In narrating the history of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, Gordon and Trainor finish the job they started in Cobra II, their 2006 book on the origins of the Iraq war. Their Iraqi and American sources are extraordinary, allowing them to describe events with an enormous, and sometimes overwhelming, amount of detail. They focus on the military struggle, describing U.S. commanders coping with varied forms of violence while their civilian colleagues come to terms with the complexities of post-Saddam Iraqi politics. The Americans had to relearn the painful lessons of counterinsurgency as, gradually, the strategy and tactics that came to be known as “the surge” fell into place. Gordon and Trainor are on the side of those who believe that the surge made a crucial difference; it took advantage of developments such as the anti-jihadist Sunni Awakening movement in Anbar Province and then used the momentum gained to push aside Shiite militants. They concede, however, that the momentum was insufficient to produce the inclusive Iraqi government that the United States sought.
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