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MediaWatch:Print
Daily Column
US Papers Sun: How the Surge Came to Be
History and inighting behind the Surge: Books about Iraq
By DANIEL W. SMITH 08/31/2008 01:55 AM ET
For the second day in a row, there is no actual news of Iraq in any of the papers. The Times saves the day, though, with background on the “surge” strategy’s genesis. Also, non-fiction readers can turn to reading actual books in the fall, if the newspapers still aren’t writing much about Iraq.

The Story of the Surge
From Washington, Michael R. Gordon of the New York Times writes a thorough front page article, chronicling the doubt and debate that led to President George Bush’s decision that he was, indeed, sending thousands more troops to Iraq than many of his advisers recommended. Any reader, of course, knows that the decision was made, but as Gordon’s play-by-play of disagreement (between seemingly every member of the administration and upper echelons of the military) culminates with Mr. Bush giving his January 10 speech, announcing “I’ve committed more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq... The vast majority of them — five brigades — will be deployed to Baghdad.”, it seems almost climactic. It’s a bit dry, but in the interest of readers who want an account of how it all played out, Times editors deserve kudos for not stripping it down to a shorter, easier to digest piece. Bush is portrayed as something of a maverick, bucking almost everyone around him, as the sectarian violence of 2006 increased to tremendous levels.

In the end, the troop reinforcement proposal split the military. Even after the president had made the basic decision to send additional troops, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top American commander in Iraq, never sought more than two brigades, about 8,000 troops in all, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates reported to Mr. Bush in late December. But General Casey’s approach substantially differed from those of two officers who wanted a much bigger effort: the No. 2 commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen Raymond T. Odierno, and Gen. David H. Petraeus, who helped oversee the military’s new counterinsurgency manual and whose views were known by the White House before he was publicly named to replace General Casey, administration officials said.
Odierno is given much credit for sticking to his guns, even when the notion of deploying so many additional troops was not popular among his superiors. The use of the term “surge” for the deployment strategy is traced back to a briefing in October by a security council staff member, William J. Luti, a retired Navy captain.
...aides, Meghan O’Sullivan, Brett McGurk and Peter D. Feaver, had collaborated on the paper that raised the prospect of a troop increase. J. D. Crouch, the deputy national security adviser, called in Mr. Luti to ask for a separate look. After contacting the Army staff, Mr. Luti submitted a confidential briefing in October titled, “Changing the Dynamics: Surge and Fight, Create Breathing Space and Then Accelerate the Transition.”
As Bush’s January 10 speech was approaching, Gordon writes that “The tussle over the number of forces to be sent went down to the wire.”, and that at least one draft included the non-committal wording of sending “up to five” combat brigades. After aides at the National Security Council (who favored the surge) took the issue to Mr. Bush, the commitment of the full number of troops was made explicit. Again, we all know that the troops were sent, but any clear history such as this is is important, and at the very least, interesting(and at the very most, will provide intelligent-sounding banter).

Books
Marie Arana has a whole section of non-fiction books in a category she calls “America in an Age of Terror”. Here are the ones that pertain to Iraq.
• Big Boy Rules, by Steve Fainaru (Da Capo, Nov.) A Washington Post reporter follows some of the 100,000 mercenaries in Iraq who do what the military can't or won't.
• The Forever War , by Dexter Filkins (Knopf, Sept.) A war correspondent's observations from a decade of reporting in Afghanistan and Iraq.
• Tell Me How This Ends, by Linda Robinson (PublicAffairs, Sept.). An inside account of Gen. David Petraeus's attempt to turn around the war in Iraq.
• The War Within, by Bob Woodward (Simon & Schuster, Sept.). Revelations about the inside machinations of the White House, Pentagon, State Department and intelligence agencies at critical points in the Iraq War.
• A World of Trouble, by Patrick Tyler (Farrar Straus Giroux, Dec.). Fifty years of topsy-turvy relations between the White House and the Middle East.

Christian Science Monitor,USA Today, Wall Street Journal, no Sunday Editions.
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