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Eagerly anticipated in the wake of their national best seller Cobra II (“The superb, must-read military history of the invasion of Iraq”—Thomas L. Friedman), The Endgame is Michael R. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor’s most ambitious and news-breaking book to date. A peerless work of investigative journalism and historical recreation ranging from 2003 to 2012, it give Eagerly anticipated in the wake of their national best seller Cobra II (“The superb, must-read military history of the invasion of Iraq”—Thomas L. Friedman), The Endgame is Michael R. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor’s most ambitious and news-breaking book to date. A peerless work of investigative journalism and historical recreation ranging from 2003 to 2012, it gives us the first comprehensive, inside account of arguably the most widely reported yet least understood war in American history—from the occupation of Iraq to the withdrawal of American troops.   Prodigiously researched, The Endgame is not only based on an abundance of highly classified, still-secret government documents but is also brilliantly informed by access to key figures in the White House, the military, the State and Defense departments, the intelligence community, and, most strikingly, by extensive interviews with both Sunni and Shiite leaders, key Kurdish politicians, tribal sheikhs, former insurgents, Sadrists, and senior Iraqi military officers, whose insights about critical turning points and previously unknown decisions made during the war have heretofore been conspicuously missing from the media’s coverage of it.   The Endgame is riveting as a blow-by-blow chronicle of the fighting. It is also relentlessly revealing, as it deftly pieces together the puzzle of the prosecution of American, Iraqi, and Iranian objectives, and the diplomatic intrigue and political struggle within Iraq since the American invasion.


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Eagerly anticipated in the wake of their national best seller Cobra II (“The superb, must-read military history of the invasion of Iraq”—Thomas L. Friedman), The Endgame is Michael R. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor’s most ambitious and news-breaking book to date. A peerless work of investigative journalism and historical recreation ranging from 2003 to 2012, it give Eagerly anticipated in the wake of their national best seller Cobra II (“The superb, must-read military history of the invasion of Iraq”—Thomas L. Friedman), The Endgame is Michael R. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor’s most ambitious and news-breaking book to date. A peerless work of investigative journalism and historical recreation ranging from 2003 to 2012, it gives us the first comprehensive, inside account of arguably the most widely reported yet least understood war in American history—from the occupation of Iraq to the withdrawal of American troops.   Prodigiously researched, The Endgame is not only based on an abundance of highly classified, still-secret government documents but is also brilliantly informed by access to key figures in the White House, the military, the State and Defense departments, the intelligence community, and, most strikingly, by extensive interviews with both Sunni and Shiite leaders, key Kurdish politicians, tribal sheikhs, former insurgents, Sadrists, and senior Iraqi military officers, whose insights about critical turning points and previously unknown decisions made during the war have heretofore been conspicuously missing from the media’s coverage of it.   The Endgame is riveting as a blow-by-blow chronicle of the fighting. It is also relentlessly revealing, as it deftly pieces together the puzzle of the prosecution of American, Iraqi, and Iranian objectives, and the diplomatic intrigue and political struggle within Iraq since the American invasion.

30 review for The Endgame: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Iraq, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama

