The War Within: A Secret Whitehouse 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:

  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Old News
    This book contains old news .
    However,the material was and is very timly and insightful.
    A fast and must read !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Thank you ...more info
  • Recommended Reading
    Our decision to go to war with Iraq needs to be understood by all of us. This book sheds much light on how we got into and managed the effort....more info
  • Another essential piece of history from Bob Woodward
    This is a beautifully written book from one of America's great heros, and the quality of construction is seldom seen in books today. In addition to being fascinating reading, it is delightful to the eye and touch. ...more info
  • A very detailed account of the war
    Mr.Woodward takes us through a very painful journey of war during the last two years. From his accounts it is very apparent that there were no easy answers to the problems US was facing in IRAQ. Al Queda, Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahidi Army & Sunny insurgents were all fighting coalition forces while the later two were fighting against each other in a sectarian struggle. A really messed up place. In the middle of all this, the President has to fight his own generals (Cassey & Abiziad) who were doing the same things but expect different results. I am no Bush fan. I disagree with him on many issues. But in this war Bush's struggles reminds me of President Lincoln's who had to go through a lot of pain finally to find Ulysses Grant. For Bush it is Gen. Petreaus....more info
  • Excellent
    Woodward's book is like a verbal documentary illustrating how really poor judgment and leadership led us to Iraq. Having served in Iraq in 2005, I can say without any reservation that corruption, fraud and waste was normal.

    American troopers have paid a high price..a very high price for Bush and his people's intend to change the Middle East via Iraq into something Washington can control.

    It is and was about oil..make no mistake. And lastly, what are the American people going to gain from the Iraq War..absolutely nothing!

    Lieutenant Colonel, US Army
    Balad/Anaconda-2005...more info
  • Bush - Mentally ill?
    I have read all four books in this series and many others about Bush and the Iraq war that have been published over the last few years. This is one of the best. It is beyond belief how screwed up this administration is. No one has a clue about how to win in Iraq. Bush allows no debate on the war, and clearly misunderstands the mess he is in. If you disgree with Bush, you are out the door. Bush has a sinister, almost creepy interest in body counts. The only conclusion one can reach about our president is that he is a megalomaniac. ...more info
  • The Final Chapter
    Bob Woodward's unrivaled access to the Bush White House, and to the President, together with his careful recall of dates and interviews, gives the reader a full and complete insight into this last chapter of the Bush presidency. And, for the first time, the author pulls the curtain aside of his reporting to reveal his judgment. And what is revealed is not flattering. Woodward writes that this is a president who is driven by his "gut", "God" and a "vision" that starts out as "victory" but over the course of the years is watered down to a "win", and finally merely to "succeed". Bush finds it easier to concentrate on "body count" rather than strategy. Woodward shows the President as perhaps the least Socratic man to hold the office although not the first president to surround himself with those who feed his ego. In that context the President appears to permit Stephen Hadley to run the war while Condoleezza Rice engages in flattery. Woodward points out that the President did not feel able to "level" with the nation and reverted to politics as usual when the war was spinning out of control before the mid-term election. The White House relied more on a retired general, General Jack Keane, who appears to have had more influence than the Joint Chiefs of Staff on promotions and policies, and, thanks to the Vice President, is permitted back-door access to the White House which undermined the morale and advice of those senior officers active in the Armed Forces. It is a book that reveals a president cocooned and protected by a small coterie of admirers. Readers and history will thank Woodward for this book, which is his fourth and best of this presidency. It paints a clear picture of a president who disregards views other than those that he wants to hear; the only people who speak truth to power in this book make a quick exit or are ignored. In the years to come, historians will find this an essential text even if it does reveal "the nation's most divisive figure"....more info
  • Exhausting Details of Bush Grasping at New Straws to "Win" in Iraq
    Unless this is your introduction to Bob Woodward's four books about how we got into Iraq and why it didn't turn out so well, you won't be surprised to learn that President George W. Bush knows of no price too high for the United States to pay in order to make him look good in his decision to invade Iraq in 2003. His approach to improving matters in Iraq is to wait for someone to propose spending more money and more lives, and then jump on the suggestion. Meanwhile, he and his true believers revel in the thought he will be ultimately considered as being another Abraham Lincoln for bringing democracy to the Middle East. That's the long and short of this book.

    Most of the over 400 pages dwell on good-faith attempts to find ways to respond to the rising numbers of attacks by insurgents that began in 2004. The military felt that only by withdrawing could they reduce the temptation to attack.

