This is the memoir of retired Marine Lieutenant General Michael DeLong, who served as Tommy Franks’ deputy at CENTCOM from 2000-03, the period covering the attack against the USS COLE, 9-11, and the invasions of Afganistan and Iraq.
I think it’s important to note that the book was published in 2004, soon after DeLong’s retirement, and it’s extremely short: the book is 140 pages long, and is padded out with 70 pages of appendices of other documents not penned by DeLong that don’t add much (the national security strategy of the United States from 2002, some maps, etc.) Honestly, the book needed another level of detail added to it (and probably another 100 pages) for it to be truly worthwhile.
DeLong is at times very candid, noting when he disagreed with someone or didn’t get along with them, as well as when he disagreed with a particular policy. For instance, he is brutally honest that enlisting the aid of Iraqi expatriates was not helpful, and that Chalabi was not an honest broker or looking out for the United States’ best interests. At other times, he is reticent to criticize others’ or his own mistakes, or policies and processes that clearly didn’t work. As one example, I would cite his lack of criticism for the heavy involvement of lawyers in determining the rules of engagement (he specifically mentioned an occasion when Tenet called Franks and wanted to strike a particular SUV convoy because Mullah Omar was likely inside; they couldn’t be certain, so the lawyers nixed the strike) and his noting on several occasions that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were very critical of Franks’ plans for Afghanistan and Iraq. Franks told them to go fly a kite both times. It doesn’t matter who was right or wrong in these instances, I note this only to point out a potentially serious problem in how authority is divided between the JCS and combatant commanders. Some Pentagon watchers have called for a new set of Goldwater-Nichols-style legislation to revisit the issue, since the status quo appears in need of revisiting. Should the role of the JCS be strengthened? Weakened still further or eliminated altogether? I’m not sure myself, but DeLong never takes his discussion a step further to weigh in on this or many other issues. DeLong notes that he greatly preferred Bremer over Garner. Why? DeLong really doesn’t say, other than that Garner wasn’t enough of a diplomat. The book is long on brief anecdotes and short on detailed descriptions and analysis. His details, when they are provided at all, are often incorrect or so general in nature that they don’t provide much value added. I’ve recently been reading a good bit about Operation ANACONDA and the battle at Roberts Ridge in particular, and I can explicitly state that DeLong’s discussion there is riddled with inaccuracies. This is definitely not the book to go to for a detailed military history of Afghanistan or Iraq.
I give this one 2.5 stars out of 5. All in all, this is a book of some interest for those interested in the recent history of CENTCOM, but sadly, as with Franks’ American Soldier, the definitive history of CENTCOM’s planning and operations during this period still has not been published. If the topic is of great interest, I suggest reading this one, but otherwise, there are more engaging and detailed histories available.
Review copyright 2011 J. Andrew Byers