Academic journal article International Journal
The Iraq War
THE IRAQ WAR John Keegan Toronto: Key Porter, 2004. xiv, 250pp, $29.95 cloth (ISBN 1-55263-591-0)
Most people interested in military history would agree that John Keegan has authored some of the best books in the field. The Face of Battle (1976), for example, stands out as a classic study of battlefield tactics from Agincourt to the Somme. Titles like Six Armies in Normandy (1982) and A History of Warfare (1993) have also been well received and widely read. Many of Keegaris fans, however, would agree that the quality of his work is uneven. His latest book, The Iraq War, is a case in point.
One of the big disappointments is that the coverage of the events stops immediately after the fall of Baghdad. As we all know, the "real" war started in earnest well after President Bush announced the end of "major combat operations" in May 2003. Keegan gives the follow-up to the invasion only cursory treatment in a short chapter called "The aftermath." This is only one of the many frustrating aspects of the book. Indeed, The Iraq War seems to be a misnomer in view of the fact that the story of the invasion only begins with chapter six-that is, halfway through the book. The analysis of military operations, where Keegan is at his best, takes only three chapters (76 pages), which represents only a little over 30 percent in an already slim volume (255 pages). The first half of the book is taken, first, by a long and mostly irrelevant prologue that stretches back to antiquity when Iraq was Mesopotamia. Two chapters are dedicated to the well-known story of Saddam's rise to power and his brutal reign since the late 1960s. A final "introductory" chapter deals with the 2002 crisis that preceded the 2003 invasion. This is where the book reaches its intellectual nadir. Keegan's argument here turns away from serious analysis and plunges head-on into cheap Fox News-like partisan commentary. …