I like to read political books. If there were more hours in a day, and if I didn't have to compete with The Pack, the Brewers and the Badgers, I'd be a news junkie. Recently, I crammed in two books in between the huge pile of novels waiting for me.
Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas Ricks was a compelling, clearly-written tome on the lead-up to and the first few years of the current Iraq war. It's a devastating account. Ricks, the Pentagon correspondent for the Washington Post, describes how the Bush administration worked to convince the country to go to war, revealing how many in the military were against the war beforehand, more than we were led to believe. But it's after the invasion and the fall of Baghdad that the story becomes the most heartbreaking. You see how little the war planners anticipated or prepared for the insurgency, and instead, how they treated the conflict as a conventional war, using ineffective tactics and eventually losing the faith and trust of the Iraqi people and of the watching world. Ricks doesn't hold back in placing the blame where he sees fit, but he also gives numerous examples of those who did right. I came away from the book admiring the Armed Forces more than I thought I would.
Conservatives Without Conscience by John Dean was a harder book to read. Dean takes on the conservative movement in the US. Calling himself a Goldwater Republican, Dean analyzes the leaders of the movement as authoritarian, with personality traits you wouldn't want in your boss: dominating, intimidating, amoral, and manipulative, among others. Within this framework, Dean talks about specific leaders, including Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay. I should have read this a year ago; it's a little outdated. But given that, and taking Dean's bias into account, it's a scary book.
Just two drags on the cigarette of my addiction.