I lived through the time period this book describes, as a stateside civilian, and I had during that time many misgivings, all as it turns out very well founded. My brother, an Army Reservist, was deployed in the invasion force, PsyOps with the 101st Division, and so I was watching what happened with great interest. In spite of my attempts at the time to stay informed, I learned an enormous amount about the run up to the war, the initial planning, the lack of a plan for the occupation, the misgivings of the planning staff in the military who recognized the lack of a plan for the occupation, by reading this very well documented book.
On the balance, the book was in many ways incredibly depressing, all the factors that I was aware of at the time were in fact much worse than I thought. One of the remarkable things about American government is the subservience of the military to the civilian leadership, and here Ricks makes clear that arrogant, ill-informed and stubborn civilian leadership led to this fiasco, in spite of the many very smart and well trained military planners who saw this disaster unfolding in spite of their best efforts to dissuade the leadership. The lives and treasure expended, and the feckless performance and lack of accountability by this civilian leadership is enough to make any objective observer ashamed of our country. Lots of blame to go around, unquestioning Congressional leaders of both parties, national media asleep at the switch, and to my surprise I found that the blame to attach to GWBush was for his selection of Cheney/Rumsfeld and their selection of their staffs, the President was misled and oblivious, rather than intentionally idiotic, as I had at the time suspected.
Should be required reading for anyone who would wish to be able to influence future actions of our government, even if just by electing political leaders.