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The End Game: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Iraq, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  224 ratings  ·  40 reviews
Eagerly anticipated in the wake of their national best seller Cobra II (“The superb, must-read military history of the invasion of Iraq”—Thomas L. Friedman), The Endgame is Michael R. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor’s most ambitious and news-breaking book to date. A peerless work of investigative journalism and historical recreation ranging from 2003 to 2012, it give ...more
Hardcover, 800 pages
Published September 25th 2012 by Pantheon (first published February 7th 2012)
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4.19  · 
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 ·  224 ratings  ·  40 reviews

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Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
Jan 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
There is a Japanese proverb which goes “Vision without action is a daydream; but action without vision is a nightmare.” It serves, so far as I am concerned, as the prefect epitaph for the Second Iraq War. I cannot conceive of any action in either American or British history more abysmal than the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It was a monumental error of judgement, the consequences of which are likely to remain with us for generations to come.

Simon Heffer and Charles Moore, two of my favourite press co
Mike Kershaw
Dec 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Full discloure: I was interviewed by Mr. Gordon and Mr. Morgan for this book. This book is at it's best describing the events surrounding 'the surge' and most insightful, from my standpoint, describing the Iraqi political manuevering that went on throughout the period and the innovative approach taken by many US units in finding a way to succeed. As one of those on the ground, this book helps piece together the various Iraqi political issues we dealt with at the ground level into a more cohesive ...more
Nick Lloyd
"You've got to get better at looking around corners."

-SECDEF Donald Rumsfeld, to General George Casey, regarding the latter's request to extend the already-redeploying 172nd Stryker Brigade to a 16 month tour in 2006

This quote could serve as a metaphor for the entire war.
Oct 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Gordon and Trainor have done it again! When I heard this book was coming out, having devoured the previous installment on the Iraq War, "Cobra II," I knew I had to read this one as well. I was not disappointed. They cover 2003-2012, and I almost felt myself having flashbacks to al Anbar province when they talked about 2005-06 in places like Ramadi and Fallujah, where I served. These guys have the story straight, at least the parts that I witnessed myself. I'd highly recommend picking this book u ...more
Prashant Rao
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic book on Iraq that sets out the key events following the 2003 invasion until relatively recently. Extremely well-reported, to the point that even the footnotes are fascinating.
Joseph Stieb
Sep 02, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: iraq
Valuable in many ways but too dang long. Sometimes this one felt like every New York Times article about Iraq from 2003-2012 just stapled together into a book. Obviously that's a little uncharitable: there are lot of really great chapters in here, especially around the 2006-2008 period, which is the book's focus. It is genuinely panoramic, other than that it kinda leaves out Bush and Cabinet level decision making. One other problem I had was that it didn't really have an argument and rarely zoom ...more
Feb 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Saying that I liked this one misses a bit of nuance to the whole Iraq/USA story, with some good reason. This is a bit like "cleanup" history for the Obama administration had it not been for the minor hiccup of having had to rethink the withdrawal scenario they came up with. The "Endgame" story ends in 2011, being copyrighted in 2012. Oops, things in Iraq weren't quite over yet. I suppose Gordon and Trainor ought to be entitled to a 'do over' 2nd edition at some point that encapsulates the whole ...more
May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ends at a very unfortunate spot, such that it feels incomplete (ISIS isn't covered at all). Learned a lot - like that Iran/Al-Quds was meddling the entire time, the British we're worse than useless, and Maliki was ridiculously bad for the country - but it was often hard to keep events in context.
Nathan Williams
Lots of good information, but it reads too much like a textbook for my taste. Additionally, the authors jump around a lot which disrupts the narrative
H. P.
Oct 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
“Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not win it for them.” --T.E. Lawrence

Title notwithstanding, The End Game starts from the beginning. The early stuff has been covered elsewhere before, but is appreciated nonetheless. In particular, The End Game is focused on the colonels and generals, rather than, as most of the books on the subject I’ve read, the highest military brass and ci
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An impressive history that covers the invasion of Iraq through the final withdrawal of the US military in 2011 - and some of the immediate aftermath. Gordon and Trainor the invasion, insurgency, surge, and drawdown in great historical detail. Their effort largely focuses on the head of state and general-officer level, with only a few forays into company-level anecdotes. What this history does best is identify the opportunities seized and missed during the years the US government occupied Iraq.

Oct 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very well-researched and well-written look at the war. The authors provide an insightful and balanced critique of the Iraq policies of both the Bush and Obama administrations, and are not particularly kind to either. In fact, their strategies weren't all that different. Neither had much taste for a long counterinsurgency, and the Obama team was finishing up a job it didn't want. The authors give a particularly critical assessment of the Obama administration’s approach, and their pick for ambas ...more
Jun 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Gordon and Trainor's End Game provides a valuable, if incomplete, look at the middle and latter stages of the Iraq war. In its attempt to be the second draft of history, it provides more distance than contemporary journalism while still suffering from the limitations of its sources. The authors tout their access to classified material, but the sheer volume of material from modern wars makes any quick look somewhat superficial. Nevertheless, as someone who fought the Iraq war from 2004 to 2009, k ...more
Steven Maloney
Jun 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Endgame tells the story of Iraq through the eyes of the key decision-makers in Iraq as they deal with all of the moving parts of the Iraq occupation. The actors in the story are portrayed through the positions they take on policy, and Endgame treats Iraq expertly as a clash of different preferences and priorities - a giant Rubik's Cube of interests that everyone has to twist and turn until enough of the colors line up that the game can end.

