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The Iraq War: The Military Offensive, from Victory in 21 Days to the Insurgent Aftermath

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The 2003 Iraq war remains among the most mysterious armed conflicts of modernity. In The Iraq War, John Keegan offers a sharp and lucid appraisal of the military campaign, explaining just how the coalition forces defeated an Iraqi army twice its size and addressing such questions as whether Saddam Hussein ever possessed weapons of mass destruction and how it is possible to The 2003 Iraq war remains among the most mysterious armed conflicts of modernity. In The Iraq War, John Keegan offers a sharp and lucid appraisal of the military campaign, explaining just how the coalition forces defeated an Iraqi army twice its size and addressing such questions as whether Saddam Hussein ever possessed weapons of mass destruction and how it is possible to fight a war that is not, by any conventional measure, a war at all. Drawing on exclusive interviews with Donald Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks, Keegan retraces the steps that led to the showdown in Iraq, from the highlights of Hussein’s murderous rule to the diplomatic crossfire that preceded the invasion. His account of the combat in the desert is unparalleled in its grasp of strategy and tactics. The result is an urgently needed and up-to-date book that adds immeasurably to our understanding of those twenty-one days of war and their long, uncertain aftermath.


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The 2003 Iraq war remains among the most mysterious armed conflicts of modernity. In The Iraq War, John Keegan offers a sharp and lucid appraisal of the military campaign, explaining just how the coalition forces defeated an Iraqi army twice its size and addressing such questions as whether Saddam Hussein ever possessed weapons of mass destruction and how it is possible to The 2003 Iraq war remains among the most mysterious armed conflicts of modernity. In The Iraq War, John Keegan offers a sharp and lucid appraisal of the military campaign, explaining just how the coalition forces defeated an Iraqi army twice its size and addressing such questions as whether Saddam Hussein ever possessed weapons of mass destruction and how it is possible to fight a war that is not, by any conventional measure, a war at all. Drawing on exclusive interviews with Donald Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks, Keegan retraces the steps that led to the showdown in Iraq, from the highlights of Hussein’s murderous rule to the diplomatic crossfire that preceded the invasion. His account of the combat in the desert is unparalleled in its grasp of strategy and tactics. The result is an urgently needed and up-to-date book that adds immeasurably to our understanding of those twenty-one days of war and their long, uncertain aftermath.

30 review for The Iraq War: The Military Offensive, from Victory in 21 Days to the Insurgent Aftermath

