Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Unraveling, by Emma Sky

I completed this book in January 2016. I felt the book was less an analysis than a personal memoir and as such was shallow in its treatment of the factors and faults leading to the disintegration of stability post-invasion.

Emma Sky admits she is "unqualified" for the role she's given, but according to her own account, she becomes indispensable, although it's never clear exactly what her role is. But she was well enough thought of that General Odierno requested that she become his political advisor in 2006.

Sky is critical of the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011 under the Obama Administration, but at his August 2015 retirement ceremony, General Odierno said,

"It is frustrating to look at what has happened inside of Iraq," he said. "I believe that a couple years ago in 2010-11, we had it in a place that was really headed in the right direction. Violence was down, the economy was growing, the politics were OK."

However, "the political factions just simply weren't able to work together, and based on that, people became frustrated. When people become frustrated, they tend to turn to violence if there is no other way for them to get their point," he said.

Odierno said it was impossible to gauge whether the Obama administration could have tried harder to negotiate a deal with the Baghdad government to have U.S. troops stay after 2011.

"I don't think it's black and white. I think it is gray," he said. "I think the military options we conducted provided an opportunity for us to be successful" but "I remind everybody that us leaving at the end of 2011 was negotiated in 2008 by the Bush administration."

"And that was always the plan," he added. "We had promised that we would respect their sovereignty, and so I think based on that, that was always our plan."
Sky's book was reviewed by Christopher Dickey in the New York Times Sunday Book Review. A less flattering review was written by Anakana Schofield in The Irish Times. I tend to agree with this review, especially when it comes to Sky's writing.

A excellent short synopsis of the "Second Iraq War" can be found in the Enclyclopaedia Britannia.