  1. 5 out of 5

    Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont

    There is a Japanese proverb which goes “Vision without action is a daydream; but action without vision is a nightmare.” It serves, so far as I am concerned, as the prefect epitaph for the Second Iraq War. I cannot conceive of any action in either American or British history more abysmal than the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It was a monumental error of judgement, the consequences of which are likely to remain with us for generations to come. Simon Heffer and Charles Moore, two of my favourite press co There is a Japanese proverb which goes “Vision without action is a daydream; but action without vision is a nightmare.” It serves, so far as I am concerned, as the prefect epitaph for the Second Iraq War. I cannot conceive of any action in either American or British history more abysmal than the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It was a monumental error of judgement, the consequences of which are likely to remain with us for generations to come. Simon Heffer and Charles Moore, two of my favourite press columnists, have expressed some admiration in the past for Tony Blair, the former Labour prime minister who took this country into one gung ho war after another, the prime minister who took us into Iraq. It perplexes me that anyone can have a good word for Blair; it perplexes me why people are not angrier over the damage he and Gordon Brown, his Chancellor and successor, did to the strategic and political interests of this country. Quite apart from their other sins, Blair and Brown, the two Bs, bear joint responsibility for possibly the worst military humiliation in British history. I’ll elaborate on this point a bit later. Iraq, of course was essentially the third B’s war, the B in question being George W. Bush. During the holidays I read The Endgame: the Inside Story of the Struggle for Iraq, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor. This important book is essentially a history of American involvement in Iraq, which probably means that it will have a more limited readership in England. If so this will be a pity, for the authors have important and uncomfortable things to say about British involvement also. Although The Endgame, as the title suggest, purports to be an account of the final stages of the war in Iraq, it’s actually a very good narrative of the course of the entire conflict, exhaustive in its attention to detail. The authors, who work for the New York Times, are military specialists rather than professional historians. In some ways this accounts for both the strengths and weaknesses of their book. As a blow by blow inside view of the military and strategic challenges faced it’s a superlative chronology. Unfortunately Gordon and Trainor have left themselves little time to stand and stare, resulting in a weakness in analysis. Still, given the range of resources used, including classified cables and personal interviews, The Endgame is bound to serve as an invaluable mine for future generations of historians. War, as Carl von Clausewitz observed, is the continuation of politics by other means. If so, the political comprehension of Bush and Blair was utterly abysmal. It was the soldiers on the ground, as well as the Iraqi people, who suffered as a consequence of their ignorance. To slightly adapt the Roman historian Tacitus, in invading Iraq the American president and the British prime minister made a desolation and called it democracy. There were a whole series of political, cultural, religious and historical factors that should have urged caution. Saddam Hussein was a wicked despot; of that there is no doubt. But to believe his removal would lead to a brave new world of freedom and democracy is stunningly naïve. The truth is that Iraq is not so much a nation as a hornet’s nest. The invasion of 2003, with little in the way of forward political planning, simply set the hornet’s buzzing. The West won the war only to lose the peace. The only virtue in Bush is that he kept his nerve and listened to his military specialists. With the situation almost out of control, the President committed extra fighting forces, ably commanded by generals David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno. The so-called ‘surge’ of 2007-8, the account of which is at the heart of The Endgame, effectively broke the back of the al-Qaeda led insurgency. The surge was important in recovering the honour of the US military; it was even more important in winning over Sunni tribes, disgusted by the extremism of al-Qaeda, their former shield against Shia extremists, and the foreign fanatics it had introduced into the country. As Gordon and Trainor say of the surge, it was a military event that succeeded beyond any reasonable expectation in tamping down sectarian violence and breaking the back of both Sunni and Shia terrorism. The relative success of the American surge stands in sharp contrast to British performance in the south around the city of Basra. In time to come I am convinced, as I suggested above, that what happened here will stand alongside the most serious defeats in British military history. It was more than that: the British Army was humiliated. The fault is not that of the soldiers, who did their duty in the most extreme circumstances, but sections of the senior command. The fault, above all, is that of Blair and Brown, who gave the army a task and then starved it of the resources that would have ensured its successful completion. As the Americans reinforced Baghdad, the British withdrew from Basra, leaving it to murderous anarchy. As the Americans successfully negotiated with Sunni leaders, the British surrendered abjectly to the Shia fanatics of the Mahdi Army. The appeasement did little good. Even in the base around Basra airport, British troops came under sustained mortar and rocket attack. The insurgency in the south was only broken after Petraeus sent American forces to back up the regular Iraqi army. Meanwhile the British division commander was off in Switzerland for a spot of skiing. The authors rightly blame the timidity of the British government for the Basra fiasco. But the chief political culprit of The Endgame is George W. Bush’s successor, President Barack Obama. This was not his war, as he was quick to demonstrate in coming to office in 2009. The chief focus on the 'war on terror' (what a disaster that has been) was shifted away from Iraq and back to Afghanistan. American troops were gradually withdrawn from the former with the result that all the gains of the surge have effectively been squandered. Now al-Qaeda is back; now Iran uses Iraqi airspace to send military support to the beleaguered President Assad in Syria. All this effort, all those lives for what exactly? – for precisely nothing. Castles made of sand slip into the sea eventually.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mike Kershaw