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    John Keegan is a noted military historian who has written comprehensive works on the First and Second World Wars, the Napoleonic War, and intelligence in warfare. With all the pro-Arab anti-war hype that has dominated discussion of the Iraq War of 2003 by the USA and UK to liberate Iraq from the monstrous tyranny of Saddam Hussein, it is refreshing to find an objective account where actually gleans that the war to free Iraq was in many ways justified. Keegan studied the war from various perspectiv John Keegan is a noted military historian who has written comprehensive works on the First and Second World Wars, the Napoleonic War, and intelligence in warfare. With all the pro-Arab anti-war hype that has dominated discussion of the Iraq War of 2003 by the USA and UK to liberate Iraq from the monstrous tyranny of Saddam Hussein, it is refreshing to find an objective account where actually gleans that the war to free Iraq was in many ways justified. Keegan studied the war from various perspectives and conducted interviews with General Tommy Franks and the American Secretary of State, Donald Rumsfeld. He successfully writes a history of the causes, complications and effects of the 2003 War, and investigates and explains the real reasons for the invasion, the successes of the American and British forces (with two fascinating chapters on the military campaigns of each) , the collapse of the Republican Guard, the complete lack of will of the Iraqi people to defend the Saddam dictatorship and the fall of Baghdad to Allied troops. The Iraqi people had suffered from Saddam's bloody reign of terror for too long and apart form Saddam's own SS, the Republican Guard and loyalists of Saddam's Fascist Ba'ath Party, the Iraqi people had no reason to defend the Saddam regime. The soldiers of the Iraqi army simply deserted in mass and became civilians. The terrorist fedayeen who opposed the Allied invasion were almost all non-Iraqis, they consisted of Syrian, Saudi, Palestinian, Pakistani and other Islamist who had infiltrated into Iraq. The Kurds in northern Iraq or rather Iraqi occupied Kurdistan as I see it, were unanimous in their support for the allied invasion and the their was widespread support from the Shia in the south who had long been persecuted by Saddam. The media did not wish to report on these many inconvenient truths, in the pro-Arab, anti-war positions of neo-Marxist dogma. furthermore contrary to the accepted leftist-Islamist propaganda that there was a large casualty count, the count of casualties caused to Iraqi civilians as a result of allied actions was very low and the Allies were careful to minimize casualties among the civilian population to a scruulous degree. The author discusses the anti-war hysteria and the marches across the world by the brainwashed minions of radical leftism,and notes that in Britain, the indigenous working class largely supported the war. It was Islamic and other Third world immigrant minorities and the privileged intellectual classes who opposed the liberation of Iraq. The chattering classes of Britain hold on to a contempt for the Britain's white working class because the letter's patriotism is the major obstacle in turning the United Kingdom into an Islamic dominated state run by Islamists and Marxist elites. The first three chapters of the book examine Iraq's history, and include the fact that Iraq itself was an artificial creation of British colonialism in the 1920s, an monstrosity of three separate nations forced together. I, a believer, in the self-determination of national groups, think that Iraq should be partitioned into a Kurdish, Shia and sunni Arab state, but due tho the world's unhealthy focus exclusively on the demands of the Palestinians,(because of the domination of world opinion by the anti-democratic left) Kurdish self-determination (like that of the Tibetans and countless other genuinely repressed and occupied nations) has been taken off the radar screen. Sadly the great vision of self-determination of nations espoused by the great visionary Woodrow Wilson, after the First World War, has been effectively destroyed for now, by the United Nations.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    First off, the book discusses the development of the origins of Iraq from the demise of the ottoman empire and the history that led to the war focusing on Saddam Hussein's personality and background. Saddam political career began in 1957 by joining the ba'ath party while being poor and uneducated. He came to exercise absolute power using violence and political intrigue but he was also a social progressive. He followed in Stalin's steps, he saw that the ba'ath party should take control of every p First off, the book discusses the development of the origins of Iraq from the demise of the ottoman empire and the history that led to the war focusing on Saddam Hussein's personality and background. Saddam political career began in 1957 by joining the ba'ath party while being poor and uneducated. He came to exercise absolute power using violence and political intrigue but he was also a social progressive. He followed in Stalin's steps, he saw that the ba'ath party should take control of every public party in Iraq and any significant private body. Saddam launched three wars, Iraq-Iran war from 1980 to 1988 and the first and the second gulf war . In 1987-1988, Saddam used chemical weapons against his own people in Kurdistan. The Iraq war on invasion-by other words- ended after 21 days! keegan then comes to a very point. He mentioned that thousands of ex-soldiers were demobilized and as a result the employment market couldn't absorb them. As being discontented and unpaid, some joined terrorist campaigns while others joined the resistance. Islamist groups from neighboring countries came to join the war against the united states,they aimed at undermining the american occupation and to kill Americans. Keegan gave a very space to the military process of the invasion. Keegan ended his book by discussing the interests of the leading Arab countries in the region, Iran's focuses on the sh'ia issue and increasing its oil production, while all what Saudi Arabia cared for was maintaining its internal stability and the fear of the rise of shi'a power in Iraq, the same applies to Jordan. Overall, it was a good read. the book deals more with the basics of the war . I hoped keegan would have discussed more the political and strategic information than the military details of the war, how the decisions were tackled leading to the war. Also, I hoped there will be more information concerning the aftermath of the war.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lee

    I read the 2004 edition of this book. I have found a 2005 edition and a 2007. They are probably more complete. However, as I write this, the Peshmerga and other troops are gathering outside Raqqa to slaughter the ISIS. The 2004 edition of this book represents the war as a short success, but I think we, in 2017, see how myopic this was. The 2004 edition of this book is great for contextualizing the Iraq War, and explaining the blow-by-blow action of the 21 day offensive. However, Keegan's conclus I read the 2004 edition of this book. I have found a 2005 edition and a 2007. They are probably more complete. However, as I write this, the Peshmerga and other troops are gathering outside Raqqa to slaughter the ISIS. The 2004 edition of this book represents the war as a short success, but I think we, in 2017, see how myopic this was. The 2004 edition of this book is great for contextualizing the Iraq War, and explaining the blow-by-blow action of the 21 day offensive. However, Keegan's conclusions inevitably fall short because he thought the war had ended by 2004. The decision to publish a book on the Iraq War in 2004 suggests how little he and the rest of the media understood of the war. Of course, he did not have a crystal ball, but he also did not really have real insights into what this war was about. No doubt the 2005 and 2007 editions amend many of these faults, but they cannot compensate. It may be a century before historians are really able to comment on Bush's misadventure. That said, the book does a good job of explaining the Iraqi political history that led to the war. Beyond cutting off before the war ended, Keegan's failure is to occasionally give into orientalist bullshit about how the Arab mind is inscrutable and yadayadayada. "There were several elements underpinning Saddam's defience. Two were slient. The first, easily understood in the Arab world, almost incomprehensible to Westerners, is the power that rhetoric exerts in Arab public life. Arabic is a language of poetry - the Koran itself is the greatist work of Arab poetry - which easily tips into extravagence and then fantasy, without, in Arab consciousness, losing touch with reality." This kind of dogshit is sprinkled generously throughout the book. I wonder if he thought of German's in the 1930's in the same terms. Despite this failure of Keegan to think critically about this issue, the book is still worth reading, mostly for understanding the events that led to the Iraq War and for understanding how it was understood in 2004, just as the real dogfight was about to begin.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Devon Aguirre

