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The Iraq War: The Military Offensive, from Victory in 21 Days to the Insurgent Aftermath
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The Iraq War: The Military Offensive, from Victory in 21 Days to the Insurgent Aftermath

3.29  ·  Rating Details  ·  283 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
The 2003 Iraq war remains among the most mysterious armed conflicts of modernity. In The Iraq War, John Keegan offers a sharp and lucid appraisal of the military campaign, explaining just how the coalition forces defeated an Iraqi army twice its size and addressing such questions as whether Saddam Hussein ever possessed weapons of mass destruction and how it is possible to ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 24th 2005 by Vintage (first published 2004)
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Karl Kindt
Feb 06, 2009 Karl Kindt rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2007
The war in Iraq ended in 21 days. Why do kooks years later still refer to the war in Iraq as if it is still raging? I guess when you call something a War on Drugs, anything not nice can be called a war. Face it. The US won. Fast. 21 days. And even after all these years after the war, the US has still lost very few soldiers compared to any single battle of World War II! The democracy in Iraq may be ugly, but not as ugly as the genocidal dictatorship that threatened to set the Middle East ablaze. ...more
Sean Chick
Aug 12, 2011 Sean Chick rated it did not like it
Written almost right after the mobile campaign ended, and is currently his most unpopular book. I think the word I would use the phrase Napoleon reserved for Talleyrand: “shit in a silk stocking.” The battles descriptions are lucid, but Keegan does for Blair and Rumsfeld what he did for Wellington. He takes them at their word on everything, making them heroes. For this reason he is over-awed at the quick conquest and concludes that “the reality of the Iraq campaign of March-April 2003 is, howeve ...more
Oct 17, 2008 Joshua rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The beginning of the book was especially insightful. It basically was a quick overview of the history of the region, including a more in depth look at the rise of Saddam Hussein. At times it was difficult to keep up with all the names and places, pretty dense material, but I do remember some of the major points. I would probably need some more exposure to the history before I could remember the details.
The second half of the book was not as good as the first. The second half focused on the invas
Jul 13, 2008 Ray rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Decent description of the State of Iraq, just not what I expected from the title. Development of the origins of the country of Iraq from the demise of the Ottoman Empire, development of the rise of Saadam, and description of Gulf War I and II. But I was more interested in the decision making process of how we ended up going to war, what was really known, and by whom, and when, more than hearing about which brigade and which regiment from the U.S. or Great Britian was assigned to a particular sec ...more
Jul 21, 2015 Jim rated it did not like it
Outdated by the time it appeared on the shelves; it can be best read as an understanding of the mindset of that time when it still appeared possible the Iraq War would be won at minimum cost and the question of stockpiles of WNDs remained unclear. Keegan was an excellent military historian, but this was simply rushed into production too quickly. Not everything in the book is inaccurate, and many Iraq war topics included in it, no doubt, remain debated, but regardless of what you think there is m ...more
David Roberts
Feb 08, 2014 David Roberts rated it it was amazing
The book I read to research this post was The Iraq War by John Keegan which is an excellent book which I bought from kindle. I did recently review another book on the Iraq War and I must admit this book is a little bit better. In Britain John is a very successful historical author mostly doing wars in the 20th century. He also helped cover the Iraq War for the Daily Telegraph so has detailed knowledge. It was a war that was carried out very rapidly. The Iraqi military had experienced the relentl ...more
May 05, 2014 Harry rated it really liked it
What makes this book worth reading is not the details of the 2003 invasion and military "victory" of Iraq - most of us know enough about that; It's the background of the nation of Iraq, what lead to its peculiar ethnic / tribal mix, and what brought about the Baath party and its titular leader, Saddam Hussein. Keengan, as a brit, does pay special attention to the UK parts of the effort in the south - more than most Americans would likely ever hear... And he goes to some length to laud the USMC f ...more
Tom Darrow
Dec 25, 2015 Tom Darrow rated it really liked it
The two main complaints I have seen about this book are as follows... 1) "it isn't current," or "it only goes up to 2003". That shouldn't be taken as a negative, since the book was published in 2004 and again in 2005 and much of the information that a historian would need to write a more up to date book involved events that were still classified, had happened but the impact wasn't known yet, or simply hadn't happened yet. Complaining that this book is out of date is akin to complaining that the ...more
Jan 09, 2012 José rated it liked it
Required reading for anyone that wants to discuss the Iraq war with me. Mercifully, Keegan allots very space to the actual combat phase of the war (it was brief and the Iraqi army basically melted away). He focuses instead on the history (starting more or less around the time of the demise of the Ottoman Empire) that led us to the event. For those that have forgotten the specifics of the Bush-Blair justification for the war, Keegan provides a concise refresher. He expresses particular contempt f ...more
Feb 14, 2010 Kim rated it it was ok
The biggest problem with the book is that it ends in 2003. Since it was published in early 2004 I guess I should have expected that. Let's just say it doesn't go very far into the 'insurgent aftermath.' Keegan starts with a quick overview of the 'land between the river,' how and when Iraq came into existence, and the rulers, kings, tribes, and religious and racial makeup of the area in the times leading up to the arrival of Saddam. Good stuff. Certainly not indepth but a nice introduction. He di ...more
Apr 10, 2011 Brian rated it it was amazing
The Iraq War written by John Keegan is a tremendous book. Maybe because I have a huge amount of interest in the military and weapons but i still think this book is really interesting. Also for all of you that doesn't know John Keegan is a respected expert in military affairs who has done a lot of studying of the Iraq War. This story is not only about the fighting going on in the war but things about how Saddam Hussien took control. After taking control he also tried to create WMD (Weapons of Mas ...more
Annie Zhang
Dec 10, 2015 Annie Zhang rated it liked it
I was looking more for the social outcomes of this book, however Keegan is a military Historian and so this had many military tactics that were involved in the Iraq War. loved the first half of the book when it went into the history of Iraq, the rise of Saddam Hussein and the Islamic religion. (had to do this book for IB history 11)
Chris Doelle
May 17, 2014 Chris Doelle rated it really liked it
A good book written in the early days of the conflict.

