government. I find it simply amazing that he can get so many senior level people to sit down with him and go on the record about controversial topics. Still, he does in this book as he as done in his previous books gained that access by not being overly critical of his subjects and basically spinning popular conceptions as his own conclusions.

    I think this book would have worked better if Woodward had been more hard hitting with his clients but again he asks the same questions of Bush, Cheney, Rice etc that have been asked elsewhere and in no place does he challenge their conclusions. All in all this book would have worked so much better if he had pushed their buttons and got some honest answers on the questions asked. I would prefer something that reads less like a memoir....more info
  • Read it and Decide
    Simply read this book and decide for yourself (if you haven't already)how the American people have been lead or misled in the past few years.

    Woodward does a superlative job in presenting the facts with minimal opinion/intrusion.

    Taken as a set, the 4 Woodward books paint the a picture of the War and the Bush Administration which any fair and balanced reader can recognize and appreciate.

    Thank you Mr Woodward

    ...more info
  • More Heft than Depth
    A very dull read devoid of substantive analysis. Board conclusions which have been made before by this author in other Bush books are restated in the last chapter as an apparent afterthought in recognition of the substantial analytical shortfalls. ...more info
  • Woodward hits another home run with The War Within
    This book is a great continuation of the Bush Presidency series and is a must read for anyone who follows White House and Washington political exploits. The book like Woodward's prior, reads fast and captures the urgency of the moment. Bob's books are a "Must Have" in any political enthusiast's library. ...more info
  • Overlong and plodding - "State of Denial's" Director's Cut
    So I finally finished Bob Woodward's "The War Within", all 437 pages of it. What a chore! Almost the entire book is wasted talking about the Surge, which explains how for everyone except Bush & Hadley (and perhaps John McCain), it was both unwanted and a bad idea. The sole justification for this concept was that Bush had run out of options and his only card remaining was to add more troops, regardless of whether the commanders or Maliki thought it made sense or not. Consider - a good third of the book is spent discussing what the hell the commanders would do with the extra brigades, if they ever showed up! Oh. And speaking of McCain, he basically wanted more troops on Day One (read: "Powell Doctrine") as did every commander except Rumsfeld. I never got the impression that McCain's support of the surge went any deeper than that, or that he had any particular strategy in mind - he was just being self-consistent with his initial outlook of wanting more troops all along.

    The tone of the book continues from "State Of Denial" in that it leaves out the hard questions of Bush's intent. What is left once you peel away the never-ending streams of propagandistic rhetoric that come out of his mouth? Who knows. We never get a hint of honesty from the man - it's all just endless spin. Only once does Woodward go on the interview offensive with Bush, asking him whether our involvement in Iraq is about military hegemony for the US. "Freedom hegemony!" Bush replies, before realizing the question is dangerous and gets angry with Woodward for using the term. Condie Rice is more honest - she likes the idea of US hegemony in the Middle East, and doesn't have any problem with the concept. Sames goes for Cheney, who likes projecting American power for its own sake - "I don't agree that the main role of the President should be ensuring the greatest happiness for the largest number of people. There's other things for America to do, important things."

    With hundreds of pages of incompetence on display, the book wraps up on a positive note in the final few chapters with an exhausted Gen. Petraeus pulling off some common-sense strategic competency for the first time since Gen. Jay Garner was in charge. The military ship of state may still be sinking, but at least now it's got a few life rafts.

    So what was the miracle? Woodward rambles for a couple pages about the effectiveness of some new super-secret spy observation technology that he can't discuss, but the real improvements started when Petreus simply began taking troops out of the Green Zone and embedding them among the population where they could provide some real security. "There will be no more commuting to this war."

    From reading the book, one has to ask - how much of our military and foreign-policy incompetency in Iraq was of our own making? Clearly the Pentagon seems to be at odds with itself, locked into a paralysis of maintaining the status quo because there's nothing else that it can do against Bush's empty "We Must Have Victory!" ideology. In fact, when questioned directly Bush can't even seem to -define- what victory means. He just keeps repeating his usual sunshine-and-moonbeams comments about freedom while his inner circle looks on, aghast. As was true in Robert McNamara's time, so it is today - ideology is a luxury that the US cannot afford....more info
  • Learn how Iraq got fixed
    Bob Woodward is America's top investigative journalist. Forget about Sey Hersh and other scandelous yellow press writers whose half of their predictions never come true.
    Woodword, like always, gets inside decision-making corridors, and reports from there.
    So how did the Bush amdministration deal with the seemingly beyond-repair Iraq? Answers in The War Within are abound. How former President George Bush and his team decided on their "new course," and the balance of power inside the Bush administration that affected this decision, are all found in this great script.
    But as for the rest of books that appeared a few months before Bush departed, nothing in this book is news now. It is mere history and archival material. If you are a student of history or wish to read about past events, then this is your book. If you are looking for breaking news, this book will not do....more info
  • Illumintaing & Comprehensive But Poorly Written
    If you are seeking an accurate and comprehensive account of the Bush administration's failures that lead to worsening conditions in Iraq there isn't a better book out there. Woodward deserves ample credit for his precise reporting as one gets the sense that he was standing in the room as many key meetings, conversations and decisions were occurring in the White House.