    Of course, the president didn't pay any attention to those except if they agreed with his determination to increase troop strength once again. If his people weren't getting the message, outside conservative political operatives would be brought in to prepare a new direction. You'll also learn how President Bush enjoys tutoring Prime Minister Maliki on how to create political consensus (talk about the blind leading the blind).

    How did the surge turn out? So far, violence is down in Iraq. But apparently a lot of the credit goes to a change in leadership (General Petraeus) to bring more counterinsurgency techniques and a secret effort to assassinate the leaders of the insurgency. Also, al Qaeda was too violent for even the Iraqis and Sunnis began to sign up to fight them. In addition, we began to put the people who used to be in the Iraqi army back on our payroll. These methods could have been brought in during 2004.

    We get a picture of a president aware that things are going downhill but totally deferential to what his military leaders on the ground propose while hinting that he would like to send them more troops . . . for years on end without looking for any ways to improve. This isn't a commander in chief . . . this is a part-time chairman of the board who happens to live in the White House.

    The book is more eloquent for what it doesn't talk about, as President Bush presides over the destruction of the American economy by allowing even more looting through financial malfeasance than he permitted those contractors who were supposed to "rebuild" Iraq. Herbert Hoover starts to look better and better: At least he didn't preside over destroying the economy and a disastrous war through his bungling.

    I do hope that Bob Woodward will expand his focus in future books to show the full range of the inattentiveness, incompetence, and arrogance of President George W. Bush . . . not just his mess in Iraq. Please pray for our president! He needs forgiveness.

    Why did I grade the book at three stars? This book could have been summarized and made more interesting in about 150 pages. This book contains less relevant information than the others but he still wrote a long book.
    ...more info
  • inside account of the war in whitehouse
    Just like other books by Mr. Woodward this book carries the same style in which he makes you a participant in the events and conversations that took place in whitehouse. It was as if you witnessed it and written in non biased way presents the President in much better light as a thinking individual compared to the popular image in media, but also highlights critical error in judgement and odd detachment and resignation from the events. Very consistent with the potrait of president who is known to be driven by ideology with little evidence of self doubt.

    In all very lucid style and great job done in introducing important characters who played role in washington, who we don't see on TV....more info
  • LIKE YOU ARE A FLY ON THE WALL IN THE WHITE HOUSE
    Over the last 5 years i've read over 200 books on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Special Forces, military theory and history, written by journalists, coronels and generals, left theorists, academics etc. translated from Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Russian or written in English.
    ****This is one of the best****The access is unbelievable. Could you imagine 400 pages of inside debate by Bin Laden, Maliki, the Taliban, or Khamenie.
    Here we get Bush's white house and the Pentagon
    If you want to understand the way the world works..this is a great addition...more info
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • The War Within...
    This is a very interesting and informative book. I do have one word of warning. If you have children and you don't want them to hear swearwords, buy the hard copy NOT the CDs. I found myself hitting the pause button almost everytime the kids came in the room. ...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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Impecably researched, but a little dry
    I have the utmost respect for Bob Woodward as a journalist. I don't think anyone could read this book an not come away with the sense that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of interviews and research behind the 400+ pages. His ability to reconstruct entire conversations about some of the most fundamental decisions in the Iraq War is remarkable.

    Woodward does something that very few other journalists are capable of doing. He reports on the facts in as objective a manner as possible, without really providing any analysis or interpretation; he leaves that to the reader. He turns the reader into a fly on the wall, observing history.

    With all of that said, the book is a little dry. There is only so much you can read about how few people in the Bush Administration really got what was going on, how dysfunctional things were, how many separate groups were off conducting their own secret strategy reviews, etc. At some point, it just starts to blur together.

    What I can't tell is whether it is fair for me to blame Woodward for the book being slow or whether that is just an accurate representation of the muddled situation that we were in? Maybe the endless discussions without any sense of progress is *necessary* to provide real sense for how things were going?

    The book really sped up once it hits the midterm elections in 2006 and moves into the discussion of The Surge. The rest of the story was much more interesting and engaging (probably since it finally felt like something was happening).

    Time will only tell how the story ends, but I have to say that I found myself questioning my own opinions about the merits of The Surge and wondering whether Petraeus and The Surge will go down as the fundamental turning point in the war.

    What struck me the most from the book is how few characters come away looking good at all. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield, Rice, and several of the major military leaders (up to, but not including Patraeus) come across as clueless, uninformed, or disengaged. The few characters that come across as rational are the Iraq Study Group (whose report was largely ignored), the Council of Colonels (whose months of work was never presented to any senior official), Colin Powell (who only plays a minor role in the book having already left the administration), and then, in the end, Petraeus.

