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War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism

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Overview

Of all the players in the planning and evolution of the Bush Administration's war on terrorism, few were more integral -- or more controversial -- than Douglas Feith, the chief strategist on Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon policy team. A highly influential international policy analyst for more than a quarter century before joining the Bush Administration in 2001, Feith worked closely with Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Cheney, and President Bush in defining the U.S. response ...
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War and Decision

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Overview

Of all the players in the planning and evolution of the Bush Administration's war on terrorism, few were more integral -- or more controversial -- than Douglas Feith, the chief strategist on Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon policy team. A highly influential international policy analyst for more than a quarter century before joining the Bush Administration in 2001, Feith worked closely with Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Cheney, and President Bush in defining the U.S. response to the attacks of 9/11 -- from the successful war on Afghanistan to the more challenging invasion of Iraq and its aftermath.

Now, in this candid and revealing memoir, Feith -- a founding member of the "neoconservative" movement and an architect of the administration's preventive strategy in the war on terrorism -- offers the most in-depth and authoritative account yet of the Pentagon's evolving stance during one of the most controversial eras of American history. Drawing upon a unique trove of documents and records, this extraordinary chronicle will put the reader in the room for scores of previously unreported senior-level meetings, showing how hundreds of critical decisions were made in defense of American interests during and after the crisis of 9/11 -- decisions both successful and controversial. Where journalists like Bob Woodward could only speculate, Feith is the first inside player to reveal the inner workings of the Pentagon, at a time when history hung in the balance.

As the political battles over Iraq and the Bush administration surge onward, one thing has been missing: A fair and accurate assessment of how the battles were joined, from inside the team that planned them. With this exceptional work of history, Douglas Feith contributes the only thing that can change the course of the debate: the truth.

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Editorial Reviews

Bret Stephens
“Indispensable. . . . The best account to date of how the administration debated, decided, organized and executed its military responses to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Much of what makes War and Decision so compelling is that it is, in effect, a revisionist history.”
Michael Barone
“Extraordinarily frank and persuasive. . . . [O]ur first in-depth look at the inside of the Bush administration’s national security top leadership from one who was there. [Feith] has been criticized harshly and, I think, unfairly.”
Frank J. Gaffney Jr.
“Extraordinary. . . . I was unprepared for the thoroughness of the documentation, the sweeping nature of the narrative and the highly readable prose. It is the first attempt by a serious student of history to lay out the myriad, challenging choices confronting a president. . . . Splendid.”
Christopher Hitchens
“If you want to read a serious book about the origins and consequences of the intervention in Iraq in 2003, you owe it to yourself to get hold of a copy of Douglas Feith’s War and Decision.”
Victor Davis Hanson
“One would have expected, as in the case of all the other Iraq exposés, that [Feith] would use the memoir genre to get even. Instead, he is self–critical, even admits to occasional hubris, but, more importantly, also chronicles the contortions and reinventions of many post–2003/4 critics of the war.”
Eli Lake
“As Americans turned on the Iraq war, anti-war forces tried to portray the war as not only a mistake, but the result of a neoconservative coup. . . . In his new memoir, War and Decision, Mr. Feith does an admirable job in dispelling this hokum.”
Peggy Noonan
“What’s needed now? More memoirs, more data, more information, more testimony. More serious books, like Doug Feith’s. More ‘this is what I saw’ and ‘this is what is true.’ Feed history.”
“The Corner
“By far the most balanced, detailed, and lucid account of this story that’s come out yet. . . . Feith makes the first intellectually serious attempt to explain how the government tried to answer that question [of settling post-9/11 defense strategy] in the years after 9/11.”
The Corner
"By far the most balanced, detailed, and lucid account of this story that’s come out yet. . . . Feith makes the first intellectually serious attempt to explain how the government tried to answer that question [of settling post-9/11 defense strategy] in the years after 9/11."
National Review
“Meticulous. . . . A convincing refutation of unfair allegations about the author [and] a balanced analysis of policy debates about Iraq inside the administration. . . . Will be studied for years by journalists, historians and aspiring political appointees.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641922626
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/8/2008
  • Pages: 688
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Douglas J. Feith served as U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from 2001 to 2005. He is the Director of the Center for National Security Strategies at the Hudson Institute and a Belfer Center Adjunct Visiting Scholar at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He lives near Washington, D.C., with his family.

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Read an Excerpt

War and Decision
Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism

Chapter One

This Means War

The threat of jihadist terrorism was on the list of U.S. government concerns at the start of the Bush Administration in early 2001, but it got less attention than Russia did. As a first order of business, President George W. Bush wanted his new Administration to ensure, if possible, that Russia and the United States would never revive the nuclear tensions of the Cold War.

His Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, favored the effort. Over the years, Rumsfeld's view of the relationship between the two countries had been informed by his career as a member of Congress, U.S. Ambassador to NATO, White House Chief of Staff, Secretary of Defense, and corporate executive. The President assigned Rumsfeld a leading role in this Russia project—and so it became my first major assignment when I returned to the government in mid-July 2001 as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the top adviser on defense strategy and national security to Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.

