Related Topics:

In Blind into Baghdad, Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, cobbles together a series of articles he wrote between 2002 and 2004 to explore the road to war and occupation in Iraq. He adds an introduction and a brief afterward to frame his articles and annotates throughout to show how his predictions played out.

Fallows makes no secret of his opposition to the Iraq war. "If [the United States] did not have to attack, then it should not go ahead, not simply because of the complications within Iraq itself but because the way a war would inevitably suck time, money, and attention from every other aspect of a ‘war on terrorism.'" This assumption underscores the antagonism of many elite journalists to the Iraq war, but it is not necessarily correct. Fallows ignores the hundreds of foreign fighters killed at Salman Pak, the plant U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell identified correctly as a terror training camp, as well as Saddam Hussein's subsidization of suicide bombers.

Fallows also does not address the complexity of U.S. concerns about weapons proliferation. In a chapter penned before the war, he observes that "Iraq's SCUD and Al-Hussein missiles cannot reach Europe or North America." True, but he misunderstands White House thinking: Bush administration concern centered on Iraq after the events of 9-11 demonstrated that rogue regimes need not rely on traditional delivery systems.

While his essays are a useful reminder of the many prewar policy debates, Fallows' annotations display shallow analysis. He calls de-Baathification "a major apparent failure." But data on the insurgency shows a correlation between re-Baathification and violence. The policy of ridding Iraqi politics of top-level Baathists has been the major factor preventing a Shi‘i uprising. Hindsight shows the analysis of many experts quoted by Fallows to be wrong-headed. For example, Charles William Maynes of the Eurasia Foundation argued that placing U.S. troops on Iran's border could transform Iran into a permanent enemy. But the fallacy of such apprehension is now apparent: U.S. failure to guard the Iranian border enabled wholesale infiltration of militias, money, and weapons to enemy forces in Iraq—and still Tehran remains an enemy.

His criticism of disbandment of the Iraqi army is anachronistic, given that the army had already dissolved on its own. Fallows finds sources to argue the contrary, but these were pundits not present in Iraq and reflect the tendency of agenda-driven journalists to cherry-pick quotes. With broader research, Fallows may have examined the question of who hampered prewar training for free Iraqi forces and why. Had he done so, and had he treated his sources with far more skepticism, he might not have allowed himself to become a pawn in a political blame game.

Blind into Baghdad is well written, but ultimately it pales in comparison to accounts written by experienced journalists such as Michael Gordon and former general Bernard E. Trainor,[1] authors who relied less on assumption and more on research in their account of the same period.

[1] Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq (New York: Pantheon, 2006).