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Bing West's "the strongest tribe"


Bing West is one of the foremost military authors about the War in Iraq. 

His new book, The Strongest Tribe, goes on sale tomorrow.  You can pre-order it at Amazon or ask for it tomorrow at your local bookstore.  I was sent a copy and finished it last night.

The Strongest Tribe is about the history of the Iraq war.  It begins and ends, very appropriately with Major Doug Zembiec, whom, if you don't know, you should.

The path of The Strongest Tribe takes us through the invasion to the point in 2006 where we essentially were losing the war, then figured out how to win and implemented the Surge strategy.  Bing West was there dozens of times and he chronicles the good, the bad, and the ugly - straight up, neat, no ice.  The best part about this book is that it is the book that Cobra II wanted to be (and many others).  Bing West is not afraid of offending and his sources speak for themselves (and he is highly critical of LTG Sanchez and L. Paul Bremmer).  The only part that I disagreed with was West's assertion that we could have somehow kept the Iraqi Army together after the invasion.  Certainly, some units would have remained but, for the most part, I didn't see many Shia conscripts returning to serve Sunni Officers in most situations.  I had spoken with a lot of soldiers about this - COL (ret) Greg Gardner, in particular, who was the Army's representative at the CPA's Ministry of National Security.

From a tactician's point of view (and an expert in COIN), Bing West gives you the perspective to see what went wrong and what went right. [Edit Note:  This is the first book that I've read that also correctly describes John McCain's fight against Secretary Rumsfeld, Congress and the administration to see a Surge strategy put into place.]

There is much talk of tribes in the book.  You can't discuss Iraq and not talk about the tribal system.  In the end, the strongest tribe wins.  The strongest tribe is the one that is the most flexible and willing to do whatever it takes to win and gather the other tribes to it's fold. 

No surprise to many of you, but it turns out that the American military is the strongest tribe.  We've called it a Caste here before and Greyhawk has discussed it as well.  Perhaps "tribe" is a better description...

Interspersed amongst the stories of the CPA, the State Department, the CIA and the Bush Administration, Bing West shows that our military men and women were making amazing sacrifices and valiant efforts that made success possible.  That's the first half of the book.

And, the second half, from our lessons learned, our generals AND our corporals and sergeants developed an effective strategy and are winning the day - despite a uniformed and uninvolved public.  West ends the book where we are now - on the edge of victory, and he includes a series of myths or OIF urban legends that are a must read.

If you read one book about the good and the bad of our five years in Iraq, you should pick up The Strongest Tribe - it has our highest recommendation.