In This Review

Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone
Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Knopf, 2006, 336 pp
Iraq in Fragments: The Occupation and Its Legacy
Iraq in Fragments: The Occupation and Its Legacy
By Eric Herring and Glen Rangwala
Cornell University Press, 2006, 368 pp

Here are two very different histories of the United States in Iraq that converge in offering a bleak appraisal of its performance. Chandrasekaran brings to life the small world of the roughly 1,500 individuals (overwhelmingly American, with a few British and others) who manned the Coalition Provisional Authority, which was lodged in the Green Zone -- a seven-square-mile enclave in the heart of Baghdad -- during that critical first year of the U.S. presence. Those living in the Green Zone made of it an Oz-like Emerald City, physically and psychologically removed from the Iraqis whose state they were charged with rebuilding. This book, sardonic, discursive, and impressionistic, is an example of what might be dubbed the "snafu genre" of on-site war and reconstruction reportage.

Herring and Rangwala treat the period from the arrival of U.S. forces to 2006. Theirs is the discourse of academic political science concerning state failure and state building, and they effectively employ such well-honed political science rubrics as neopatrimonialism, center-periphery, and counterinsurgency. This is not light reading. The book presents a detailed, thoroughly researched, clear, and closely reasoned finding that the United States' state building in Iraq "has been fundamentally flawed and is causing the formation of a fragmented state."