I had worked at the Pentagon before, in the middle years of the Reagan Administration—a bitter period in the Cold War, a time of widespread and well-grounded fear of superpower conflict. A strategic missile fired from the Soviet Union could devastate an American city within seven minutes, and vice versa. Nations around the world watched the Soviet Union and the United States with anxious impotence, knowing that such a nuclear exchange would cause a global disaster.

The Cold War ended well, however, and the world became safer whenthe Soviet Union died a nonviolent death on Christmas Day in 1991. But Russia retained much of the Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal. Ten years later, President Bush entered office with the goal of making Russia a partner rather than an adversary in security affairs. He viewed Russia with hope because, as he saw it, neither he nor Russian President Vladimir Putin had the zero-sum-game mentality of the Soviet era. President Bush believed he could terminate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, build up our missile defenses, and work to enlarge NATO without reviving the Cold War or starting a new arms race.

I was pleased to be joining an Administration that aimed to identify common ground with Russia, dismantle Cold War structures, and change attitudes on both sides. Our success was far from certain. But the benefits—for us, the Russians, and the world—would be considerable if we did succeed.

In pursuit of these goals, on September 11, 2001, I was in Moscow for negotiations at the Russian Defense Ministry. It was my second visit to Russia since taking office less than two months before, part of the initiative to create a new framework for U.S.-Russian relations. But the news from New York that reached us a little before five o'clock that afternoon, Moscow time, forced me and everyone else in the United States to revise our thinking about national priorities.

As thoughtful and careful as we try to be, events have a way of confounding our assumptions. Even wisdom is no proof against surprises. It appreciates the proverb: If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.

My work that day at the Defense Ministry had ended with a joint news conference with my Russian counterpart, General Colonel Yuri Nikolayevich Baluyevsky, an assertive man who sometimes seemed nostalgic for the superpower contention of the bad old days. At the small, ad hoc news conference—known as a "press gaggle"—in the hallway outside the conference room, Baluyevsky and I briefly reviewed the day's discussions. The Russian journalists asked about the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the prospects for a new nuclear weapons reduction treaty.

After the gaggle, I was heading for the car with Assistant Secretary of Defense J. D. Crouch when a U.S. embassy press officer quietly buttonholed us. He'd just heard, by cell phone, that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.

Skeptical about the news—first reports are almost always wrong—I glanced at Crouch. A cool-headed, intellectual, gentlemanly but tough figure, Crouch had been a university professor and a police SWAT team volunteer officer between tours at the Pentagon. He signaled that he shared my wait-and-see attitude.

Crouch and I kept to our schedule, moving along to an event with English-speaking reporters. When we arrived, minutes later, the embassy press officer told us that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center. He handed me a cell phone, and through it I heard CNN broadcast President Bush's first remarks about the attacks, made from an elementary school in Sarasota, Florida. The President said, "Terrorism against our nation will not stand."

The phrase astonished me. This was more than a confirmation that something bad had happened in New York. The President's words clearly echoed those of his father after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990, as the nation faced the prospect of war in the Persian Gulf.

I did not think this choice of words could have been a coincidence. The first President Bush avoided categorical statements, tending to preserve flexibility rather than invoke fundamental principles. So his unqualified pronouncement that "this will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait" was uncharacteristically bold and inflexible—and therefore memorable. When I heard his son use those same words, I commented to Crouch that the President seemed to be talking war. From our location, thousands of miles from Washington, I took the President's words as strategic guidance.

Our conference with the English-language journalists was in a new American-style hotel in Moscow, in a small meeting room full of cameras and boom mikes and reporters with writing pads. Crouch and I were immediately asked about the New York attack, but we had heard nothing then but snippets of news coverage. It was clear that something terrible had happened, but its magnitude was still unclear. The Pentagon had not yet been hit, and the World Trade Center had not yet collapsed.

My main recollection of this press event was the badgering of the New York Times reporter, who wanted Crouch and me to agree with him that if airplanes could attack the World Trade Center, it made no sense for the United States to invest in protection against ballistic missiles. I was eager to wrap up the event so that we could learn more about what had happened in New York.

War and Decision
Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism
. Copyright © by Douglas Feith. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

First Chapter

War and Decision
Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism

Chapter One

This Means War

The threat of jihadist terrorism was on the list of U.S. government concerns at the start of the Bush Administration in early 2001, but it got less attention than Russia did. As a first order of business, President George W. Bush wanted his new Administration to ensure, if possible, that Russia and the United States would never revive the nuclear tensions of the Cold War.

His Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, favored the effort. Over the years, Rumsfeld's view of the relationship between the two countries had been informed by his career as a member of Congress, U.S. Ambassador to NATO, White House Chief of Staff, Secretary of Defense, and corporate executive. The President assigned Rumsfeld a leading role in this Russia project—and so it became my first major assignment when I returned to the government in mid-July 2001 as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the top adviser on defense strategy and national security to Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.