    John Keegan is usually very good about writing military histories. The big issue I had with this book is that he wrote it while the war had not finished yet. The history of the book does not hold up after all these years.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Karl Kindt

    The war in Iraq ended in 21 days. Why do kooks years later still refer to the war in Iraq as if it is still raging? I guess when you call something a War on Drugs, anything not nice can be called a war. Face it. The US won. Fast. 21 days. And even after all these years after the war, the US has still lost very few soldiers compared to any single battle of World War II! The democracy in Iraq may be ugly, but not as ugly as the genocidal dictatorship that threatened to set the Middle East ablaze. The war in Iraq ended in 21 days. Why do kooks years later still refer to the war in Iraq as if it is still raging? I guess when you call something a War on Drugs, anything not nice can be called a war. Face it. The US won. Fast. 21 days. And even after all these years after the war, the US has still lost very few soldiers compared to any single battle of World War II! The democracy in Iraq may be ugly, but not as ugly as the genocidal dictatorship that threatened to set the Middle East ablaze. Where do YOU want to fight the War on Terror? Here? In the US? Or do you want to keep the crazies on their heels and fight them on their own sand?

  6. 5 out of 5

    PvOberstein

    I borrowed a copy of John Keegan’s The Iraq War (2004) because I’d been so impressed by his studies of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme in The Face of Battle that I was curious as to how he applied such piercing insight into modern military conflict. The answer was… rather disappointing. John Keegan was the defense editor for The Daily Telegraph (as the old Yes Minister skit goes: “the Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country; and The Da I borrowed a copy of John Keegan’s The Iraq War (2004) because I’d been so impressed by his studies of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme in The Face of Battle that I was curious as to how he applied such piercing insight into modern military conflict. The answer was… rather disappointing. John Keegan was the defense editor for The Daily Telegraph (as the old Yes Minister skit goes: “the Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country; and The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.”). Keegan was fundamentally in favor of the Iraq War, and his prejudices are on full display throughout the work. More critically, though, a history teacher of mine once said that you should never try to write a history of something until at least twenty years after it’s happened. (It was a joke, but not entirely.) The Iraq War, written in 2004, suffers from being far, far too close to the events it is trying to historicize. Many of questions about how exactly the invasion of Iraq unfolded remain unanswered in the book (something Keegan himself acknowledges at the tail end of the first appendix). As best I can tell there is no information from Iraqi sources, like the invaluable Iraqi Perspectives Project, which would have provided a much-needed counterbalance to Keegan’s narrative. There are curious omissions, as well, such as the book failing to discuss Mattis’ relief of Colonel Joe D. Dowdy for the underperformance of Regimental Combat Team-1. But most of all, it suffers from not being able to see the consequences of the invasion. That may be a slightly unfair attack – Keegan is not a clairvoyant, after all – but reading this in 2020, it fails as a work of history. The book focuses on the part of the Iraq War that is now almost an afterthought – the couple of weeks that U.S. and British forces fought against the conventional-ish Iraqi Army of Saddam Hussein, executing an operationally-elegant push to Baghdad. Keegan does have some criticism of Paul Bremer - whose decision to disband the Iraqi Army and implement the de-Ba'thification of the civil service poured fuel on the fires of insurgency – but it is mostly in the form of a veiled jab at Americans’ optimism re: neoliberal transformation. The Iraq War was written well before the real Iraq War began, and so Keegan is able to conclude his book on a triumphalist note that would prove to be grossly premature. Parts of the book are quite good – Keegan provides a solid history of Mesopotamia, particularly since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, as well as the consequences of the Iran-Iraq War and the Gulf War. There’s a chapter-length biography of Saddam Hussein himself, which includes some great insight into why he fought his wars the way he did. His coverage of the British-lead Battle of Basra is particularly insightful, showing how the British benefited from both a knowledge of the culture, and counterinsurgency experience hard-earned in Northern Ireland. And it is a perfectly functional military history, at an eminently readable two hundred pages. But the books shortcomings are, well, large. Keegan spends an inordinate amount of time relitigating the Iraq WMD debate (a strategically curious choice, given that he should have realized he was on the wrong