My full review
Feb 09, 2008 Nikki rated it it was amazing
Very informative except that it was published in 2004 so it really can't be called a comprehensive look at the "war" since it's still going on. Soft on neoconservatism, soft of intelligence breakdowns. Does a good job of giving the mood of the time in the white house and the US congress (which were very closely aligned, at least publicly, in the beginning, despite what leading democrats said later about their "true feelings" at the time). Gives good insight into the split British version, Blair ...more
El Aguila
Mar 31, 2015 El Aguila rated it it was amazing
Highly recommended. I now have a much better understanding of Iraq's history, the politics surrounding the war, and its causes from a very objective perspective.

John Keegan continues to demonstrate why he is such an influential historian.
Aug 15, 2008 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating book on a "mysterious war" that was a non-war. A quick read and very informative. Highly recommended. But some of the pro-military perspective (he IS a military historian) can grind on peace-niks like myself. It's a military history of the conflict and as such magnifies the accomplishments of the "successful" aggressor. I read the 2004 version, which it seems did not take into account the gruesomeness of the insurgency and sort of coated the initial invasion as a rosy, rousing mili ...more
Frank Cardenas
Sep 04, 2007 Frank Cardenas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very explanatory account of the difficult war in Iraq, its source, complications and consequences; what I found even more interesting was the update proscript, which becomes more important than any opposition to the war; I wonder whether expectations have not changed yet, it is interesting to note the great deal of countries depending so much in the aftermath of this war. I suppose after reading this book, it's all up to us to decide whether to back France's and Germany's decision or simply ta ...more
Jan 26, 2014 Daniel rated it liked it
A overview of the rise of Saddam, the reasons Iraq invaded Kuwait, the initial invasion into Baghdad in '03, and the British role in the southern theater.
Caleb Liu
Mar 15, 2007 Caleb Liu rated it it was ok
A thorough account of the military invasion from one of the world's leading military historians. Perhaps too much detail for the lay person, even if it is described in non-technical terms. My personal preference would have been for more political and historical analysis. I probably should have realised it was a military history first and foremost, and thus not really my cup of tea. More coverage of the insurgency aftermath and the tactical mistakes undertaken during the occupation is sorely need ...more
Nov 13, 2007 Kyle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is fairly limited in scope. There's a decent western perspective history of modern Iraq, followed by an unsatisfying coverage of the rhetoric leading up to the war and then finished with Keegan's typically excellent description of the actual campaign. It really limits itself as redards the post war story, so this book is already somewhat dated. I get the sense that this was dashed off in a bit of hurry to be one of the first accounts of the war, and in doing so, Keegan missed what we h ...more
Jul 26, 2015 Greg rated it it was amazing
The seeds of chaos sown...
Josh Liller
Typical Keegan: insightful with a keen strategic eye and appreciation of the background that makes a conflict happen in the form that it happens, but at times repetitive and in need of better editing.

