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

Front Cover
Harper Collins, Oct 13, 2009 - Biography & Autobiography - 704 pages
2 Reviews

In the years since the attacks of September 11, 2001, journalists, commentators, and others have published accounts of the Bush Administration's war on terrorism. But no senior Pentagon official has offered an inside view of those years, or has challenged the prevailing narrative of that war—until now.

Douglas J. Feith, the head of the Pentagon's Policy organization, was a key member of Donald Rumsfeld's inner circle as the Administration weighed how to protect the nation from another 9/11. In War and Decision, he puts readers in the room with President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, General Tommy Franks, and other key players as the Administration devised its strategy and war plans. Drawing on thousands of previously undisclosed documents, notes, and other written sources, Feith details how the Administration launched a global effort to attack and disrupt terrorist networks; how it decided to overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime; how it came to impose an occupation on Iraq even though it had avoided one in Afghanistan; how some officials postponed or impeded important early steps that could have averted major problems in Iraq's post-Saddam period; and how the Administration's errors in war-related communications undermined the nation's credibility and put U.S. war efforts at risk.

Even close followers of reporting on the Iraq war will be surprised at the new information Feith provides—presented here with balance and rigorous attention to detail. Among other revelations, War and Decision demonstrates that the most far-reaching warning of danger in Iraq was produced not by State or by the CIA, but by the Pentagon. It reveals the actual story behind the allegations that the Pentagon wanted to "anoint" Ahmad Chalabi as ruler of Iraq, and what really happened when the Pentagon challenged the CIA's work on the Iraq–al Qaida relationship. It offers the first accurate account of Iraq postwar planning—a topic widely misreported to date. And it presents surprising new portraits of Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, Richard Armitage, L. Paul Bremer, and others—revealing how differences among them shaped U.S. policy.

With its blend of vivid narrative, frank analysis, and elegant writing, War and Decision is like no other book on the Iraq war. It will interest those who have been troubled by conflicting accounts of the planning of the war, frustrated by the lack of firsthand insight into the decision-making process, or skeptical of conventional wisdom about Operation Iraqi Freedom and the global war on terrorism—efforts the author continues to support.


What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - jmcilree - LibraryThing

I'm certainly not an apologist for the Bush Administration. Nor am I one of the rabid Bush-haters. I remember very clearly what the debate was on going to war against Iraq. Feith does too and retells ... Read full review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

Feith writes from his own experience, giving us the "I was there" accounts of the daily struggles to define and develop a new policy for America in the contest against terrorism. Where he encounters them, he demolishes some of the common myths circulating about Sec. Rumsfeld and the "War on Terror" in the Pentagon, but he doesn't leave his area of knowledge seeking other dragons to slay.
For me, the main insights received from this book are as follows: (1) Responding to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 really was terra nova, requiring the creation of entirely new paradigms and doctrines for Pentagon planners and State Department diplomats alike, and not everyone was up to the challenge. (2) Never underestimate the inertia of bureaucracy. The litany of missed opportunities due to turf-wars, ego contests, and intransigence is extensive, and exhausting. (3) Much of what people think they know about the motivations and philosophies of major characters such as Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell is probably wrong.
If you can't read this book with an open mind, then don't bother reading it. But for those people willing to assume the good faith of the protagonists, even those with whom they disagree, this book will prove an eye opening and informative expose of the actual happenings at the beginning of the "War on Terror".


This Means War
Personal Trajectory
Change the Way We Live or Change the Way They Live
Steady in Afghanistan
Easier to Topple than Rebuild
Why Iraq?
Risks of Action and Inaction
Discord in Washington
Losing Ground on the Diplomatic Front
Final Preparations for War and Its Aftermath
Saddams Regime Falls
From Liberation to Occupation
The Taint of Occupation
Lessons and Debate

Iraq Planning The Who and Why
United Nations Bound

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2009)

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.

Bibliographic information