side of it). There’s a constant criticism of Western European nations and their “Olympian” supranationalism. And he paints the mainstream media in the most horrible light possible, constantly accusing them of cheering for American failure or being inadequately supportive of the war effort. And the conclusion of the book (right after it’s critique of Paul Bremer) is a play-by-play of the David Kelly affair, massively out-of-proportion to any other event in the book. Very unfortunately, the work has no proper citations, and the bibliography at the back lists a handful of mostly tangential books. The maps are also exceptionally bad, designed to look like something out of Lawrence of Arabia or One Thousand and One Nights, I’m pretty sure. While I can’t quite bring myself to give the book a 1/5, I like it less the more I reflect on it. Those decades of perspective hold much value indeed. IF you’re looking to study the Iraq War, start somewhere else.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    I love John Keegan. This is the lowest I have ever rated one of his books. Because it's HALF A BOOK!. This book gives you a great account of the the 21 days of initial combat, the march up to Baghdad and its fall in 2003. But the STORY of this war WAS THE BUNGLED OCCUPATION AND RESULTANT TERROR WAR, "the Surge", The "Arab Awakening" and eventually ISIS. So this book- even with its "NewPostscript edition of 2005" version- is like a WWII History that ends with Dunkirk . A great exposition about th I love John Keegan. This is the lowest I have ever rated one of his books. Because it's HALF A BOOK!. This book gives you a great account of the the 21 days of initial combat, the march up to Baghdad and its fall in 2003. But the STORY of this war WAS THE BUNGLED OCCUPATION AND RESULTANT TERROR WAR, "the Surge", The "Arab Awakening" and eventually ISIS. So this book- even with its "NewPostscript edition of 2005" version- is like a WWII History that ends with Dunkirk . A great exposition about the opening moves is just that- and sort of even unimportant to the overall story. It's a typical Keegan effort. Aside from the short focus, its well done. We get a lot of background to Iraqi history, a good description of the Second Gulf War(Kuwait), and then a description of the "No Fly Zone" efforts to the Crisis of 2002-2003 that started the whole debacle. Keegan's a little more gung-ho than I expected, although he does point out many of the friction points that led to only 4 allies joining this adventure, and the potential issues that were to dog the exercise. But just when things are beginning to go awry, he chooses to stop the narrative. Let's just say the cluster$%^& of the next 15 years (!!!!!!!!) is not covered or predicted. Nor is a running multi-decade disaster even on Keegan's outlook in the added postscript. This is a fine book for the junior reader, although one hopes an adult will point out a few more complete sources for balance. The Military Enthusiast/Gamer/Modeller will find this an illuminating book, just an incomplete one. The pictures are good and compelling, and the Coalition Order of Battle is quite useful, but the yawning chasm of missing narrative is too large for me to fully recommend this book. It may help to improve some Dioramas and Scenarios, but one still feels a little shortchanged ....

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lobezno Meneses

    What I appreciate most about this book is its greatest weakness: it was published so shorly after the invasion itself had ended. This allows the reader insight into the war in a way that is unmarred by the brutal insurgency which raged in later years, without any knowledge whatsoever of the surge, without discussing the strategic importance of the major conventional operations in Afghanistan that would begin later... No, this book gives ample background and effectively ends in 2003. Judiciously, What I appreciate most about this book is its greatest weakness: it was published so shorly after the invasion itself had ended. This allows the reader insight into the war in a way that is unmarred by the brutal insurgency which raged in later years, without any knowledge whatsoever of the surge, without discussing the strategic importance of the major conventional operations in Afghanistan that would begin later... No, this book gives ample background and effectively ends in 2003. Judiciously, Keegan is beginning to note and predict some of the issues that will appear later with the stabilisation and re-building strategy of the US. It is an excellent guide to the context of the 2003 invasion of Iraq to the events leading up to it through to the end of the invasion phase. Whilst I thoroughly appreciated the narrowness of scope, the subtitle means I cannot give it the full five stars: it does not and cannot discuss the "insurgent aftermath" which exists only in seed form in the immediate aftermath of the invasion. Indeed, the last chapter's focus on one particular figure in British politics after the invasion is symptomatic of the fact that hostilities in Iraq had not come to any resolution by the time of publication - indeed, in 2004 things were starting to get worse.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