    Full discloure: I was interviewed by Mr. Gordon and Mr. Morgan for this book. This book is at it's best describing the events surrounding 'the surge' and most insightful, from my standpoint, describing the Iraqi political manuevering that went on throughout the period and the innovative approach taken by many US units in finding a way to succeed. As one of those on the ground, this book helps piece together the various Iraqi political issues we dealt with at the ground level into a more cohesive Full discloure: I was interviewed by Mr. Gordon and Mr. Morgan for this book. This book is at it's best describing the events surrounding 'the surge' and most insightful, from my standpoint, describing the Iraqi political manuevering that went on throughout the period and the innovative approach taken by many US units in finding a way to succeed. As one of those on the ground, this book helps piece together the various Iraqi political issues we dealt with at the ground level into a more cohesive narrative. From my vantage, the role that Iraqi units played in the success of 'the surge' period (2006-2007) is not fully represented -- our estimate was that their involvement in the 'awakening' or 'volunteer' movement ensured it would outlast any US troop rotation and give it its best chance for success. Other units had different experiences (some negative) and many of these accounts seem to dominate the narrative. Regardless of this, I think it is an essential book for understanding problem sets faced by Army leaders during this period.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nick Lloyd

    "You've got to get better at looking around corners." -SECDEF Donald Rumsfeld, to General George Casey, regarding the latter's request to extend the already-redeploying 172nd Stryker Brigade to a 16 month tour in 2006 This quote could serve as a metaphor for the entire war.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    Gordon and Trainor have done it again! When I heard this book was coming out, having devoured the previous installment on the Iraq War, "Cobra II," I knew I had to read this one as well. I was not disappointed. They cover 2003-2012, and I almost felt myself having flashbacks to al Anbar province when they talked about 2005-06 in places like Ramadi and Fallujah, where I served. These guys have the story straight, at least the parts that I witnessed myself. I'd highly recommend picking this book u Gordon and Trainor have done it again! When I heard this book was coming out, having devoured the previous installment on the Iraq War, "Cobra II," I knew I had to read this one as well. I was not disappointed. They cover 2003-2012, and I almost felt myself having flashbacks to al Anbar province when they talked about 2005-06 in places like Ramadi and Fallujah, where I served. These guys have the story straight, at least the parts that I witnessed myself. I'd highly recommend picking this book up - you are sure to learn something about the Iraq War that you previously did not know, and probably will come away from it at least a little more disgusted with our execution of nine years of conflict in Mesopotamia.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Prashant Rao

    A fantastic book on Iraq that sets out the key events following the 2003 invasion until relatively recently. Extremely well-reported, to the point that even the footnotes are fascinating.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Stieb

