The War Within: A Secret White House History, 2006-2008, by Bob Woodward
Christopher Meyer | Spectator | Wednesday, 22nd October 2008
There is a startling passage in this book. It recounts an intimate moment (among many, it should be said) between the President of the United States, George W. Bush, and his Secretary of State and long-time adviser, Condoleezza Rice. They are sitting on the porch of Bush’s Texas ranch. It is December 2006 and, after more than three years of war, the situation in Iraq is dire. Bush and Rice are debating the pros and cons of a ‘surge’ — the despatch of five extra brigades to pacify Baghdad. Condi has her doubts, Bush has none. She tells him that if he goes ahead, he has to get it right ‘because you are one of the four or five most consequential Presidents … maybe in our history’. She asks what will happen if the surge does not work. Bush dodges the question.
Astonishing stuff: a supremely confidential and private exchange about a decision that would affect the lives of millions, the fate of nations and Bush’s place in history — willingly revealed to a journalist-author for his next book. Compare and contrast with our own dear government. It is still fighting a rearguard action with the Information Commissioner to stop the release of papers that would tell the voter why the Cabinet backed Blair’s decision to join Bush in Iraq.
Bob Woodward specialises in revelations of this kind. They are scattered like truffles in the somewhat arid soil of this latest of four books about the life and times of the Bush administration after 9/11. They are no masterpieces of literature. The best that can be said for Woodward is that he has the functional competence of the experienced journalist. I cannot imagine The War Within, any more than its three predecessors, having broad appeal in Britain. But, if, like your reviewer, you have the aficionado’s delight in the minutely detailed cut-and-thrust of Washington decision-taking — and what this reveals of Bush the President and man — The War Within is a treasure trove. Continue reading ‘Only good news will do’