Wednesday, 8 October 2008

"Tell Me How This Ends...", by Linda Robinson (PublicAffairs)

A detailed study of General Petraeus's leadership in the crucial years of the troop surge

Linda Robinson’s Tell Me How This Ends: General Petraeus and the Search for a Way Out of Iraq is the first in what promises to be a large sub-genre of Iraq-centric books: assessments of the 2007-8 Surge.

Tell Me How This Ends first covers the events and politics that took place between 2003 and 2006, tracing the crucial decisions and missteps, and also highlighting trends and patterns that were appearing. The book is more, however, than just the story of how General Petraeus and his colleagues, appreciating the waning support for the war back home, turned around a failed military effort, undoing many of the myriad earlier mistakes (which came about as the result of misguided policies which largely resulted from a wholly inaccurate prediction of the situation on the ground following the removal of Saddam from power). What we now see in Iraq is what was deemed impossible to most analysts back in 2006 – namely, the possibility of success.

Robinson has attempted to provide us with a view of the entire Iraq War dynamic, through the benefit of hindsight, incredible access to officials involved, and extensive new reportage.

Robinson chronicles the fractious discussions in the White House, where President Bush paid little heed to his senior military advisors pushing for the surge that he believed would bring success in Iraq. She also writes of her experiences with the battalions who were charged with carrying out the Surge strategy in Baghdad, including the 5th Cavalry, 26th Infantry, 23d Infantry, 10th Mountain Division, and the Marines in Anbar. Robinson also details the role played by Ryan Crocker, the sceptical ambassador in charge of helping the Iraqis navigate the sectarian rivalries and obstacles to forming a lasting political solution, trying to prod the Maliki’s government into acting in the whole nation’s interest, rather than succumbing to these same factional squabbles.

Far from just pointing out Bush and his team’s (many) costly failures, Robinson offers plenty of suggestions and potential policies for America’s next president to ponder; from how to deal with and manage Iraq’s vast oil wealth, how to deal with the Kurdish status problem (as well as Kurdish-Turkish antagonism), and discusses the need to seek concrete measures to reduce Shi’ite-Sunni conflict. She also suggests that the US should decide more in discussion with the new Iraqi government, and make fewer unilateral decisions about the country’s future; it is time to draw down America’s presence (but not precipitously so that the current gains are lost or reversed) and to let things calm down, creating a stable balance of power in Iraq.

Extremely well written, provide the book is littered with great insight, fuelled by Robinson’s experienced, on-the-ground reporting. Tell Me How This Ends is a worthy addition to the growing body of literature on the Iraq conflict, written by a very talented journalist, and should be required reading for all those interested in current American foreign policy in Iraq.

Also try: Bob Woodward's The War Within (2008), Jane Mayer's The Dark Side (2008), Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life In The Emerald City (2008), Peter Galbraith's (2007), Jeremy Scahill's Blackwater (2007)

No comments:

Post a Comment