    The beginning of the book was especially insightful. It basically was a quick overview of the history of the region, including a more in depth look at the rise of Saddam Hussein. At times it was difficult to keep up with all the names and places, pretty dense material, but I do remember some of the major points. I would probably need some more exposure to the history before I could remember the details. The second half of the book was not as good as the first. The second half focused on the invas The beginning of the book was especially insightful. It basically was a quick overview of the history of the region, including a more in depth look at the rise of Saddam Hussein. At times it was difficult to keep up with all the names and places, pretty dense material, but I do remember some of the major points. I would probably need some more exposure to the history before I could remember the details. The second half of the book was not as good as the first. The second half focused on the invasion of Iraq in 2003. This part provided some detail as to the maneuvers involved in the war. I'm going to read "The Forever War" to get a better feel for the actual war.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sean Chick

    Written almost right after the mobile campaign ended, and is currently his most unpopular book. I think the word I would use the phrase Napoleon reserved for Talleyrand: “shit in a silk stocking.” The battles descriptions are lucid, but Keegan does for Blair and Rumsfeld what he did for Wellington. He takes them at their word on everything, making them heroes. For this reason he is over-awed at the quick conquest and concludes that “the reality of the Iraq campaign of March-April 2003 is, howeve Written almost right after the mobile campaign ended, and is currently his most unpopular book. I think the word I would use the phrase Napoleon reserved for Talleyrand: “shit in a silk stocking.” The battles descriptions are lucid, but Keegan does for Blair and Rumsfeld what he did for Wellington. He takes them at their word on everything, making them heroes. For this reason he is over-awed at the quick conquest and concludes that “the reality of the Iraq campaign of March-April 2003 is, however, a better guide to what needs to be done to secure the safety of or world than any amount of law-making or treaty-writing can offer.” I wonder if Keegan is eating his words right now. Of course he can, like many other British historians, claim that his are a peaceful people not seeking war.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ray

    Decent description of the State of Iraq, just not what I expected from the title. Development of the origins of the country of Iraq from the demise of the Ottoman Empire, development of the rise of Saadam, and description of Gulf War I and II. But I was more interested in the decision making process of how we ended up going to war, what was really known, and by whom, and when, more than hearing about which brigade and which regiment from the U.S. or Great Britian was assigned to a particular sec Decent description of the State of Iraq, just not what I expected from the title. Development of the origins of the country of Iraq from the demise of the Ottoman Empire, development of the rise of Saadam, and description of Gulf War I and II. But I was more interested in the decision making process of how we ended up going to war, what was really known, and by whom, and when, more than hearing about which brigade and which regiment from the U.S. or Great Britian was assigned to a particular sector, and how each handled their specific mini-assignments in the execution of the war. No criticism of the book itself, but it just wasn't what I was expecting, or looking for.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    This book is fairly limited in scope. There's a decent western perspective history of modern Iraq, followed by an unsatisfying coverage of the rhetoric leading up to the war and then finished with Keegan's typically excellent description of the actual campaign. It really limits itself as redards the post war story, so this book is already somewhat dated. I get the sense that this was dashed off in a bit of hurry to be one of the first accounts of the war, and in doing so, Keegan missed what we h This book is fairly limited in scope. There's a decent western perspective history of modern Iraq, followed by an unsatisfying coverage of the rhetoric leading up to the war and then finished with Keegan's typically excellent description of the actual campaign. It really limits itself as redards the post war story, so this book is already somewhat dated. I get the sense that this was dashed off in a bit of hurry to be one of the first accounts of the war, and in doing so, Keegan missed what we have now realized is the real war.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas

    The pre-war history was excellent.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sequoyah

    A short work detailing regional history from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire to the time period of the Iraq War. Keegan dots through this work the negative impact biased journalism has on people with no other means of information, and then really lays it down at the end. It truly is the enemy of the people and of a true history, if we ever want to truly know the facts.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gyorgy Kalman

    Keegan gives an overview of the Iraq war with motivations explained from the UK and US viewpoints. There is more emphasis on the political relations rather than the actual acts of war. I likeed Keegan's other works more.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Koppelmann

    The information about Saddam coming to power and the change in the Muslim religion in the area were the only interesting parts of the book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    neil chapman

    Interesting but no photos Amazon please update this issue with the photographs it was published with.I feel I have been sold short otherwise. Thank you.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lee Mueller

    Another excellent Keegan history; I would have rated it five stars but it suffers from some repetition in the build-up to the actual conflict.

