Cobra II | Michael R. Gordon

Summary of: Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq
By: Michael R. Gordon


Gear up for an insightful journey into the complexities of the Iraq War through the book ‘Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq’ by Michael R. Gordon. This summary aims to provide you with a deeper understanding of the intricate decision-making and strategic moves that marked the Bush administration’s pursuit to oust Saddam Hussein. Discover the internal battles, political maneuvering, and unanticipated challenges faced by key players like Donald Rumsfeld, General Tommy Franks, and Colin Powell. As you dive headfirst into this summary, prepare to uncover the fateful choices, diplomatic efforts, and intelligence failures that laid the foundation for one of the most contentious wars in modern history.

Rumsfeld’s Vision for War

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld saw the opportunity to pursue his vision for a new approach to war. He advocated for a faster and more high-tech engagement with Iraq, with fewer troops, based on his belief in the post-Persian Gulf War mobile military. Along with President George W. Bush, Rumsfeld made Iraq their central target, ignoring advice from former President Bill Clinton to focus on Al Qaeda and Middle East diplomacy. Rumsfeld’s tenacious insistence on oversight became a hindrance for the generals, leading to disagreements over troop numbers and strategic approaches. With a focus on the Iraqi oil fields and the prospect of defeating Saddam Hussein, the decision to go to war was made despite limited intelligence on Iraq’s weapons program. The result was a default to meet violence with violence on the part of some US forces and unpreparedness to deal with the complexities of Iraq.

Saddam Hussein’s Delusions and Fears

Despite ordering the use of sarin nerve gas on rebels in Karbala and Najaf, Saddam Hussein never expected the US to attack him after 9/11, as he still saw Iran and Shiites as his biggest enemies. His war plans did not involve destroying infrastructure or flooding marshlands as he wished to have access to these areas in case of internal rebellion. Hussein was paranoid about US electronic surveillance and may have been delusional, even issuing orders to his army based on a dream during the Iran-Iraq War. He never disclosed the fate of his stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, fearing Iran’s response. The book argues that there is a direct link between the way the Iraq War was planned and the subsequent insurgency faced by the American-led coalition.

Powell’s Reservations on Iraq War

The book highlights Colin Powell’s concerns during the planning of the Iraq War and criticizes the war’s execution. Powell, the Secretary of State, was skeptical about Iraq’s post-war state and argued for more diplomacy and disarmament attempts. He also doubted general Tommy Franks’ war plans since they lacked preparations for the aftermath and failed to locate and secure weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Intelligence identified 946 potential WMD sites, but only 130 were investigated. The book reveals that Iraq had no WMDs at the time of the war, and Saddam Hussein’s strategy was to defend Baghdad from multiple outer circles. Powell pointed out that Saddam Hussein held Iraq together and predicted that without him, the US military would have to govern and rebuild Iraq for years. Despite Powell’s warnings, the US went to war, and the aftermath was catastrophic.

The Iraq War Intelligence Failure

Despite a huge budget, the CIA had no intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s WMD program, leading to a disorienting aftermath of war. The US intelligence relied solely on UN inspectors’ reports that left them unprepared for Iraq’s nuclear and biological weapons programs. Poorly chosen evidence and unreliable sources contributed to keeping the confused focus on WMDs, while failing to see tons of weapons distributed in southern Iraq. The Army was unprepared and inexperienced to handle civil order, utility and sanitation services, guerrillas, and most importantly, WMDs.

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