Since it hasn’t been available until today, I have not yet read Bob Woodward’s new book, The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008. But his articles in the Washington Post and and his 60 Minutes interview do invite commentary.
The most important point to make, I think, is that the book underscores what an extraordinary decision President Bush made in deciding on the so-called surge. As Woodward’s book recounts, and my own experience in the White House underscores, in settling on a surge of five brigades to Baghdad and 4,000 Marines to Anbar Province, the President bucked the views of most members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (including the Army Chief of Staff, Peter Schoomaker, and Chief of Naval Operations, Michael Mullen), General George W. Casey, Jr., then the commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq, John P. Abizaid, the commander of U.S. Central Command, military analysts, the entire Democratic Party, much of the Republican Party, most of the foreign policy establishment, the Iraq Study Group, and many within his own Administration.
The prevailing view was that of General Casey, whom Woodward quotes as telling the President in June 2006, “To win, we have to draw down.” General Casey was exactly wrong, as was the much-heralded Baker-Hamilton Report, which in its 96 pages dismissed the idea of a surge in a single paragraph. (The ISG did recommend a short-term surge, but it argued, “Sustained increases in U.S. troop levels would not solve the fundamental cause of violence in Iraq, which is the absence of national reconciliation… past experience indicates that the violence would simply rekindle as soon as U.S. forces are moved to another area… America’s military capacity is stretched thin: we do not have the troops or equipment to make a substantial, sustained increase in our troop presence.” The ISG also recommended a drawdown of all U.S. combat forces by early 2008.)
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