In This Review

Bush at War
Bush at War
By Bob Woodward
Simon and Schuster, 2002, 400 pp

There was a time when it was necessary to wait for memoirs and the opening of archives before finding out how senior policymakers had handled the great issues of war and peace. We now expect an instant running commentary, and few are so well placed to provide one as Woodward. He had access to the key Washington players as they orchestrated the "war on terror" and also to notes of their meetings. The result is always informative and often riveting, as much for the early tussles over policy toward Iraq as for the conduct of the campaign against al Qaeda. Woodward insists he provides only corroborated "facts," but he still distorts the overall picture by relying too much on cooperation with the key players and by paying too little attention to the actual course of events on the ground (especially from the battle of Tora Bora on) or failing to consider the wider context. As with Woodward's book on the Persian Gulf War, The Commanders, quick publication brings scoops but also a lack of perspective.