The Iraq War Paperback – 3 Mar 2005
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"Of the conflict itself - such as it was - there is extensive, unsparing detail, observed in the crisp tones of an officer delivering his report most of all, this is a book which puts the war into a proper context for the layman. And for that alone it is worth reading." (Andrew Morrod, Daily Mail)
"A remarkable achievement." (Spectator)
"One of our most distinguished military historians...A straight and self-contained book on Iraq." (Literary Review)
"Nobody does it better. The narration is clear and exciting...the author has you in his grip." (New York Times Book Review)
The war against Saddam Hussein, described and analysed by our foremost military historian.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
I disagree with an earlier reviewer about the detail of the military operations. For me Cobra II provided a far better account, as did Rick's Fiasco.
With all the pro-Arab anti-war hype that has dominated discussion of the Iraq War of 2003 by the USA and UK to liberate Iraq from the monstrous tyranny of Saddam Hussein, it is refreshing to find an objective account where actually gleans that the war to free Iraq was in many ways justified.
Keegan studied the war from various perspectives and conducted interviews with General Tommy Franks and the American Secretary of State, Donald Rumsfeld.
He successfully writes a history of the causes, complications and effects of the 2003 War, and investigates and explains the real reasons for the invasion, the successes of the American and British forces (with two fascinating chapters on the military campaigns of each) , the collapse of the Republican Guard, the complete lack of will of the Iraqi people to defend the Saddam dictatorship and the fall of Baghdad to Allied troops.
The Iraqi people had suffered from Saddam's bloody reign of terror for too long and apart form Saddam's own SS, the Republican Guard and loyalists of Saddam's Fascist Ba'ath Party, the Iraqi people had no reason to defend the Saddam regime.
The soldiers of the Iraqi army simply deserted in mass and became civilians. The terrorist fedayeen who opposed the Allied invasion were almost all non-Iraqis, they consisted of Syrian, Saudi, Palestinian, Pakistani and other Islamist who had infiltrated into Iraq.
The Kurds in northern Iraq or rather Iraqi occupied Kurdistan as I see it, were unanimous in their support for the allied invasion and the their was widespread support from the Shia in the south who had long been persecuted by Saddam.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Keegan is an excellent military historian in my opinion. His book about WW1 is both gripping and well written. He has also written several books about the philosophy of war which I also recommend. I like his writing style, concise crisp there is alway a nice flow to the words, enjoyable and engrossing.
So, this book? Keegan does a good though brief review of basic 20th century Iraqi history and the rise of Saddam into power. The Iraqi-Iran War, the first gulf war(Kuwaiti-Iraqi war) are all covered and set the table for the present fighting. 9/11, WMDS and Saddam himself are all weighed objectively and the intense attempts by the US/GB to involve the UN make for good reading (French and German leaders' feelings about the US are both disturbing and disquieting)
The fighting (or lack of) by the the inital US/GB military units is both well written and informative (Keegan flat knows his military and his review of both the strengths and weakness of the US/GB forces during the brief period of the war itself is very good). But the book basically ends with the taking of Bagdad. The capture of Saddam and the death of his sons are included in the pictures but is not really covered in the text.
I think it was noted in another review that the war did not really start till 90-100 days after the fall of Bagdad. I'm not sure that I would go that far. I think that the fall of Bagdad was the end of phase one, the overt military phase. The Iraqi military was conscripted, woefully armed and poorly led. Overwhelmed outgunned the army simply 'melted away'. But the Irregulars (technicals) fought to the death. And still are.
So Phase two, the civilian insurgency is both ongoing and not covered by this book ---though hinted at in the conclusion section.
So if you want to read about the general buildup and initial phase of this war, Keegan is good.
Keegan begins with several chapters of background material on Iraq and Saddam Hussein. We follow Hussein from his time as a hack thug for the Baath party and follow his rise to ultimate power in Iraq. Keegan then provides a background that takes us up to the Iraq War. This section is clearly written and, thankfully, nonpolemic. As Keegan describes the events leading up to the war, you get the impression that he likely approved of the decision to go to war, but he is certainly no apologist for the War. But he does make clear that Hussein was not in compliance with the UN Resolutions.
It is when the book moves into the Iraq War that I started feeling deja vu. It was like getting the same information I had gathered while the war was going on. He covers the movement of U.S. and British forces in rather broad strokes. Episodes I had hoped to learn more about were glossed over with a sentence or two. One example is the apparently ill-fated Apache assault on the Medina Division. Though only one aircraft was lost, almost all were damaged and -- judging by news reports -- failed to accomplish their objective. I had hoped to get more information from Keegan about this assault and gain the insights of perhaps the leading military historian about the implications for modern warfare. But I did not.
All is not bleak. The book is a good overview of the war. There are some interesting points made about America's approach to logistics and Britian's approach to urban warfare. But the only reason I expended the money I did was because I thought Keegan would deliver more than he did.