    For those looking to portray the Bush administration as evil or ideological, the book will probably leave you wanting. Instead, you walk away with an overwhelming sense of incompetence with a few bright spots.
    ...more info
  • Detailed Look into the Bush White House
    I read this book having not read any of the previous Bob Woodward books. The details that he is able to get from within the White House and what was going on behind closed doors is astounding.

    I started getting frustrated with the book in the middle as sometimes I felt like I was reading the same thing over and over. This was more of a flaw in the way Bush handled the situation than a flaw in the book. The lack of progress and decision-making in Iraq is unbelievable, and is definitely shown through the book.

    I recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about how the war in Iraq was and is being handled....more info
  • Top Secrets Revealed
    Have just begun reading the book but from page one it holds abundant previously secret information, well-documented as only a top notch reporter like Bob Woodward can do it!...more info
  • Tells the Story of the People Who Saved the War
    As with his first 3 books detailing the Bush Administration's conduct of the Long War, Woodward provides an excellent first draft of history. A chronicle put together from extensive interviews with numerous sources, Woodward paints a picture of an Administration at war with itself over the struggle in the Iraq theater. The situation in Iraq begins to get so bad, that elements within and outside the White House begin to piece together a strategy to turn around the war effort, and eventually convince the President to change strategy at the last possible moment. Like in the first three books, this story is so detailed I sometimes think "He HAS to be making this up. No one could know that!"

    There's been a lot of sensational angst and hand-wringing over this book,just like the previous ones. The first two books were roundly condemned by the Left as "laudatory" of Bush. The third book, State of Denial, was widely seen as more critical, as was this one. The reality is more complex. All four books show the warts of the Bush Administration and The War Within is no different. Woodward shows us a president who is not deeply involved in the decision-making process and is, some would say, dangerously sure of himself.

    But it also shows a president who is resolute and willing to act when the chips are down. Who is willing to swim against the tide, ignore the conventional wisdom and finally do what is necessary to win the battle.

    What plays out in the book is that the tragedy of the Bush Administration is that it took *so long*, pushed to brink of defeat, before the president decided to change the strategy. What came out in State of Denial was that the president kind of sees himself as the "cheerleader in chief." That is, he empowers people to do a job, and then back them up to the hilt. But sometimes, you have to be Lincoln. Sometimes you just have to fire generals until you find one that fights.

    The Abazaid/Sanchez/Casey strategy was appalling. "Leave to win?" That doesn't even make sense on its face! How do you win a war by ceding the battlefield?

    Despite Woodward's generally negative characterization of President Bush, he does give him his due in finally deciding to go around his own generals and military establishment, and tap a select group of people who were flailing their arms and yelling for 2 years - trying to keep the nation from sailing off a cliff. The War Within details the efforts these people also; Meghan O'Sullivan, General Jack Keane, Fred Kagan and Steve Hadley, and their struggles within the security bureaucracy. These people saved the war....more info
  • So-So book of Woodward's final installment
    This forth installment by Woodward on Bush's presidency/Iraq war focuses almost entirely on the Bush Administration's about face in dealing with Iraq. Or more importantly, how very little change had occurred except throwing more troops at the fire contrary to what the military advised the president on. I was very disappointed that the entire book focused only on one thing - the troop surge. I really thought that troop surge was greatly overrated in this volume. What I mean is I think Woodward tried to parallel it with the debacle of Johnson's escalation of Vietnam and hedged his bets on public reaction and the effects that the troop surge was going to have on the American public.

    I think the bottom line is the war still continues, the surge is over and done with and just viewed as another drop in the bucket for the Bush presidency. I really think Woodward could have covered the entire surge in 2-3 chapters.

    What I did like is Woodward's ability to get inside the administration and write about the behind the scenes and the interactions that go on. This book sheds light that Bush really makes the ultimate decision but like a poker player - bets on one hand. Bush never really engulfed himself in the situation but had others do the leg work for him. Hadley is the real engine turning the opinion and forcing the administration into alignment (whereas Rummy was the bad guy in the the previous book).

    This was the least interesting book (of the 4 Woodward has written) with little to no revelation in it. Everyone knew the war was being lost but Bush would not admit it. Well, the war continues, no one hears of Petraeus anymore and the surge is forgotten - this is how memorable I chalked this volume to be....more info