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The Strongest Tribe by Bing West

The Strongest Tribe (2008)

by Bing West

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I really liked this book, it gives a solid history of the Iraq insurgency as well as showing the various actors. The insights into why Iraq wasn't progressing was very informative, the Sunni/Shia divide and the problems involved in creating a Democratic system of Government with little experience.

It also excels in showing the Generals, the battalion commanders and the squads. It is a rare author that covers so much ground, it gives us a more complete picture as we see it from multiple sides. The Author also kept going back to Iraq so he could see progress and then see the same areas decline in security. He could see what worked and what didn't. The book is as much a manual as a history, a great strength.

My one criticism of the book is one of his conclusions. He wrote that the soldiers and local commanders said there weren't enough troops on the ground to stop the insurgents from moving around. Whack a mole was how the troops termed it. But in his conclusion he says more US troops were not needed. But it's obvious that had more troops been in Iraq in 2004 they could have stopped much of the insurgency from forming. Later he supports the surge, but that is inconsistent with his conclusions that more US troops weren't needed. A minor criticism of a good book. ( )
  bookmarkaussie | Dec 2, 2014 |
This is a fantastic view at the tactical level leading up and into the beginning of the Surge strategy. Perhaps most instructive is the list of 'Lessons Learned' at the end of the book. This is a must read for any student of military strategy to understand the happenings at the tactical level. ( )
  Brent.Hall | Apr 12, 2011 |
Excellent work which clearly and graphically describes Iraq during the critical period between 2006-2008 when the American journalists abandoned the field leaving the American people blind on events in the war. This is one of the best accounts about the actual fighting and unbelievable bravery and intelligence of the American military in Iraq. Despite the incompetence of its leaders, the U.S. is fortunate enough to have a professional, and creative military force.
  gmicksmith | Jun 12, 2009 |
The Strongest Tribe was a long, dense book. Covering the many facets of the war and the continual ups and down did become tiring, but I suppose that is the nature of a book like this. I felt author's willingness to quickly praise good actions as well as criticize mistakes by all parties involved provided a solid and balanced overview of how things happened. The summary, along with the author's thoughts and questions at the end, were a solid ending and helped round the book off nicely. ( )
  tyroeternal | May 26, 2009 |
Showing 4 of 4
West emerged some time ago as the most astute observer of the war [in Iraq]. He knows both war and politics, and is therefore equally in his element whether talking to the civilians who develop policy, the generals who plan and execute the strategy derived from policy, or the frontline “grunts” who execute the operations on the ground. . . .

West’s thesis is simple: From the summer of 2003 until the fall of 2006, the U.S. was losing the war militarily. But since the beginning of 2007, there has been an undeniable turnaround, the result of changes made by leaders in the thick of the insurgency — men West calls “warrior kings.” The turnaround resulted from the fact that the military adapted to events on the ground, eventually accepting the reality that it would have to fight a war different from the one it would have preferred to fight. These changes were finally validated by policymakers at the top.
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In Iraq, America made mistake after mistake. Many gave up on the war. Then the war took a sharp U-turn. Two generals--David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno--displayed the leadership America expected. A universally respected combat journalist provides a history, based on five years of front-line reporting, about how the war was turned around--and the choice now facing America. In the course of fourteen extended trips over five years, West embedded with more than sixty front-line units, discussing strategy with generals and tactics with corporals. He provides an expert's account of counterinsurgency, disposing of myths. During the battle for Fallujah, West asked an Iraqi colonel why the archterrorist al-Zarqawi had fled in women's clothes. The colonel pointed to a Marine patrol walking by and said, "Americans are the strongest tribe."--From publisher description.… (more)

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