Keegan provides a vivid account of how we got here, emphasizing the coalition's successes, though he touches upon some failures in a concluding chapter. Unlike many other authors of instant histories of the Iraq War, Keegan was not embedded with the allied forces. What his account lacks in ground-level details, it more than makes up for with a panoramic perspective befitting the best-known (and perhaps the best, period) military historian in the world.
The Washington Post
Ubiquitous military historian Keegan (Intelligence in War) offers a reportage-based account of a "mysterious war." Keegan addresses the war's anomalies-200,000 soldiers took a country of almost 30 million in three weeks; the war's justification (WMD) never materialized; the Iraqi army "melted away" and the populace tried only to stay out of the way-by surveying the post-World War I origins of Iraq, Saddam's rise to power, the nature of his rule and his external ambitions. The result is a work with broader scope than Murray and Scales's The Iraq War (2003), and one that makes a case for the war as justified in moral, legal and practical contexts. Saddam emerges, predictably enough, as a particularly nasty regional despot and the architect of his own destruction through his intransigent failure to satisfy the demands of an increasingly frustrated international community. Keegan divides his account of the campaign itself into "American" and "British" chapters, and he praises the skill of the planners and commanders of both armed forces. His accounts of British operations in the Shiite south and the U.S. drive on Baghdad affirm the high morale and fighting power of the troops involved. Keegan in particular demonstrates the U.S. mastery of mechanized maneuver war, but underplays the problems of control and pacification that have been making headlines since the turn of the year. Agent, Gillon Aitken Associates, U.K. (May 28) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Keegan-not so much a journalist as a military historian who happens to work for a newspaper-has written an account of the Iraq war that benefits from a long historical prologue (which includes discussion of the post-World War I British attempt to pacify Iraq) and his skill at capturing the dynamics of a military campaign. Keegan, however, must now wish that he had waited to complete the book, as events have conspired to put the war, which he describes in a positive and even partisan tone, in a more dismal light. The postwar scene gets cursory treatment, under the heading of "The Aftermath," and this is the story now waiting to be told. More than the campaign itself, it is the diplomatic isolation during the build-up and the incompetence and trauma of the occupation that may define a turning point in U.S. foreign policy-and the end of the Vulcans' rise.
Saddam had it coming, writes distinguished historian Keegan (Winston Churchill, 2002, etc.) in this account of what he calls the "Iraq War of 2003."That war is still unfolding and ongoing in 2004, even though George W. Bush declared the major fighting to be over in May 2003. If Keegan's account of the campaign is to be faulted, it is because it effectively ends at Bush's pronouncement-and because Keegan seemingly shares Bush's belief that Saddam had to go, even though acting on it yielded a war that Keegan characterizes as "mysterious." For Keegan, the reasons to overthrow Saddam have global implications: "The reality of the Iraq campaign," he writes, "is . . . a better guide to what needs to be done to secure the safety of our world than any amount of law-making or treaty-writing can offer." (Kim Il Jong, watch out.) Keegan lingers on the generations between the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and Saddam's rise to power, and on the larger picture of regional geopolitics. As he comes nearer to the actual fighting, Keegan-who is defense editor for the London Daily Telegraph-relies on insights from theater commander Gen. Tommy Franks, who reveals that he "had never cared for the use of the term ‘shock and awe' " and didn't find much to worry about in Iraq's command-and-control structure, which crumbled the minute Allied bombs began to fall. Keegan provides insights of his own on the important role of international forces, such as the British troops in Basra, Australian special forces in the western desert, and Eastern European contingents whose leaders recognized Saddam for the Stalin wannabe that he was. He is also open in faulting what he perceives to be American missteps; the US command,for instance, ignored the pragmatic approach of the British army in the south and instead disarmed and dismantled the Iraqi army and police, idling masses of well-trained fighters who are now causing the occupiers so much grief. Worthwhile, though Keegan's dry account pales next to more immediate works, such as Rick Atkinson's superb In the Company of Soldiers (p. 115). First printing of 100,000. Agent: Anthony Sheil
“A vivid account of how we got here [by] one of the best known (and perhaps best, period) military historians in the world.” –Max Boot, The Washington Post
“Nobody does it better. The narration is clear and exciting. Everything moves; the author has you in his grip.” –David Fromkin, The New York Times Book Review
“Highly readable. . . . Contains both plenty of tactical detail . . . and ample historical insight.” –The Christian Science Monitor
“Authoritative. . . . A useful addition to our knowledge.” –Walter Laqueur, Los Angeles Times Book Review
“A must-read. . . . Illuminating. . . . He provides exceptional detail . . . that will enthrall military buffs.” –Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Highly readable. . . . One of the best brief guides to the history of this whole confusing field.” –Financial Times
“A superb strategic overview. . . . Concise and well-written. . . . Keegan provides a basis for understanding the embers of the insurgent conflagration.” –The Washington Times
“A remarkable achievement.” –The Spectator
“Comprehensive. . . . It is in his examination of the military campaign itself that the insight really surfaces. He cuts directly to the heart of the mystery and questions surrounding this operation. . . . His analysis . . . is sound and enlightening–from the political to the tactical level.” –New York Post