    Valuable in many ways but too dang long. Sometimes this one felt like every New York Times article about Iraq from 2003-2012 just stapled together into a book. Obviously that's a little uncharitable: there are lot of really great chapters in here, especially around the 2006-2008 period, which is the book's focus. It is genuinely panoramic, other than that it kinda leaves out Bush and Cabinet level decision making. One other problem I had was that it didn't really have an argument and rarely zoom Valuable in many ways but too dang long. Sometimes this one felt like every New York Times article about Iraq from 2003-2012 just stapled together into a book. Obviously that's a little uncharitable: there are lot of really great chapters in here, especially around the 2006-2008 period, which is the book's focus. It is genuinely panoramic, other than that it kinda leaves out Bush and Cabinet level decision making. One other problem I had was that it didn't really have an argument and rarely zoomed out to assess the broader significance of what was going on. The number of names put forward in this book is absolutely dizzying; writers on Iraq like Packer ad Ricks do a better job of guiding you through with a smaller cast of characters. Chapter titles with dates and places would have helped a lot. I might be applying the standards of academic history to journalistic history here, but in a 700-pager you just need these kinds of signposts. Or you need to edit better. So I would stick to Ricks' accounts if you don't want to get bogged down in this one. Also this is the 3rd book I've read called end game. Let's work on this a little, people.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    Saying that I liked this one misses a bit of nuance to the whole Iraq/USA story, with some good reason. This is a bit like "cleanup" history for the Obama administration had it not been for the minor hiccup of having had to rethink the withdrawal scenario they came up with. The "Endgame" story ends in 2011, being copyrighted in 2012. Oops, things in Iraq weren't quite over yet. I suppose Gordon and Trainor ought to be entitled to a 'do over' 2nd edition at some point that encapsulates the whole Saying that I liked this one misses a bit of nuance to the whole Iraq/USA story, with some good reason. This is a bit like "cleanup" history for the Obama administration had it not been for the minor hiccup of having had to rethink the withdrawal scenario they came up with. The "Endgame" story ends in 2011, being copyrighted in 2012. Oops, things in Iraq weren't quite over yet. I suppose Gordon and Trainor ought to be entitled to a 'do over' 2nd edition at some point that encapsulates the whole junior varsity, ISIL, period. Granted, life continues as history is being written, and one never quite knows how to capture the slice that interests one. Naming the final combat death in Iraq as they did might have been a bit much. BUT, the capture of a great chunk of the military and political story of American (and a bit of coalition) involvement in Iraq for the years 2004 to 2011 could serve well the desire to know some things by the moderately interested.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    Ends at a very unfortunate spot, such that it feels incomplete (ISIS isn't covered at all). Learned a lot - like that Iran/Al-Quds was meddling the entire time, the British we're worse than useless, and Maliki was ridiculously bad for the country - but it was often hard to keep events in context.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Williams

    Lots of good information, but it reads too much like a textbook for my taste. Additionally, the authors jump around a lot which disrupts the narrative

  10. 5 out of 5

    H. P.

    “Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not win it for them.” --T.E. Lawrence Title notwithstanding, The End Game starts from the beginning. The early stuff has been covered elsewhere before, but is appreciated nonetheless. In particular, The End Game is focused on the colonels and generals, rather than, as most of the books on the subject I’ve read, the highest military brass and ci “Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not win it for them.” --T.E. Lawrence Title notwithstanding, The End Game starts from the beginning. The early stuff has been covered elsewhere before, but is appreciated nonetheless. In particular, The End Game is focused on the colonels and generals, rather than, as most of the books on the subject I’ve read, the highest military brass and civilian leadership. We get the disaster of Bremer (he basically scuttled the entire Iraqi infrastructure, but never seriously invested in replacing it). In fact, the entire early war effort is a tragedy of errors. Casey was another disaster. He completely focused on a drawdown, when more and more evidence was pointing to its futility and the potential of counterinsurgency (a counterinsurgency strategy (under the guise of an “ink blot” strategy) was put forward as many as 16 months before the surge). Gordon and Trainor make a convincing case that our strategy was a failure even before Samarra blew the powder keg. We faced two serious problems. Suuni insurgent attacks led to Shiite Iraqis terrorizing Sunni Iraqis, often using the arm of the state. That opened the door for Al Qaeda to wage war directly against the Americans in Iraq. It’s always been fascinating to the see the slow progress from virtually full support for a drawdown to the conclusion that the full surge, not simply a small increase. Petraeus had been pushing counterinsurgency, but it was viewed with great skepticism by his superiors. President Bush may have boldly accepted a large surge, but it was the generals on the ground who set the strategy for how the additional battalions would be used. The Sunni Awakening was one of the great surprises of the Iraq War. For all the arguments for the Surge, the effect of the Surge on the Awakening was not fully appreciated. The Awakening may have preceded the Surge, but the counterinsurgency tactics of the Surge took the Awakening out of Anbar. The Awakening started as “a bottom-up phenomenon driven by local Iraqis and the American units they encountered in the field. It was not something the generals . . . had organized from on high.” But recognized and appreciated, they were complementary and fed off each other. Sadly, this isn’t a story with a happy ending. We see the political tail wagging the policy dog in an administration dominated by former Senators. Both militaries wanted a continued US military presence, but the politics for the politicians were much trickier on both sides. It was a fundamental error by both the Bush and Obama administrations to allow the Office of the Vice President greater influence than the State Department. The Office of the VP can never bring the kind of resources and infrastructure to bear that the State Department can. Despite the success of the surge, feckless decision making is leaving us back where we started before the surge. But then, I question whether, whatever the military success of the surge, we ever did the other things necessary to “win.” This review is of the Kindle edition. Just over 20% of the Kindle edition is devoted to reference material, etc., including acknowledgments, notes (hyperlinked both ways, and taking up 12% of the Kindle edition itself), index (hyperlinked), short bios of the authors, illustrations, maps and charts, and an ‘also by.’

