Book #46: Plan of Attack

Bob Woodward is one of the rare reporters who can take nonfiction, especially investigative journalism, and make it sing like a novel.  Plan of Attack is Book #2 in his Bush at War series, and the focus here is on the decisions both public and private that launched the United States into the Iraq War.  Structured like a modern thriller, Woodward weaves together an enormous cast of characters with secret meetings, press interviews, and on-the-ground action to show everything - good and bad - that went into the planning and execution of the Iraq Invasion.

The surprising element in all of this is Bush, who Woodward takes pains to paint as neutral as possible.  We see a leader with deep convictions that clearly wants to keep America safe, and has a concrete notion of what "safe" means to him.  By now we know many of the ramifications of invading, but Woodward is more concerned with what into the decision.  The portrait he paints of secret factions (Rumsfeld and Cheney vs. Powell), CIA groundsmen, and military strategists revising and re-drafting war plans that are increasingly limiting the prep time as well as the forces needed is a classic example of a downward spiral.  The benefit of hindsight lets us see the damage some of these plans cause while they're being created.

As we come to the ending days of the Bush Presidenecy, it's books like Woodward's that really bring home just how crazy these past eioght years has been.  Great book, great series not to be missed.