“War is a perpetual struggle with embarrassments.”
—Colmar von der Goltz
The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq
by George Packer
New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 480 pp., $26.00
George Packer’s The Assassins’ Gate aptly exposes the incompetence of the Bush administration’s occupation of Iraq. The author has traveled to Iraq many times to talk to leading Iraqis, their not-so-prominent fellow citizens, and U.S. policymakers. The book makes for interesting reading partly because Packer uses the experiences of ordinary Iraqis to illustrate the ineptitude of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy. Yet it falters in implying that a more competent administration could have been more successful in the Herculean task of restructuring an entire society’s political, economic, and social system.
Packer delves below the surface to explore the origin of White House policies that have been roundly criticized. For example, many independent analysts have faulted the Bush administration for its insufficient deployment of ground troops to Iraq and sketchy military planning for the postwar occupation. According to Packer, the government intended to lop off, after the invasion, the top layer only of the Iraqi...