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    An impressive history that covers the invasion of Iraq through the final withdrawal of the US military in 2011 - and some of the immediate aftermath. Gordon and Trainor the invasion, insurgency, surge, and drawdown in great historical detail. Their effort largely focuses on the head of state and general-officer level, with only a few forays into company-level anecdotes. What this history does best is identify the opportunities seized and missed during the years the US government occupied Iraq. C An impressive history that covers the invasion of Iraq through the final withdrawal of the US military in 2011 - and some of the immediate aftermath. Gordon and Trainor the invasion, insurgency, surge, and drawdown in great historical detail. Their effort largely focuses on the head of state and general-officer level, with only a few forays into company-level anecdotes. What this history does best is identify the opportunities seized and missed during the years the US government occupied Iraq. Context of the US war in Afghanistan, the Arab Spring, as well as the make-up of the US forces in Iraq is largely missing. The resource competition and focus of the Afghanistan theater is rarely mentioned nor is the larger international terrorism storyline that plays a significant role in Iraq's descent into chaos in 2005-2007. The US military also entered the war having attempted to modularize for a traditional near-peer fight, but found itself in a complex, asymmetric conflict. Artillery units were re-tasked to guard prisons, air defense batteries ran convoys, and logistics units had to teach themselves how to operate in contested terrain. Even the deployment of reserve and national guard units at the lowest echelons of readiness changed the way America fought in Iraq. Beyond traditional infantry and armor units, the story of the US military's steep learning curve in Iraq should have earned a few more paragraphs. Overall a must read for anyone interested in recent American history.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

    A very well-researched and well-written look at the war. The authors provide an insightful and balanced critique of the Iraq policies of both the Bush and Obama administrations, and are not particularly kind to either. In fact, their strategies weren't all that different. Neither had much taste for a long counterinsurgency, and the Obama team was finishing up a job it didn't want. The authors give a particularly critical assessment of the Obama administration’s approach, and their pick for ambas A very well-researched and well-written look at the war. The authors provide an insightful and balanced critique of the Iraq policies of both the Bush and Obama administrations, and are not particularly kind to either. In fact, their strategies weren't all that different. Neither had much taste for a long counterinsurgency, and the Obama team was finishing up a job it didn't want. The authors give a particularly critical assessment of the Obama administration’s approach, and their pick for ambassador, Chris Hill, comes across as particularly inept. The book’s story is told from all participants in the war: the US government, the military, the Iraqi government, the insurgents, and the Iranians, as they all attempt to impose their will on a chaotic Iraq and step on each other as they do so. The book shows how the surge was implemented, how it reversed the course of the war, and how the Obama administration pocketed the surge’s gains to buy a quick exit. The author show how the surge tamped down sectarian violence, all but destroyed al-Qaeda in Iraq, and sidelined the Iranians. Still, the political gains of the surge (reforming and uniting Iraq’s factions), were somewhat limited. Gordon and Trainor write that the surge acted as a “catalyst” for the other developments in Iraq like the Sunni Awakening and the Shias' decision to stand down attacks which came to full fruition by mid 2007. The guts of that “catalyst,” argue the authors, were a radically transformed strategy and operational method put into place by Petraeus. Still, it seems to me that the overall military strategy in Iraq from 2003 to 2011 remained fundamentally the same: build a new Iraqi nation at the barrel of an American gun and as quickly as possible turn things over to the Iraqis. There were some modest tactical adjustments during the Surge along with of course the increased number of combat brigades, but those changes can’t explain the significant lowering of violence that actually did occur by the end of 2007. Instead the lowering of violence had much more to do with the Sunni Awakening—the real catalyst for change in Iraq. The Surge and Petraeus, contrary to what Gordon and Trainor argue, followed rather than lead it, I think. Still, this was quite a valuable book that I'd definitely recommend.

