This is the real story of how George W. Bush came to double-down on Iraq in the highest stakes gamble of his entire presidency. Drawing on extensive interviews with nearly thirty senior officials, including President Bush himself, The Last Card offers an unprecedented look into the process by which Bush overruled much of the military leadership and many of his trusted advisors, and authorized the deployment of roughly 30,000 additional troops to the warzone in a bid to save Iraq from collapse in 2007.
The adoption of a new counterinsurgency strategy and surge of new troops into Iraq altered the American posture in the Middle East for a decade to come. In The Last Card we have access to the deliberations among the decision-makers on Bush's national security team as they embarked on that course. In their own words, President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and others, recount the debates and disputes that informed the process as President Bush weighed the historical lessons of Vietnam against the perceived strategic imperatives in the Middle East. For a president who had earlier vowed never to dictate military strategy to generals, the deliberations in the Oval Office and Situation Room in 2006 constituted a trying and fateful moment.
Even a president at war is bound by rules of consensus and limited by the risk of constitutional crisis. What is to be achieved in the warzone must also be possible in Washington, D.C. Bush risked losing public esteem and courted political ruin by refusing to disengage from the costly war in Iraq. The Last Card is a portrait of leadership-firm and daring if flawed-in the Bush White House.
The personal perspectives from men and women who served at the White House, Foggy Bottom, the Pentagon, and in Baghdad, are complemented by critical assessments written by leading scholars in the field of international security. Taken together, the candid interviews and probing essays are a first draft of the history of the surge and new chapter in the history of the American presidency.
edited by Timothy Andrews Sayle, Jeffrey A. Engel, Hal Brands, and William Inboden
Introduction: The American Occupation of Iraq by 2006 and the Search for a New Strategy
1. America's War in Iraq: 2003-2005
2. This Strategy Is Not Working: January-June 2006
3. Together Forward? June-August 2006
4. Silos and Stovepipes: September-October 2006
5. Setting the Stage: Early November 2006
6. A Sweeping Internal Review: Mid-Late November 2006
7. Choosing to Surge: December 2006
8. What Kind of Surge? Late December 2006-January 2007
9. How the "Surge" Came to Be
10. Iraq, Vietnam, and the Meaningof Victory
11. Decisions and Politics
12. Blood, Treasure, and Time: Strategy-Making for the Surge
13. Strategy and the Surge
14. Civil-Military Relations and the 2006 Iraq Surge
15. The Bush Administration's Decision to Surge in Iraq: A Long and Winding Road
16. The President as Policy Entrepreneur: George W. Bush and the 2006 Iraq Strategy Review