Political Book Summaries, Reviews and Opinions

Political Book Summaries, Reviews and Opinions

Book Review: Plan of Attack by Bob Woodward


Plan of Attack: The Definitive Account of the Decision to Invade Iraq by Bob Woodward is the second installment of Woodward’s Bush at War series and picks up where Bush at War left off, that is after the initial entry into Afghanistan and prior to the Iraq War. Plan of Attack focuses mainly on the build up to war in Iraq after 9/11 at the Cabinet level of the Bush administration. As in Bush at War, Woodward maintains his role of a chronicler more so than an analyst. Woodward gives a good account of how events unfolded and the interactions between all the main players but never dives seriously into one aspect, such as the issue of the WMD intelligence. He instead provides a insightful but broad look at the period covered. An intrigued reader can no doubt find other sources for in depth analysis of the different issues that arise in Plan of Attack.

The over arching theme that can be gleaned from Woodward’s account is the inevitability of the Iraq War, not the inevitability that it was a must do for Global and American peace but that it was going forward regardless of justification. Plan of Attack begins with Bush asking Rumsfeld about the Defense Department’s Iraq War plans on November 21, 2001, only 72 days after 9/11. It is apparent, with hindsight, that at the time many were deluded into thinking that the choice to invade Iraq was a reaction of WMD intelligence or 9/11 reaction, even perhaps the President himself, when in fact it had been building for a while.

The inevitable march to Iraq began before the President had even taken office through his choice of foreign policy advisors and then cabinet members.  As a President with little to no foreign policy experience or even knowledge, Bush was malleable to the advisors around him such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and their sub-ordinates like Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby. To understand and appreciate more on Bush’s cabinet, see our review of Rise of the Vulcans by James Mann. It’s fair to say that the war drums started beating early and Bush eventually bought in fully.

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