  19. 5 out of 5

    William Paley

    A very solid read explaining the history behind the events as well as describing them in good detail. Worth reading for those who have lived through the last three decades.

  20. 4 out of 5

    SHANKAR KRISHNAN

    Reads like a Dick Cheney's report

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mark Tinto

    Keegans determination at the end of the book that removal of Saddam Hussein improved the safety of everyone in the Middle East and tolerance of his existence was a stain on civilized society is something that needs repeating in a current world that portrays the invasion as somehow illegitimate.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tom Darrow

    The two main complaints I have seen about this book are as follows... 1) "it isn't current," or "it only goes up to 2003". That shouldn't be taken as a negative, since the book was published in 2004 and again in 2005 and much of the information that a historian would need to write a more up to date book involved events that were still classified, had happened but the impact wasn't known yet, or simply hadn't happened yet. Complaining that this book is out of date is akin to complaining that the The two main complaints I have seen about this book are as follows... 1) "it isn't current," or "it only goes up to 2003". That shouldn't be taken as a negative, since the book was published in 2004 and again in 2005 and much of the information that a historian would need to write a more up to date book involved events that were still classified, had happened but the impact wasn't known yet, or simply hadn't happened yet. Complaining that this book is out of date is akin to complaining that the Bible is out of date. You need to appreciate this book for what it is within the context that it was written. The second issue that people have with this book is that it isn't detailed enough on the decision-making process in the US. For example, the connections between oil companies and the Bush administration. There are two issues here 1) as mentioned above, many of these connections hadn't come to light yet in the immediate aftermath of the war and have only done so in the 10+ years since then. It's very easy nowadays to say "Keegan didn't talk about Halliburton" but the full effect of their involvement wasn't known in 2004 when he published this book. 2) The second issue with the "not detailed enough" argument is that you need to consider Keegan's audience. This isn't intended to be an in-depth book on policy or military strategy. It's designed to be a book that introduces the history of the Iraq war to the general, public. The shortness of the book and the brevity with which he writes indicates this fact. Many of Keegan's other books are aimed more at the academic community, but this one isn't, so its unfair to claim that this book isn't living up to the standards of the others when it wasn't designed to do that to begin with. Generally speaking, I thought this book was good at doing what it was designed to do and with the information that was available to it when written. I'm a history teacher and I have stayed pretty up to date on the Iraq war and current events, but I was still unaware of some of the issues in the background of the war (the influence of the Ottoman Empire on the Iraqi army, etc). He does a good job at showing the international scale of the conflict (bringing in the British perspective) and explaining technical terms (like unit formations) in a way that a non-expert can understand. My one biggest complaint is that his descriptions of combat are very brief. Yes, the war was brief, but I would have liked a little more detail there. I'm not expecting anything on par with Black Hawk Down, but a little more would be nice. Overall, this was an educational and enjoyable read. It may not appeal to people who want something more modern or detailed, but for someone who wants to learn about the basics of the causes of the Iraq War and how it was fought, this would be a good book for them.

  23. 5 out of 5

    David Roberts

    The book I read to research this post was The Iraq War by John Keegan which is an excellent book which I bought from kindle. I did recently review another book on the Iraq War and I must admit this book is a little bit better. In Britain John is a very successful historical author mostly doing wars in the 20th century. He also helped cover the Iraq War for the Daily Telegraph so has detailed knowledge. It was a war that was carried out very rapidly. The Iraqi military had experienced the relentl The book I read to research this post was The Iraq War by John Keegan which is an excellent book which I bought from kindle. I did recently review another book on the Iraq War and I must admit this book is a little bit better. In Britain John is a very successful historical author mostly doing wars in the 20th century. He also helped cover the Iraq War for the Daily Telegraph so has detailed knowledge. It was a war that was carried out very rapidly. The Iraqi military had experienced the relentless bombing of the earlier Gulf War and many fled both when the bombing started and the Allied military started advancing on their positions. The bombing campaign wasn't on as big a scale as the earlier because in the other war the Iraqi military positions were more concentrated around and in Kuwait making it easier. In this war they spread around the country making it more difficult to find them. Also another thing that the Iraqi militaries resolve to fight was they were poorly equipped and also many were fed up with the relentless purges where in many cases people loyal to Saddam had been tortured and put to death. Any General's who were doing their job well and appeared to be getting popular were seen as rivals and faced this fate. The Iraqi army still used T55 tanks which were Russian issue but were 50 years old and death traps against the Allies tanks. Although ultimately there were no weapons of mass destruction like nuclear or biological weapons there were thousands of chemical warheads although the problem with using these in a war theatre is it is easy for a well organized army to take counter measures not to mention the wind has to actually blow towards the enemy. The Iraqi's in the war did often comandeer cars and taxi's and post machine guns on them to fight. A lot of the general population seemed oblivious to the fact there was a war going on and on occasions almost drove into firefights where the Allies shot at them because they mistook them for suicide bombers. Also after the military action the Iraqi Army was disbanded and recruitment for a new army and police force started from scratch which probably wasn't entirely satisfatory because it meant hundreds of thousands were made unemployed and there was no subsistence in Iraq for them so many turned to terrorism. I really enjoyed this book and would wholeheartedly recommend it. It has to be one of the definitive reads on this subject.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chris Wray

