Need THE book on the Iraq War
November 26, 2008 7:28 AM   Subscribe

Do you know of a well-written book that covers the Iraq war?

I'm asking for a friend, who is looking for a "comprehensive, top-notch book about the Iraq war." We've both searched and there are a ton, but which are the good ones? Have you read a ton of these and noticed that one stood above the rest?
posted by eralclare to Society & Culture (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Thomas E. Ricks' Fiasco is good. Ricks is a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist at the Washington Post.

Also, I've heard that Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City is a good account of the Green Zone and the setting up of the Coalition Provisional Authority.
posted by Eldritch at 7:41 AM on November 26, 2008

Given that the war is ongoing, the comprehensive book will not emerge for many years. Among those covering the preliminary period, I liked Imperial Life in the Emerald City
posted by Gyan at 7:41 AM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have also read and enjoyed Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Baghdad's Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran. It's only about the first year of the war, but looks closely at the ethos and actions of those behind the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

I would class it as 'top-notch' because I liked the way the author combined journalistic reports of Baghdad and the Green Zone with sections that were more impressionistic. Both developed an extremely appealing critique. It's not comprehensive in the sense that it doesn't contain a lot of historical data and detailed descriptions of events, but it is based on a wide range of sources, from the highest US and Iraqi politicians down to soldiers and civilians.
posted by mattn at 7:43 AM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

How up to date does the book need to be?

The only one I've read is The Assassin's Gate by George Packer, and it was terrific, covering how we got into the war, how it was managed, and how it was experienced by both American soldiers and Iraqis. But it came out three years ago.

Dexter Filkins's The Forever War just came out and is also supposed to be great, although I haven't read it. And it has the advantage of being brand new.

Fiasco by Thomas Ricks is supposed to be terrific as well.
posted by Tin Man at 7:45 AM on November 26, 2008

Cobra II is the best account of the war itself, as well as the immediate aftermath/occupation.
posted by BobbyVan at 7:51 AM on November 26, 2008

Definitely The Assassin's Gate. I found it much more comprehensive than Imperial Life in the Emerald City.
posted by proj at 8:18 AM on November 26, 2008

Bob Woodward's State of Denial is pretty good. He does offer up a little controversy in this book about how things went down prior to 9/11. I generally found it to offer up a sobering assessment of what was going on behind the scenes. He's a great author as well.

Obviously, everything is biased, but I generally respect Woodward. I haven't read his fourth Bush book, but that is the book where he supposedly really goes after Bush, which should indicate to you his slant.

It stops at the beginning of '06 though. More recent events will not be covered.
posted by teabag at 9:06 AM on November 26, 2008

^ - I should also note that it focused more on the people than the events
posted by teabag at 9:09 AM on November 26, 2008

Michael Yon.
posted by Class Goat at 9:33 AM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

as Gyan pointed out, the war is ongoing, so no definitive account yet exists - that said, the following are all excellent:

Dahr Jamail's Beyond the Green Zone

Patrick Cockburn's The Occupation: War & Resistance in Iraq

Nir Rosen's The Triumph of the Martyrs
posted by jammy at 2:33 PM on November 26, 2008

The problem with most of these recommendations is that they carry the fundamental thesis that America couldn't possibly win.

Well, America did win. There will be occasional terrorist attacks there for decades to come, but the main issues have been settled, the way we wanted them to be settled. AQI is defeated; the civil war is over; political accomodation between the sects is a growing reality. The Iraqi army and police are now doing most of the fighting, and they're increasingly effective at it. The violence rate and casualty rate are way down. The Iraqi government is increasingly credible, both inside and outside the country.

So any book which claims that to be impossible cannot be "THE" book on the Iraq War. Which disqualifies nearly every recommendation here. (The Martyrs did not triumph.)

That's the reason I recommended Yon. His book was written just as the surge started, and in it he explained why it was going to work and why we were going to win the war. Which, it turned out, we did.

Yon wasn't writing from the safety and luxury of the Green Zone, let alone from Manhattan. Yon is ex-special forces, and he spent years in Iraq attached to combat platoons, literally under fire. He accompanied them on their patrols. He saw the real shooting war up close and personal.

And he wrote about what was really happening in the areas where the war was going to be decided, like the Sunni Triangle.
posted by Class Goat at 4:49 PM on November 26, 2008

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