The Marines Take Anbar: The Four-Year Fight Against Al Qaeda

Richard H. Shultz. Naval Institute, $39.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-61251-140-5
More than just a military tactic book, this well-researched study documents the reasons for the debacle in Iraq after Saddam Hussein's fall and how the Marines changed the tide of war. Shultz thoughtfully explains the Iraqi culture of which Americans were woefully ignorant: the supreme importance of tribes, honor, centuries-old antagonisms between Sunnis and Shias. That the US military lacked a plan beyond Saddam's demise created an abyss which Al Qaeda hastened to fill by inciting civil war. Shultz relates the infighting among Washington politicians and consequences of alienating the Sunnis who had dominated for centuries. A shift occurred in late 2003 when Major General James Mattis, in stark contrast to earlier American brutality and contempt, implemented a plan that treated the enemy with the same honor Marines themselves emphasized. Al Qaeda intensified its assaults, but when they repeated American mistakes, the war shifted and Sunnis shifted allegiance toward the Americans. The Marines succeeded because they "lived among and shared risks with those whose trust they sought," and because they could adapt. Shultz's even-handed treatise highlights the war's needless suffering and praises Marines who can list Anbar alongside Iwo Jima and Okinawa in their pantheon of heroism. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/11/2013
Release date: 03/01/2013
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