    Like everything written by John Keegan this is brisk and accessible. The early chapters recounting the history of Iraq are excellent, and emphasise both the responsibility of the West for the mess in the Middle-East (through the post-WW1 settlement and poor handling of the break-up of the Ottoman Empire), and the absolute rottenness of the Saddam Hussein regime. It was also helpful to be reminded of how the invasion fitted into the US doctrine of a "New World Order" following the end of the Cold Like everything written by John Keegan this is brisk and accessible. The early chapters recounting the history of Iraq are excellent, and emphasise both the responsibility of the West for the mess in the Middle-East (through the post-WW1 settlement and poor handling of the break-up of the Ottoman Empire), and the absolute rottenness of the Saddam Hussein regime. It was also helpful to be reminded of how the invasion fitted into the US doctrine of a "New World Order" following the end of the Cold War, and wasn't simply a reaction to 9-11. All of this to say that the situation in Iraq is more complex than the prevailing anti-war rhetoric in Europe would have you believe, and that there were good reasons for Saddam to be removed from power (dodgy intelligence dossiers not withstanding). On that note, his recounting of the David Kelly affair is heartbreaking and sordid and none of the parties involved emerge well from it (particularly the BBC). Keegan also does a good job of dispelling the simple notion that life in Iraq was great before the invasion and awful afterwards, as he points out that, "The price paid by ordinary Iraqis for their material well-being under Saddam's regime was the restriction of their political and intellectual liberties, taken for granted in Western countries, and the awful penalties suffered by those who disobeyed or dissented." The book is relatively light on the political build up to the invasion, but the chapters on the invasion itself were a reminder of how quick and relatively unopposed it was. After that, it quickly draws to a close as it was first released in late 2003 (with a post-script added in 2005). For that reason the book inevitably feels dated and incomplete as the first democratic elections were still in the future, and IS had yet to appear on the scene. That said, towards the end of the book Abu Musab al-Zarqawi makes an appearance as an increasingly significant figure in the insurgency. This leaves the reader, in 2019, with a mix of dread and disappointment at what will follow, which is curiously at odds with Keegan's cautious optimism. While I question Keegan's conclusion that military intervention similar to that in Iraq is what will keep us safe rather than law making and treaty writing (why is this an either or question?), he has done a really good job of articulating how the war was understood in context in 2003/4.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    The biggest problem with the book is that it ends in 2003. Since it was published in early 2004 I guess I should have expected that. Let's just say it doesn't go very far into the 'insurgent aftermath.' Keegan starts with a quick overview of the 'land between the river,' how and when Iraq came into existence, and the rulers, kings, tribes, and religious and racial makeup of the area in the times leading up to the arrival of Saddam. Good stuff. Certainly not indepth but a nice introduction. He di The biggest problem with the book is that it ends in 2003. Since it was published in early 2004 I guess I should have expected that. Let's just say it doesn't go very far into the 'insurgent aftermath.' Keegan starts with a quick overview of the 'land between the river,' how and when Iraq came into existence, and the rulers, kings, tribes, and religious and racial makeup of the area in the times leading up to the arrival of Saddam. Good stuff. Certainly not indepth but a nice introduction. He digs in with Saddam and the early going with Saddam really seemed promising (as long as you were far enough outside the inner circle to avoid purges!). During the time Saddam was vice-president he improved life for the average Iraqi. As president, unfortunately, he took on a much more Stalinist attitude - purge threats to power and blame some other nation for all problems. Keegan smartly leaves Afghanistan out of the story - He basically, says "with the war in Afghanistan over, the US turned it's attention to Iraq." That leaves a lot of questions for the reader but this is a book about Iraq, so whatever. Keegan seems to be a bit of an apologist for the Bush admin. Perhaps only time will tell exactly what all the motivations were, but it comes across as Bush, Rumsfeld, and Cheney seeing huge holes in their foreign policy awareness after 9/11 and not wanting to take any chances with WMDs..and Saddam certainly did not help his case in the UN any. Keegan really goes almost blow by blow once the war is on (so I guess I can be glad there were so few major battles) but his story ends just shortly after the fall of Baghdad and I got say the ending is sort of lame. Or so it seems now at least.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dion

    I found the historical background in this book helpful in understanding the context in which the Iraq War occurred and today's Iraq still struggles with.