  13. 5 out of 5

    James

    Gordon and Trainor's End Game provides a valuable, if incomplete, look at the middle and latter stages of the Iraq war. In its attempt to be the second draft of history, it provides more distance than contemporary journalism while still suffering from the limitations of its sources. The authors tout their access to classified material, but the sheer volume of material from modern wars makes any quick look somewhat superficial. Nevertheless, as someone who fought the Iraq war from 2004 to 2009, k Gordon and Trainor's End Game provides a valuable, if incomplete, look at the middle and latter stages of the Iraq war. In its attempt to be the second draft of history, it provides more distance than contemporary journalism while still suffering from the limitations of its sources. The authors tout their access to classified material, but the sheer volume of material from modern wars makes any quick look somewhat superficial. Nevertheless, as someone who fought the Iraq war from 2004 to 2009, knew many of the players, and was present at several key events, I found the book useful for gaining perspective on what was happening outside my immediate view. One incident provides a good example of the book's limitations. During the 2008 Sadr City fight, COL John Hort gets so angry that he rips off his rank and offers it to MG Jeff Hammond in protest. Since Hammond and Hort were the only two in the room, Hort must necessarily be the source. The incident may have happened, but I never personally saw any indication of COL Hort standing up to Hammond that way, and the vignette, if Hort is indeed the source, is somewhat self-serving. In this and many other ways, Gordon and Trainor mimic Bob Woodward--well-sourced, quick to publish, but at the mercy of those willing to talk to them, and perhaps somewhat credulous about WHY their sources are willing to talk to them. Finally, the book also suffers from organizational issues, vacillating between grand strategy and occasional glimpses of street-level tactics without any obvious rationale. In this, the authors have simply failed to deal with the same problem that plagues every book about the Iraq war published so far. They cover the high-level decision-making that was heavily reported, or they cover one soldier's (or diplomat's or journalist's) narrow view of the fight on the ground. Because the fights in Iraq and Afghanistan are so localized, there is no conventional structure in military history for documenting the operational progress of the war. There are no axes of advance, no front lines, and few geographical objectives. The great historian of these conflicts will be the one who figures out how to shape a chaotic, decentralized operation into a coherent but accurate narrative.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Steven Maloney

    Endgame tells the story of Iraq through the eyes of the key decision-makers in Iraq as they deal with all of the moving parts of the Iraq occupation. The actors in the story are portrayed through the positions they take on policy, and Endgame treats Iraq expertly as a clash of different preferences and priorities - a giant Rubik's Cube of interests that everyone has to twist and turn until enough of the colors line up that the game can end. This book expertly lays out the complexities and challe Endgame tells the story of Iraq through the eyes of the key decision-makers in Iraq as they deal with all of the moving parts of the Iraq occupation. The actors in the story are portrayed through the positions they take on policy, and Endgame treats Iraq expertly as a clash of different preferences and priorities - a giant Rubik's Cube of interests that everyone has to twist and turn until enough of the colors line up that the game can end. This book expertly lays out the complexities and challenges of Iraq and does a magnificent job of separating the rhetoric of politics in the media from the challenges of problem solving in the real world. The book also provides such rich information, that it helps understand future events as well. While both political parties rush to say either Bush or Obama "created ISIS," the story of Endgame shows that there were plenty of mistakes made by American actors in both administrations, but also reveals two President's who go into Iraq with mistaken assumptions, but both work hard at finding the right people to trust and the right decisions to make on the ground once they are confronted with serious challenges. In short, a must read for anyone who ever wants to say anything serious about Iraq in conversation ever again.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Urey Patrick