    If you want this account to be well written and a `page turner' `The War Within' may not be the book for you. After barely finishing `The War Within', I understood why Woodward strength was characterized as `gathering information' and Bernstein was viewed as the `better writer' in their earlier collaborative efforts. At times, reading `The War Within' felt like running a marathon on a hot and humid day.

    Woodward's book is especially illuminating when it comes to understanding the decision making process in the Bush White House as well as the various failures of both the President himself and key operatives when it came to Iraq. The reader comes away knowing how key personnel including Chaney, Rumsfeld, and Bush himself approached their jobs and how their blind spots took the country down a perilous road.

    However, the book reads more like a transcript than a concise and well flowing narrative. One gets the sense that Woodward's publishers were so eager to get this book on the shelves before the Presidential election which lead to corners being cut in the book's writing and editing. Ultimately, I came away with the information I set out to learn, but it wasn't always a pleasurable ride getting there.
    ...more info
  • Woodward's "fly-on-the-wall" reporting once again illuminates dysfunctional Bush administration
    The legendary Bob Woodward ("All the President's Men," etc.) adds another entry into his long list of accomplished, important books. With "The War Within," Woodward once again gains remarkable access to the inner workings of President George W. Bush's White House as well as the top tiers of the U.S. military as our nation confronted (finally!) it's faltering performance in Iraq.

    For those few of you who haven't read Woodward's stuff before, "War Within" keeps to the usual style - on-the-spot reporting from extensive interviews and document reviews that nobody else seems to get. Woodward refrains from weaving strong polemics through his narrative, which makes his books often read more like journalism than history - and that's the author's stated goal. Woodward goes more for a contemporary account of what happened than drawing larger historical conclusions, which he usually reserves for his brief conclusions.

    Of course, Woodward makes important judgments of what is worthy to include in his books, and the pages of this book tell a story of a dysfunctional administration. For those who hunt for a President Bush who is a bloodthirsty warmonger eager to torture and bomb indiscriminately, you're not going to find him here. What you find is a President who wants to "win," when "winning" is neither clearly defined or possible. You also find a President who has trained his advisers - whether civilian or military - to tell him what he wants to hear. It's a bit surprising to hear some of Bush's most loyal advisers refer to him as a "bully," but then again it's not.

    Woodward puts the reader into the circles of power as Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, General Casey, and others are forced to confront the simple fact that the military campaign in Iraq is going nowhere. The administration's maddening refusal to either admit mistakes have been made or to hold anyone accountable for those mistakes builds and builds - at many times the key power players in the country are more focused on the chain of command and controlling their own little spheres of influence to get the darn job done. We read several accounts of minor turf wars, shifting responsibility to others, and well-informed subordinates being ignored by their superiors. At times it seems the organizing principle of our government is to tell our superiors what they want to hear rather than telling the truth.

    And that's a strong condemnation in its own right - Woodward rightly feels that the reader doesn't need Woodward's editorializing on that point.

    The book builds until the fateful, but surprisingly controversial, decision to "surge" additional troops into Baghdad. By this point, the competence of Generals Petraeus and Odierno serves as an overdue reminder that there are extremely accomplished people in our government who have their eyes on the right goals.

    The question the book seems to ask is whether the incompetence of the rest of those in the ranks of power will crush them before they are able to serve our nation as ably as they can.

    It's a terrible question we must confront, but it's vital that we do so. Thanks to Bob Woodward for raising it....more info
  • WOODWARD WINNER
    This book was a gift to my husband and he is devouring it. Must be good....more info
  • Amazing Detail, Amazing Story
    I should say that I began this book with the expectation I wouldn't like it. I had seen the 60 Minutes interview and a couple other appearances by Woodward, and I am a supporter of the Iraq War. I also believe that history will remember Bush favorably for his actions in Iraq. So, after I saw Woodward on 60 Minutes I fully expected the book to be a hatchet job.

    What I found was a tremendously credible account of the events, well-written, and so thorough that it will undoubtedly become the basis for much of the recorded history of this period in the war. It is difficult to imagine a better account.

    Now, there certainly is some amount of opinion injected, but what would you expect? Woodward is part of the liberal mainstream media. Still, I believe he keeps it to a very tolerable minimum and, in my case at least, I felt very much free to disagree with his interpretations.

