"Shock and awe said to many people that all we've got to do is unleash some might and people will crumble. And it turns out the fighters were a lot fiercer than we thought. Because, for example, we didn't come north from Turkey, Saddam Hussein was able to move a lot of special Republican Guard units and fighters from north to south. So the resistance for our troops moving south and north was significant resistance. On the other hand, our troops handled it, handled that resistance quite well."
Who? President George W. Bush in an interview today with Tom Brokaw aboard Air Force One. In the interview, he goes on to say that he wasn't worried because he had confidence in the plan.
Meanwhile, don't miss this report on the fall of Baghdad by Tim Judah in The New York Review Books. You know the story: the increasingly comical statements by al-Sahaf, the wildfire of rumor, the sudden collapse of the state, the looting. But like all good reportage this brings it to life, lets you experience some of it like you were there, lets you understand some of it.
Also, I've had a number of folks write in to ask recently for recommendations of books about the Middle East and/or Islam. Now, obviously, these aren't topics about which I can speak with any expertise. But I can suggest a couple that I liked and I felt I learned from. One is Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman by William Montgomery Watt. If I recall correctly this is actually an abridgement or condensation of a longer, more academically-oriented book. It's a biography of Muhammad and -- as such -- a history of the earliest origins of Islam. It's short, maybe a couple hundred pages (I'm sitting in a Starbucks right now. So I can't look at my copy.) and it's a couple decades old so I suspect it might seem a touch dated in some superficial ways.
Now, obviously the information in this book won't give you any better purchase on rebuilding Iraq, the Middle East generally, clashes of civilizations and so forth. But if you're looking to familiarize yourself with Islam this is obviously some pretty key info. I remember it as one of the better books -- better written, crafted and so forth -- I've read on the subject.
Also very worth reading is A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East by David Fromkin. Almost every conflict in the Middle East for the last seventy or eighty years can reasonably be seen as the fall-out from or at least deeply tied to the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War. This is a really, really good book. One of those if you only read one book kinda books.
Finally, there's Ataturk, the most recent major biography of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. I'm a fan of Ataturk's and a fan of this book. If you want to learn more about the origins of modern Turkey it's not a bad place to start.