Unlike history, Woodward's books are fast-paced, frothy reads that reward his sources by heroizing them and paint those who decline to confess to Bob as obtuse, oblivious to what's going on. In earlier books, when things appeared to be going well in Iraq and Afghanistan, this White House collaborated, and was rewarded. Almost all emerged as sagacious and strong. This time, Woodward met with closed doors.
Understandably, for things are not going well in Afghanistan or Iraq, though we do not need another book to tell us that. The question that needs answering is: What do we do now?
According to the National Intelligence Estimate, leaked to The New York Times and partially declassified last week, our intel agencies believe the U.S. invasion of Iraq has so inflamed the Arab and Muslim world it has spawned terrorism. Yet, the same NIE argues that a too-rapid withdrawal could mean collapse of the Iraqi regime, triumph for the jihadists and a calamity for the United States.
But, then, we did not need the NIE to tell us that, either. For the American public, 60 percent of whom believe Iraq was a mistake, also opposes immediate withdrawal, fearing the disaster of which the NIE warns.
Still, the Woodward book, the NIE and the savagery of this campaign seem certain to create a crisis for Bush after November.
How, after all, when one's former aides are telling Woodward the White House and the Pentagon blundered in their management of the war, does one convince the American people they did not?
How, after Bush has called the Democratic Party a cut-and-run crowd, and Democrats have accused the White House and Pentagon of being incompetents in fighting the war in Iraq, does one ask for and receive bipartisan support to stay the course?
What do our troops in Iraq, who risk their lives every day, think when they read that their commanding general believes, "We've got to get the (expletive) out of here," and that a victory strategy is "not my job."
France's defeat at Dien Bien Phu in Indochina lead to a second war of national liberation in Algeria, the fall of the Fourth Republic and the call for Gen. de Gaulle to assume power. The general did, and he rang down the curtain on the French Empire.
Are we facing an American Dien Bien Phu?