BLUF

Robert Draper’s new book describes how the 2003 Iraq War started, which, Draper argues, took place because of paranoia and a comprehensive intelligence failure.

Summary

Published in July 2020, To Start a War comes from the author of the New York Times bestseller Dead Certain. Of course, industry reviews of To Start a War contain all the usual clichés, such as 'gripping', 'essential reading' and 'a must-read', but one thing is sure—this book is getting attention. In an official book review provided by Booktopia, the decision to invade Iraq is said to be 'arguably the most consequential decision in the history of American foreign policy—and perhaps it is. The review makes the following points:
  • Almost 20 years later, the damage is still too palpable and is still unfolding for many people. Most of the major players are still with us, and few of them are not haunted by the decision to go to war. That may explain why so many protagonists opened up so fully for the first time to Robert Draper.
  • Draper's prodigious reporting has yielded scores of consequential new revelations, from the important to the absurd. 
  • The book paints a vivid and unforgettable picture of a decision-making process that was fatally compromised by a combination of post-9/11 fear and paranoia, rank naiveté and groupthink. Many things were assumed or believed, many of which turned out not to be true.
  • Draper's fair-mindedness and deep understanding of the principal actors suffuse his account, as does a great storytelling genius.
  • There are no cheap shots in the book, which makes the ultimate conclusion all the more damning. 
To Start A War should stand as one of the definitive accounts of why the USA went to war in Iraq. However, Draper concludes his book by noting that—the decision to go to war in Iraq was driven by imagination rather than a quest for truth.