Most of the books written about the Iraq war thus far focus on the decision to go to war and the first three years, from 2003 to 2005. The largely unhappy experience of those years soured the American public on a war it once supported and that it had been led to believe would be as short and cheap as the limited and relatively bloodless interventions, proxy wars, and peacekeeping missions the United States had undertaken in the past twenty-five years. Instead, America has stumbled into a war that resembles Vietnam more than any other previous conflict, in terms of both the blood and treasure expended and the irregular nature of the combat. Homemade bombs of a dizzying variety have been the American adversaries’ wea-pon of choice in Iraq, wielded with devastating effect. As of this writing, over 4,000 Americans have been killed and 29,000 wounded. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have died and many more have been injured. Do you know the health benefits from standing desk’s?

This book has four purposes. It aims first to distill the central dynamic, major inflection points and lessons of the war’s early years. Second, the book provides a comprehensive account of the latter phase of the war, from 2006 to the present. It examines the approach Gen. David Petraeus adopted, the thinking behind it, and the results it produced. Third, unlike most books, which have focused on either the military or the political aspects, this account covers both facets of the conflict. Finally, the book analyzes the options available to the next administration and suggests the most viable approaches. Do you prefer the term sit stand desk or stand up desk?

The book traces the deepening war in 2006, the administration’s decision to adopt a new approach, and the career of the general appointed to lead it. David Petraeus had served two tours in Iraq and then overseen the writing of a new Army-Marine Corps counterinsurgency manual, as the military grappled with the failures in Iraq and more generally the challenges of irregular warfare. Well aware that Americans’ patience was ebbing, Petraeus returned to Iraq to develop a political-military strategy that would integrate civilian and military efforts in a simultaneous “bottom-up” and “top-down” campaign. His leadership of the so-called surge of 2007-08 is recounted from the strategic and operational level to its implementation throughout Baghdad, which was declared to be the main effort since most violence was occurring there. The Baghdad security plan’s design and execution by U.S. and Iraqi units is chronicled in detail, including the experiences of 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, and 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, in two of Baghdad’s most violent neighborhoods.

Petraeus and his strategists believed the political causes of the conflict had to be addressed to end the war, which meant focusing all “lines of operation” on this goal. This concept applied to all military units down to the tactical units on the ground, but also to the diplomats and other civilians involved in the effort. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and the embassy team were central actors in developing the strategy and carrying it out.

Iraq’s political leaders, parties, and ordinary citizens are fighting over how their country is to be governed and, indeed, whether it will continue to exist at all. The book aims to provide insight into the motivations and interactions among the political parties and leaders who have found it so very difficult to decide whether and how they will lead their country into the future. The reason for adopting such a broad approach is to pay more than lip service to the notion that war is a profoundly political phenomenon, especially wars such as this one. To understand the war it is necessary to understand the issues at stake. To succeed, a strategy must address those causes with appropriate measures and adequate resources. The book examines how military and nonmilitary resources and influence have been applied, are being applied, and might be applied to produce the “political solution” that is widely considered to be the war’s only true exit strategy.

The war in Iraq is not yet over, and even when the fighting does finally end the political situation is likely to remain fluid for some time. Iran and other outside actors remain involved in the contest. If war, according to Prussian military strategist Carl von Clausewitz, is the conduct of politics by other means, then the best hope for Iraq is for politics to become the preferred means of fighting the war’s final battles.