The book also suffers from being published too soon after the war's conclusion and thus is unable to take into consideration the insurgency that happened afterwards (though I've heard later editions do add some on this issue). It also doesn't delve very deeply in the intelligence used to justify the
Oct 07, 2013 S. rated it really liked it
Shelves: hookah, cheshire
John Keegan probably wants to repudiate this book, written in 2004, and filled with a muscular and enthusiastic defense of the Iraq War. keegan stops just short of calling the French cheese-eating surrender monkeys and he chastises the BBC for its nervousness about invasion. All in all, we have a near period piece of 2004 attitudes and expectations, but of course, this is all still written by a skilled and distinguished military historian and thus highly readable. 4/5 for writing, 3/5 for accura ...more
Northman 737
Dec 27, 2011 Northman 737 rated it really liked it
I got no new information out of this book. I'm not sure I was expecting to get any though since I've read a lot about the subject. There was a good bit of information, background and such in this book. If you're looking for a starter on the topic I would recommend this.
Jul 16, 2008 Myrivername rated it really liked it
An unbiased account of the invasion of Iraq, from a mostly military perspective. I like that, while the book discussed some errors that were made, it mostly just said what happened and let the reader make his/her own judgements
Aug 11, 2010 Lamont rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Succinct history of Iraq and the Iraq Wars. Most interesting was the older history of the country and the region. Some parts were repetitious, making chapters feel like published articles linked together.
May 15, 2012 Andrew rated it it was amazing
John Keegan at his best. Required reading for an understanding of the war, and contemporary tactics and strategy.
Aug 11, 2010 Sue rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am not the most politically savvy but even I can tell this is a totally unsatisfactory account of the gulf war.
One of the best overviews of the war and not encumbered with political overtones.
Sep 02, 2009 Dr. rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern-warfare
The only strictly military history of the current gulf war that I know of.
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Sir John Desmond Patrick Keegan OBE was a British military historian, lecturer and journalist. He published many works on the nature of combat between the 14th and 21st centuries concerning land, air, maritime and intelligence warfare as well as the psychology of battle.

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“The Muslim world in general, the Arab world in particular was confirmed in its grievances, particularly that the West was prepared to use its overwhelming military superiority to keep Muslims subordinate. 'Europe', the Europe of the Franco-German plan to create a federal union strong enough to stand on terms of equality with the United States as a world power, had been humiliated by the failure of its efforts to avert the war. Liberal opinion, dominant throughout the European media and academia, strong also in their American equivalents, was outraged by the spectacle of raw military force supplanting reason and legality as the means by which relations between states were ordered.

Reality is an uncomfortable companion, particularly to people of good will. George H.W. Bush's proclamation of a new world order had persuaded too many in the West that the world's future could be managed within a legal framework, by discussion and conciliation. The warning uttered by his son that the United States was determined to bring other enemies of nuclear and regional stability to book - Iran, North Korea - was founded by his political opponents profoundly unsettling. The reality of the Iraq campaign of March - April 2003 is, however, a better guide to what needs to be done to secure the safety of our world than any amount of law-making or treaty-writing can offer.”
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