It begins with superficial discussion of Iraq history, which aside from 2 stupid maps, told me very little and left me with many questions, and was either too basic, or presumed knowledge of other areas. The author next treats us to a recent and superficial history of Hussein. I've gotten more out of a Discovery Channel special.
He next moves to the actual war and aside from 2 stupid wide area maps doesn't address any of the key battles with maps and how the battle was won, either by encirclement or follow through. The Marine fake right and the 3rd ID punch up the middle was not dealt with either. I was very disappointed.
The book is not all bad, and if you know very little about Iraq, the history section is a nice 20 page discussion of Iraq from the dawn of time to now. If you've been living in a cave and know nothing about Hussein, then his biography of him will enlighten you. I can also say it was quick easy read, and I finished the entire book in a single 3.5 hour plane ride. I'm glad I bought it used and it was interesting and killed an afternoon for me, but I expected more.
Keegan starts off with a short but excellent summary of the reasons for the war and his early and balanced analysis of them. The book then turns into a history lesson on Iraq, Saddam, and the political lead-up to the war. This background material takes up over HALF of the books 220 pages of text. Keegan's historical expertise shows through, as the various segments of Iraq's history are covered in a very complete and readable text. However, given that the book is on the Iraq WAR, the background material seems like padding for a lack of war coverage.
The actual war is covered in only 80 pages, split between the American drive-up, the British capture of Basra, and the capture of Bagdad. Here is where the historian suffers a lack of material which will come available in the coming years. The result is far too general. Much better material is found in "The March Up" and "In the Company of Soldiers", though the latter includes annoying political commentary. However, Keegan's British background makes for a more complete coverage of the British experience and gives a different perspective from American embedded journalists.
Given that the insurgency continues, the conclusion in the final section on the war's aftermath are premature, but Keegan's fine historical instincts and knowledge make for some interesting insights.
In summary, it is too early to develop an in-depth review of the war, without the help of the top commanders (Keegan had only a 2 hour interview with General Franks) and/or more material from army/marine sources. While the historical context and Keegan's insights are strong, the lack of material on the war is dissapointing.
First, a political and historical background of Iraq and Saddam - Excellent.
Besides the history primer, Mr. Keegan also has some thought provoking, if negative, remarks about Islam (or at least some of its variants) which I may research later.
Second, the events leading to the second gulf war - Poor at best.
I agree that Saddam had to go, preferably sooner than later. Failing any political progress, war was a likely outcome. Having terrorized his citizens, started two major wars and having a record of NBC/WMD weapons research he wasn't someone anyone felt comfortable having around. The UN embargo wasn't working and medical/food shortages were killing up to 50.000 civilians a year, according to some pre-war estimates.
Mr. Keegan jumps firmly, but clumsily, into the pro-war bandwagon. The issue of missing WMD is never really addressed very well. Did the Western intelligence agencies really drop the ball? Or did the US and the UK lie to their citizens in order to drum up support for an unpopular military intervention? If it wasn't a lie, could the intelligence agencies have done any better? If not, what lessons to learn from that?
His characterization of opponents to the war is lame. Mr. Chirac? "A braggart". Europeans? "idealistic Olympians who do not recognize the need for force". And so on...
Now, I dislike Chirac myself. But a skilled author owes his readers some balance and, especially, more justifications. The French do have a long and shameful history in Iraq. Selling weapons. Having their defence minister, Jean-Pierre Chevenement, refer to Saddam as "a new Napoleon" (which is praise, in France at least) after 1988 (gassing of Kurdish villages). Looking happily to the end of sanctions to sell more stuff in an area without US competition.
Given all that, France deserves criticism, but Mr. Keegan doesn't bother to argue his case by mentioning any of it. The BBC also gets nailed for its "biased coverage", again without any arguments to support that position. Personally, I rather liked their coverage and thought its bias less visible than Keegan's.
And, no, I don't think that hoping for a future without wars is silly. It might not work out, and sometimes (Rwanda, Kosovo, Bosnia) it is better to go to war after all. It is necessary to resist dictatorships such as Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, North Korea. But you can't fault pacifism as being only for silly idealists. It has, for now, all but stopped wars among Western nations and it has instilled a healthy distrust of "colonial interventions" by most of those nations' citizens.
Third - the war itself - Not all that great.
There is some high level analysis of what units were moving where, and what they did. Some coverage of local action, plenty of other interesting stuff. Keegan is in in element here.
What there isn't is any interviews of Iraqis. Or any detailed info on Iraqi activity during the war. No Iraqi is mentioned by name outside the usual suspects covered by CNN.
Everything is from the Allies' viewpoint. I don't blame Mr. Keegan for staying out of Iraq right now. But it makes you wish that the book was written ten years from now, with Keegan having been able to do his usual world class research.
Nor is there any analysis of how the US should face the Iraq insurgency, despite the 2005 addition to the book. With current events being what they are, we need people like Mr. Keegan to reinvent themselves as analysts of low-level, guerilla warfare, terrorism, etc...
But this book is more informative about the perils of writing history books too soon, before the facts emerge fully.
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