In This Review

The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace
The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace
By Ali A. Allawi
Yale University Press, 2007, 544 pp

With this book, the sad story of the United States in Iraq has found its author. Allawi, scion of a distinguished Shiite family from Baghdad, cousin of former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, and nephew of Ahmed Chalabi, returned after years of exile to assume senior positions in postinvasion Iraq. This book offers all the insights of that firsthand experience and also much more: it is the most comprehensive and perceptive account yet to appear. It is, moreover, sharp-eyed in depicting all parties. Allawi realizes that his is a tough country to rule. Its "civilized veneer" of modernity and urbanity can easily break up into the worst of tribalism. He gives Iraq and Iraqis their share of the blame for "losing the peace." At the same time, he sets out, severely but fairly, American thought and actions concerning Iraq. After short introductory chapters on Iraq in history, the Iraqi opposition in exile, and the buildup to war, he moves on to provide a detailed narrative account of the war from the invasion in March 2003 to the end of 2006. Allawi's dispassionate (or, perhaps better, ironic) style of narration, capturing along the way the major actors and events, makes for a book that is not just informed and wise but also eminently readable.