    The sense is that Woodward believes Bush acted inappropriately, e.g., when he publicly claimed we were winning the war whilst the White House was diligently working to put together a new strategy, knowing the then-current strategy was failing. Obviously, no president would come out in the midst of a war and say, "Hey, we're losing." It just wouldn't happen.

    What came through to me was a George Bush who fully realized what was at stake and that winning the war was the only option. The absolute courage Bush showed in continuing the war -- when the political opposition had proclaimed us to be losers and even his own party was starting to line up against him -- is clearly one of the most impressive acts of any president in our history. So when presented with the option to lose or "double down", he courageously doubled down, leading to an outcome that would have been impossible to believe two years ago.

    The consensus in the media seems to be that Bush is not running the show, doesn't have the intellect, or relies too heavily on Cheney. All of these are proven wrong by Woodward's book. Krauthammer interpreted the presentation of Bush as "aloof"; but I found him to be thoughtfully engaged and decisive.

    Most riveting to me was the account of Jack Keane confronting Rumsfeld with his failures. It was just unimaginable that this individual, about whom we hear nothing, would have the stones to sit down with Rumsfeld and lay it out for him. Even more telling was when, a few days later, Pace called Keane in and asked him to review his [Pace's] performance. His words were shockingly direct, and you instantly realized that Keane was a man to be reckoned with.

    So, you have to check your political baggage at the door, as well as consider the point of view from which Woodward is coming. If you can do that, reading this book will give you more understanding of the Iraq War than you could ever hope to get by reading the liberal media accounts or watching too much TV news....more info
  • Lumbering in spots, but overall a solid look at emerging policy on Iraq
    Another reviewer put it best: 'The War Within' feels like a longer version of 'State of Denial'. If you've read the previous book, this one will be a little frustrating for the deja vu moments when you ask 'Didn't I read this two years ago?"

    The emergence of The Surge strategy is fascinating, and Woodward has always been great at describing these 'insider' policy developments. War always elevates a new generation of thinkers, but it is instructional how long it took for the new breed to rise under this administration. For as much as Bush has been bashed for going around the advice of his top generals in 2003, GWB did it again to elevate Petraeus and launch The Surge. This was a ballsy move on Bush's part since public opinion was screaming for a draw down of troops, not an increase.

    The War Within will be a reference source as historians begin to examine the last 8 years. However, this book as a 'rushed to print' feel to it...obviously all concerned wanted it on the shelves during election season. It's worth reading, but it won't be the definitive book on the policy formation behind The Surge.

    ...more info
  • An excellent account of Bush's recent Iraq Policy
    Bob Woodward has provided another candid, incisive, and informative window into the personalities, key players, and power brokers who have helped shape and implement the Bush administration's policy in Iraq. He provides detailed accounts of candid, sometimes back room discussions among the key figures who have shaped American military policy in Iraq in the waning years of the Bush administration. This includes figures such as Bush's key advisor Stephen Hadley, Peter Pace, Stephen Petraeus as well as the obvious Bush officials Condi Rice and Dick Cheney.

    Woodward's portrait is well-balanced and highlights both shortcomings, such as internal debates about Iraq policy (or lack thereof) among his senior aides; to the apparent success of measures like "the surge" and "Anbar Awakening." He then turns to providing some developing impressions about Bush's possible legacy, as well as what the next president (at the time of publication it was down to McCain and Obama), and what he will inherit.

    Woodward, who has authored countless acclaimed books on presidential politics, including three previous books in the "Bush at War" series, was granted unprecedented access. He also provides clear, cogent analysis of the key players and factions in Iraq- from the dubious initial role of Chalabi, to the missteps of Bremer's transitional government, to the election of Maliki as the president of Iraq. He also interestingly observes how, among the three main factions in Iraq (Sunni, Shia and Kurds), the Shia, in addition to being the most numerous, also control the lion share of the vast, rich, oil fields of southern Iraq.

    Overall an excellent book by an acclaimed, award-winning author and reporter, who as many may remember, broke the Watergate story way back when along with Bernstein.

    My one critique of this book is that, while the access and detailed reporting are outstanding, I was hoping for more analysis and narrative commentary from Woodward. Then again- that is not really his "shtick." If you like Woodward's other books and his columns you will love this book, but be mindful that he leaves the reader to connect a lot of the dots and draw their own conclusions from his detailed accounts of this arguably dubious era in presidential history.

    Highly recommended!...more info
  • amazing access and great story
    I am very impressed with the level of detail and the access. it all has the ring of truth and leaves us with a direct qestion: Did the grand scheme obscure the reality for the president? Or did the neo cons mislead him to unjustified optimism to support a failing strategy. A great read....more info