In This Review

The Last Card: Inside George W. Bush’s Decision to Surge in Iraq
The Last Card: Inside George W. Bush’s Decision to Surge in Iraq
Edited by Timothy Andrews Sayle, Jeffrey A. Engel, Hal Brands, and William Inboden
Cornell University Press, 2019, 416 pp

In early 2007, as U.S. troops struggled to contain a raging civil war in Iraq, President George W. Bush announced a “surge” of five additional brigades to the country. Based on interviews with many of the key participants, including the president, the first part of this book describes how the decision was made. For Bush, the alternative to the surge was defeat. He met with considerable opposition at high levels of his own administration but skillfully managed the process of winning broad support for his view. The book features some dissenting voices, but most of the interviewees approved of both the handling and the outcome of the surge. Conspicuous in their absence are Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General George Casey, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. They stayed committed to their established strategy even though it was widely judged to be failing. Indeed, the book leaves one wishing that the original decision to invade Iraq had been taken with as much care as the decision to change course. Although repetitive at times, this is a fascinating contribution to the history of the war.