    This is a comprehensive, and comprehensively detailed, chronicle of events in Iraq from the latter years of the Bush administration into the Obama administration. It is comprehensive and detailed to the point of tedium. My interest tended to wander. I think this is an important collection of data, but you have got to really be invested in that period to absorb and follow it all. I am not - my interest fluctuates with time and events. That makes this a long and occasionally arduous reading experi This is a comprehensive, and comprehensively detailed, chronicle of events in Iraq from the latter years of the Bush administration into the Obama administration. It is comprehensive and detailed to the point of tedium. My interest tended to wander. I think this is an important collection of data, but you have got to really be invested in that period to absorb and follow it all. I am not - my interest fluctuates with time and events. That makes this a long and occasionally arduous reading experience. There is less evaluation, analysis and correlation of events, decisions, cultures, revelations, etc. It is less a history in the sense I look for and more a detailed (am I repeating myself) chronology of memos, orders, personnel moves, meetings, interspersed with events and related developments. The authors had access to a vast amount of material - classified and much of it otherwise unreleased. But it is an overwhelming, and tedious (repeating myself yet again) reading experience. Insider baseball, I suppose -- not for everybody.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    The Publisher describes "The End Game" as an ambitious, authoritative and complete description of the Iraq war. This book picks up where the author's earlier book, "Cobra II", which details how we found our way into the war in Iraq, left off. In this latter book, "The End Game" covers the Iraq war primarily from 2006 through 2012, and uses extensive information from U.S. military leaders, politicians, the State Department, Sunni and Sh'ia leaders, as well as insights from Kurdish leaders and low The Publisher describes "The End Game" as an ambitious, authoritative and complete description of the Iraq war. This book picks up where the author's earlier book, "Cobra II", which details how we found our way into the war in Iraq, left off. In this latter book, "The End Game" covers the Iraq war primarily from 2006 through 2012, and uses extensive information from U.S. military leaders, politicians, the State Department, Sunni and Sh'ia leaders, as well as insights from Kurdish leaders and lower level Iraqi leaders. For historians, or those truly seeking insights into all the decisions and policies which compounded the difficulties in turning Iraq back to the Iraqis, all the details are here. However to me, the book was overly ambitious, overly detailed, and the political turmoil and Iraqi political infighting descriptions became mind numbing. For someone more interested in a general overview, the length of this book may be a negative. Personally, I appreciated many of the insights, but overall, I found the book somewhat tedious to finish.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

    “Endgame,” the follow up to Michael Gordon and Gen Bernard Trainor's “Cobra II” provides a comprehensive and highly credible narrative of Operations Iraqi Freedom(OIF) (post initial invasion) and New Dawn. As someone with a total 26 months in Iraq over the various phases of OIF, I can say I still learned a lot about the war writ large. Gordon and Trainor covered a lot of information, and they did a commendable job blending the diverse tactical, operational, and strategic aspects of the conflict. “Endgame,” the follow up to Michael Gordon and Gen Bernard Trainor's “Cobra II” provides a comprehensive and highly credible narrative of Operations Iraqi Freedom(OIF) (post initial invasion) and New Dawn. As someone with a total 26 months in Iraq over the various phases of OIF, I can say I still learned a lot about the war writ large. Gordon and Trainor covered a lot of information, and they did a commendable job blending the diverse tactical, operational, and strategic aspects of the conflict. The one unique and significant area of the war I feel the authors did not cover in enough depth though was the proliferation of contractors in the areas of operation. That aside, “Endgame" is the best all-around history of the Iraq War to date, and I highly recommend anyone who served in Iraq to read both books to gain a better understanding of how the things they did fit into the bigger picture. (audiobook read)

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paul D. Miller

    The first effort at a complete history of the Iraq war. It is breathtaking in scope and exhausting in detail. Its flaws are that it reads more like a very long newspaper article than a work of history. There is much reportage; less analysis. The other difficulty is that this book just made me mad at virtually everyone involved. It is astonishing how many things had to go wrong, and how many people had to be complicit, for the war to turn out the way it did. Yes, the surge was necessary and succe The first effort at a complete history of the Iraq war. It is breathtaking in scope and exhausting in detail. Its flaws are that it reads more like a very long newspaper article than a work of history. There is much reportage; less analysis. The other difficulty is that this book just made me mad at virtually everyone involved. It is astonishing how many things had to go wrong, and how many people had to be complicit, for the war to turn out the way it did. Yes, the surge was necessary and successful--but was also ultimately fruitless because of the Iraqis' intransigence and the Obama administration's failure to secure an extension to the status-of-forces agreement. That the United States was compelled to reengage in Iraq in 2014 (not covered in this book) is sharp proof of our earlier failures. And we're committing the same mistake in Afghanistan.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Samrat Sen