  27. 5 out of 5

    José

    Required reading for anyone that wants to discuss the Iraq war with me. Mercifully, Keegan allots very space to the actual combat phase of the war (it was brief and the Iraqi army basically melted away). He focuses instead on the history (starting more or less around the time of the demise of the Ottoman Empire) that led us to the event. For those that have forgotten the specifics of the Bush-Blair justification for the war, Keegan provides a concise refresher. He expresses particular contempt f Required reading for anyone that wants to discuss the Iraq war with me. Mercifully, Keegan allots very space to the actual combat phase of the war (it was brief and the Iraqi army basically melted away). He focuses instead on the history (starting more or less around the time of the demise of the Ottoman Empire) that led us to the event. For those that have forgotten the specifics of the Bush-Blair justification for the war, Keegan provides a concise refresher. He expresses particular contempt for those the hold to what he calls the Olympian view of international politics (which encompasses just about anyone that opposed the war on the grounds that conflict ought to be resolved through diplomatic means). Keegan has high praise for the American military's logistical and technological prowess, reveres the USMC and its fighting spirit (so do I), and reveals a special place in his heart for the wisdom and experience of British forces adept at maneuvering in battlefields with non-conventional forces. Again, I'll be asking you if you've read this book because you decide to take me on on this topic.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    The Iraq War written by John Keegan is a tremendous book. Maybe because I have a huge amount of interest in the military and weapons but i still think this book is really interesting. Also for all of you that doesn't know John Keegan is a respected expert in military affairs who has done a lot of studying of the Iraq War. This story is not only about the fighting going on in the war but things about how Saddam Hussien took control. After taking control he also tried to create WMD (Weapons of Mas The Iraq War written by John Keegan is a tremendous book. Maybe because I have a huge amount of interest in the military and weapons but i still think this book is really interesting. Also for all of you that doesn't know John Keegan is a respected expert in military affairs who has done a lot of studying of the Iraq War. This story is not only about the fighting going on in the war but things about how Saddam Hussien took control. After taking control he also tried to create WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction ) which was violating the rules that he had with the UN (United Nation). Also John Keegan also said that if he was still under control the country would fall in a worse anarchy that it already it is and many other, but part of the blame would be on the Iraqi Military and their police because Saddam had control of all of them. But overall this book was a good book and would recommend this book to all ages.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nikki

    Very informative except that it was published in 2004 so it really can't be called a comprehensive look at the "war" since it's still going on. Soft on neoconservatism, soft of intelligence breakdowns. Does a good job of giving the mood of the time in the white house and the US congress (which were very closely aligned, at least publicly, in the beginning, despite what leading democrats said later about their "true feelings" at the time). Gives good insight into the split British version, Blair Very informative except that it was published in 2004 so it really can't be called a comprehensive look at the "war" since it's still going on. Soft on neoconservatism, soft of intelligence breakdowns. Does a good job of giving the mood of the time in the white house and the US congress (which were very closely aligned, at least publicly, in the beginning, despite what leading democrats said later about their "true feelings" at the time). Gives good insight into the split British version, Blair versus a publicly more hesitant congress. A terse and readable account of the battles to date.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Harry

    What makes this book worth reading is not the details of the 2003 invasion and military "victory" of Iraq - most of us know enough about that; It's the background of the nation of Iraq, what lead to its peculiar ethnic / tribal mix, and what brought about the Baath party and its titular leader, Saddam Hussein. Keengan, as a brit, does pay special attention to the UK parts of the effort in the south - more than most Americans would likely ever hear... And he goes to some length to laud the USMC f What makes this book worth reading is not the details of the 2003 invasion and military "victory" of Iraq - most of us know enough about that; It's the background of the nation of Iraq, what lead to its peculiar ethnic / tribal mix, and what brought about the Baath party and its titular leader, Saddam Hussein. Keengan, as a brit, does pay special attention to the UK parts of the effort in the south - more than most Americans would likely ever hear... And he goes to some length to laud the USMC for its approach to the war. In all, a very informative book about a subject that many of us hold fairly close to our hearts.

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