I had worked at the Pentagon before, in the middle years of the Reagan Administration—a bitter period in the Cold War, a time of widespread and well-grounded fear of superpower conflict. A strategic missile fired from the Soviet Union could devastate an American city within seven minutes, and vice versa. Nations around the world watched the Soviet Union and the United States with anxious impotence, knowing that such a nuclear exchange would cause a global disaster.

The Cold War ended well, however, and the world became saferwhen the Soviet Union died a nonviolent death on Christmas Day in 1991. But Russia retained much of the Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal. Ten years later, President Bush entered office with the goal of making Russia a partner rather than an adversary in security affairs. He viewed Russia with hope because, as he saw it, neither he nor Russian President Vladimir Putin had the zero-sum-game mentality of the Soviet era. President Bush believed he could terminate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, build up our missile defenses, and work to enlarge NATO without reviving the Cold War or starting a new arms race.

I was pleased to be joining an Administration that aimed to identify common ground with Russia, dismantle Cold War structures, and change attitudes on both sides. Our success was far from certain. But the benefits—for us, the Russians, and the world—would be considerable if we did succeed.

In pursuit of these goals, on September 11, 2001, I was in Moscow for negotiations at the Russian Defense Ministry. It was my second visit to Russia since taking office less than two months before, part of the initiative to create a new framework for U.S.-Russian relations. But the news from New York that reached us a little before five o'clock that afternoon, Moscow time, forced me and everyone else in the United States to revise our thinking about national priorities.

As thoughtful and careful as we try to be, events have a way of confounding our assumptions. Even wisdom is no proof against surprises. It appreciates the proverb: If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.

My work that day at the Defense Ministry had ended with a joint news conference with my Russian counterpart, General Colonel Yuri Nikolayevich Baluyevsky, an assertive man who sometimes seemed nostalgic for the superpower contention of the bad old days. At the small, ad hoc news conference—known as a "press gaggle"—in the hallway outside the conference room, Baluyevsky and I briefly reviewed the day's discussions. The Russian journalists asked about the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the prospects for a new nuclear weapons reduction treaty.

After the gaggle, I was heading for the car with Assistant Secretary of Defense J. D. Crouch when a U.S. embassy press officer quietly buttonholed us. He'd just heard, by cell phone, that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.

Skeptical about the news—first reports are almost always wrong—I glanced at Crouch. A cool-headed, intellectual, gentlemanly but tough figure, Crouch had been a university professor and a police SWAT team volunteer officer between tours at the Pentagon. He signaled that he shared my wait-and-see attitude.

Crouch and I kept to our schedule, moving along to an event with English-speaking reporters. When we arrived, minutes later, the embassy press officer told us that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center. He handed me a cell phone, and through it I heard CNN broadcast President Bush's first remarks about the attacks, made from an elementary school in Sarasota, Florida. The President said, "Terrorism against our nation will not stand."

The phrase astonished me. This was more than a confirmation that something bad had happened in New York. The President's words clearly echoed those of his father after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990, as the nation faced the prospect of war in the Persian Gulf.

I did not think this choice of words could have been a coincidence. The first President Bush avoided categorical statements, tending to preserve flexibility rather than invoke fundamental principles. So his unqualified pronouncement that "this will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait" was uncharacteristically bold and inflexible—and therefore memorable. When I heard his son use those same words, I commented to Crouch that the President seemed to be talking war. From our location, thousands of miles from Washington, I took the President's words as strategic guidance.

Our conference with the English-language journalists was in a new American-style hotel in Moscow, in a small meeting room full of cameras and boom mikes and reporters with writing pads. Crouch and I were immediately asked about the New York attack, but we had heard nothing then but snippets of news coverage. It was clear that something terrible had happened, but its magnitude was still unclear. The Pentagon had not yet been hit, and the World Trade Center had not yet collapsed.

My main recollection of this press event was the badgering of the New York Times reporter, who wanted Crouch and me to agree with him that if airplanes could attack the World Trade Center, it made no sense for the United States to invest in protection against ballistic missiles. I was eager to wrap up the event so that we could learn more about what had happened in New York.

War and Decision
Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism
. Copyright © by Douglas Feith. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 24, 2009

    Why Not

    Since the only other reviewer currently on this page gives the book a 1-star rating with not one shred of useful information as to why, I figured that we might as well average things out!

    When I have finished reading the book, I will emend my review. For now, an initial perusal suggests that it may not be a page-turner that will keep you up all night following it. However, given the author's position, his involvement with making the decisions about which he writes, and his reputation as one of the handful of principals involved in the decision process, I would think that the book is worth rather more than an off-hand comment of "Not worth it."

    If nothing else, it will be a significant primary source for students of the war decisions following 9/11 -- with all the usual caveats that attend to first-person memoirs of important events, particularly those involving national security.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2009

    Not worth it

    this book is not very good. filled with incorrect data and very closed minded opinions. I do not recommend.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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