    Commentary on Iraq between 204 and 2011, both at macro and micro level. Written mostly from US point of view, it does throw a lot of insight on complications involved in Iraq, a mishmash of ethnic, religious and language based differences, a time bomb. It quotes details which indicate Mr Bush was better in his handling of Iraq (post invasion) than many of us criticise him for. That success, largely has been based on competencies of David Petraeus. Conversely, Mr Obama has been a considerable fai Commentary on Iraq between 204 and 2011, both at macro and micro level. Written mostly from US point of view, it does throw a lot of insight on complications involved in Iraq, a mishmash of ethnic, religious and language based differences, a time bomb. It quotes details which indicate Mr Bush was better in his handling of Iraq (post invasion) than many of us criticise him for. That success, largely has been based on competencies of David Petraeus. Conversely, Mr Obama has been a considerable failure in handling Iraq, but then it ceased to be in his list of priorities. A wonderful irony was General Petraeus complaining about Iraq interfering with US internal matters!!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    Gordon recounts the actions and reactions of the long war in Iraq. Focusing more on what happened in the country and what didn't happen, he draws a scary picture of what happens when you "wing it" at a national level. Why I started this book: Downloaded the audio from the library. Why I finished it: Very long and detailed it felt like listening to a college lecture of all the different pieces and people that went into the breakdown of Iraq.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Forsyth

    A compellingly detailed account of the Iraq occupation and its difficulties. Gets bogged down at times when its focus gets too macro, particularly when describing specific military battles, but it's hard to fault a book for its specificity when so many of this type offer only broad generalization. My understanding of the difficulty and complexity of building a democratic Iraq was greatly informed.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Pretty good explanation for how badly this was managed. I was a bit player in this drama from 2003 to 2005 and was continually frustrated as I didn't understand why we seemed to working against ourselves. Now I see that it was because we WERE! If you want to know the details of how we got sideways and managed to get ourselves out, this is the book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin

    This is a very detailed look at the Iraq war. The details in fact are overwhelming. The narrative could have been streamlined. It is a book for people who already know a great deal about the war. The story had to many threads to keep track of and I would have enjoyed a less detailed more Jisty story. The author has done his homework and I will give him that.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Wai-kit Ng

    A very long book that goes into minute details on the strategic-policy realm of US decision making in Iraq. Tend to get over one's head after a while. But there are many gems hidden within, especially with the declassification of certain documents. My biggest insight really is that it is impossible to separate policy from politics.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Stan Lanier

    A massively detailed history of American policies concerning Iraq. In light of current happenings in Iraq, this book is somewhat chilling. This is, it seems to me, the go to book for understanding the particulars of the massive failure US involvement has proven, so far, to be. One can only shake one's head.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Gabriel Schoenfeld

    By turns riveting and illuminating, dispiriting and devastating, Endgame is the single best thing I've read about the Iraq war. The tale it tells ends in 2012, but one cannot understand Iraq's current convulsions without pondering the monumental tome that Gordon and Trainer have so brilliantly researched and written.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Carey

    Very detailed history that's well written, but a little too detailed for my taste. Consider it a well-made brown stock - a great source to make a flavorful demiglace that has all the necessary ingredients. Worth the read for a comprehensive understanding of Iraq, especially in concert with their first book, Cobra II.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    Follows the Iraq war blow by blow form Bush to Obama....really changes your perspective on what actually happens....not only over there....but in a war in general. It was so unbelievably complicated over there....there really is no way to actually win. Big book...but learned alot.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    Discursive and not well organized; rambling. No overarching perspective provided - kind of reminded me of Woodward. Some interesting vignettes. And helpful in understanding the latest iteration of Iraq's implosion.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alex Nelson

    It reads like a quickly assembled collection of notes, although it was coherent and cohesive...it didn't flow like a good story. Great for reference work, though.

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