GO NAVY BEAT ARMY

GO NAVY BEAT ARMY

'87 Sir

Thirty years of service ----USNA Class of 1987 '87 Sir

Monday, July 5, 2010

Grouchy Historian's Book Shelf

Bing West and the War in Iraq.
One of the things I find fascinating to watch is the progression of viewpoints of books on the Iraq War.  There is a whole separate blog post here, but I can basically divide them into three categories:
1) We kicked Iraq's ass in less than three weeks (2003-2004)
2) The insurgency is going to bleed us dry (2005-2007)
3) We kicked the insurgents ass (2008-2010)

Retired Marine General Bing West has written three books on the Iraq War and all of them are excellent reads.  They basically cover each of the periods, although they cover a wide span of time and topics.

His first, The March Up, highlights the 1st Marine Divisions march up the east side of the Tigris and Euphrates while providing "support" to the main thrust by the Army's 3rd Infantry Division.  The book was written almost immediately after the war ended, and although it was good initial history, had a few anecdotes by West about his adventure following the Marines and is not long on the bigger picture of the challenges and issues the Marines faced during their three weeks of combat.  Of particular note is West's glossing over the fact that one of the Regimental Commanders, Colonel Joe Dowdy, was actually relieved of command by the 1st Marine Division Commander, MGEN James Matthis during the drive north.  West explains this as some sort of lateral move, probably trying to spare the Corps some post-war embarrassment.

The second book, No True Glory, was written right after the 2004 Battles of Fallujah and here West pulls no punches in pointing out the good, bad and ugly decisions up and down the American chain of command in handling the Sunni insurgency in the city.  His account of the run-up to final November offensive and the political and military preparations for the battle really place things in context.  West also places Fallujah into the wider context of the situation in Anbar Province through 2004, something that has not been well reported.  The battle narrative is also excellent and this remains today one of the better books written about Fallujah.

Finally, his third book, The Strongest Tribe, is meant to be a mini-campaign history of the entire Iraq conflict after the initial invasion, and is told from more of an operational and strategic point of view.  The time from April 2003 to fall 2006 goes by fairly quickly as West attempts to get into the nuts and bolts of the surge and the 2007 fighting.  It is a quick read and an excellent overview of someone just beginning to read about America's conflict in Iraq.

All of these books are good reads, although I would recommend The Strongest Tribe the most as a basic primer of the Iraq War.

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