This book expertly lays out the complexities and challe
Urey Patrick
This is a comprehensive, and comprehensively detailed, chronicle of events in Iraq from the latter years of the Bush administration into the Obama administration. It is comprehensive and detailed to the point of tedium. My interest tended to wander. I think this is an important collection of data, but you have got to really be invested in that period to absorb and follow it all. I am not - my interest fluctuates with time and events. That makes this a long and occasionally arduous reading experi ...more
Nov 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Publisher describes "The End Game" as an ambitious, authoritative and complete description of the Iraq war. This book picks up where the author's earlier book, "Cobra II", which details how we found our way into the war in Iraq, left off. In this latter book, "The End Game" covers the Iraq war primarily from 2006 through 2012, and uses extensive information from U.S. military leaders, politicians, the State Department, Sunni and Sh'ia leaders, as well as insights from Kurdish leaders and low ...more
Feb 26, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Endgame,” the follow up to Michael Gordon and Gen Bernard Trainor's “Cobra II” provides a comprehensive and highly credible narrative of Operations Iraqi Freedom(OIF) (post initial invasion) and New Dawn. As someone with a total 26 months in Iraq over the various phases of OIF, I can say I still learned a lot about the war writ large. Gordon and Trainor covered a lot of information, and they did a commendable job blending the diverse tactical, operational, and strategic aspects of the conflict. ...more
Paul D.  Miller
May 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, ir
The first effort at a complete history of the Iraq war. It is breathtaking in scope and exhausting in detail. Its flaws are that it reads more like a very long newspaper article than a work of history. There is much reportage; less analysis. The other difficulty is that this book just made me mad at virtually everyone involved. It is astonishing how many things had to go wrong, and how many people had to be complicit, for the war to turn out the way it did. Yes, the surge was necessary and succe ...more
Samrat Sen
Jan 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Commentary on Iraq between 204 and 2011, both at macro and micro level. Written mostly from US point of view, it does throw a lot of insight on complications involved in Iraq, a mishmash of ethnic, religious and language based differences, a time bomb. It quotes details which indicate Mr Bush was better in his handling of Iraq (post invasion) than many of us criticise him for. That success, largely has been based on competencies of David Petraeus. Conversely, Mr Obama has been a considerable fai ...more
Brandon Forsyth
Jul 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A compellingly detailed account of the Iraq occupation and its difficulties. Gets bogged down at times when its focus gets too macro, particularly when describing specific military battles, but it's hard to fault a book for its specificity when so many of this type offer only broad generalization. My understanding of the difficulty and complexity of building a democratic Iraq was greatly informed.
Gordon recounts the actions and reactions of the long war in Iraq. Focusing more on what happened in the country and what didn't happen, he draws a scary picture of what happens when you "wing it" at a national level.

Why I started this book: Downloaded the audio from the library.

Why I finished it: Very long and detailed it felt like listening to a college lecture of all the different pieces and people that went into the breakdown of Iraq.
Gabriel Schoenfeld
Oct 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
By turns riveting and illuminating, dispiriting and devastating, Endgame is the single best thing I've read about the Iraq war. The tale it tells ends in 2012, but one cannot understand Iraq's current convulsions without pondering the monumental tome that Gordon and Trainer have so brilliantly researched and written.
Dec 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Pretty good explanation for how badly this was managed. I was a bit player in this drama from 2003 to 2005 and was continually frustrated as I didn't understand why we seemed to working against ourselves. Now I see that it was because we WERE! If you want to know the details of how we got sideways and managed to get ourselves out, this is the book.
Jan 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Very detailed history that's well written, but a little too detailed for my taste. Consider it a well-made brown stock - a great source to make a flavorful demiglace that has all the necessary ingredients. Worth the read for a comprehensive understanding of Iraq, especially in concert with their first book, Cobra II.
Peter Mcloughlin
This is a very detailed look at the Iraq war. The details in fact are overwhelming. The narrative could have been streamlined. It is a book for people who already know a great deal about the war. The story had to many threads to keep track of and I would have enjoyed a less detailed more Jisty story. The author has done his homework and I will give him that.
Stan Lanier
Aug 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A massively detailed history of American policies concerning Iraq. In light of current happenings in Iraq, this book is somewhat chilling. This is, it seems to me, the go to book for understanding the particulars of the massive failure US involvement has proven, so far, to be. One can only shake one's head.
Wai-kit Ng
A very long book that goes into minute details on the strategic-policy realm of US decision making in Iraq. Tend to get over one's head after a while. But there are many gems hidden within, especially with the declassification of certain documents. My biggest insight really is that it is impossible to separate policy from politics.
Discursive and not well organized; rambling. No overarching perspective provided - kind of reminded me of Woodward. Some interesting vignettes. And helpful in understanding the latest iteration of Iraq's implosion.
Aug 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Follows the Iraq war blow by blow form Bush to Obama....really changes your perspective on what actually happens....not only over there....but in a war in general.
It was so unbelievably complicated over there....there really is no way to actually win.

Big book...but learned alot.
Sep 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Hindsight is 20/20...I hope
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MICHAEL R. GORDON is the chief military correspondent for The New York Times, where he has worked since 1985. He is the coauthor, with Bernard E. Trainor, of The Generals' War and Cobra II.