Bob Woodward’s new book The War Within is different than his last three books on the Bush administration. This book was touted as the smoking gun. It was going to explain how we went so wrong in Iraq. At least this was the scuttlebutt. This book does not even attempt to tell us why we got in Iraq nor why we are staying in Iraq. Instead this book explains how we settled on “the Surge.” Just as with every other major decision that the president has had to make over these last seven and a half years, there was never a major meeting in which ideas were batted around. Instead, as President Bush was telling us that we were winning the war in Iraq, privately, he began to come to the conclusion that we needed a change in “strategy.” (The Surge is not really a strategy. Our overall plan had really not changed. The Surge was a tactic.)
It should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the Bush administration that this policy really wasn’t driven by President Bush. Others enact a policy that they think he wants. In this case, National Security Adviser Steven Hadley was the person that “sensed” that the president wanted a change. He’s the one that called the meetings and steered the meetings in the direction that he wanted them to go. Chuck Robb and Edwin Meese also come out as major players. They were both on the “Iraq study group ” and pushed for language that supported a “temporary increase in troops” to quell the violence. Finally, retired General Jack Keane played a major role not only in getting General David Petraeus chosen to run Iraq but he also is extremely important concerning placing him the head of Central Command. Through back channels it is General Jack Keane who drives the bus. He is one of the few people who can walk into Vice President Dick Cheney’s office and get things done. His influence on the Surge was enormous.
This book does NOT deliver the smoking gun, but does give us another inside look at the Bush White House. It’s not for everybody. For those who believe that George W. Bush is a strong leader, this book ain’t for you.