“Peril” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, published by Simon and Schuster, is an account of the last year of the outgoing Trump Administration, and the first year of the Biden Administration.
It is full of atmospheric detail, but lacks analysis and an easy to follow and coherent narrative.
I found the background to the rushed US and allied exit from Afghanistan revealing, but also incomplete.
I was in Washington, as EU Ambassador, in 2009 when President Obama announced to assembled Ambassadors that he planned to dramatically increase US troop presence in the country….. to initiate the so called “Surge” .
Obama was motivated by a desire to strengthen the US global military position, and also to make Afghanistan human rights respecting democracy.
It seemed over ambitious to me at the time, in light of the very recent US failure to achieve similar goals in Iraq.
“Peril” tells us that Obama’s vice President at the time, Joe Biden, was totally opposed to the Surge. But Hillary Clinton, Secretary Gates and the generals prevailed. The Surge went ahead.
When President Trump took over, he wanted to get US troops out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible. But inertia , and lack of focus on his part, meant that he never actually did it. It fell to Biden to implement this part of the Trump agenda ( just as he follows the Trump agenda on China).
The actual withdrawal was a botched job, and Afghans who had loyally served the allies were abandoned. Woodward and Costa offer no explanations for this.
The book does offer an insight into Biden’s style of negotiation with Congress. He is tough and relentless in his pursuit of detail. He was, and is, determined to put money in the pockets of working class Americans . He has been so good at this that his Stimulus Bills may have contributed to demand led inflation in the US.
Did Donald Trump’s contribution to inciting violence, and to the attempt to overturn the vote of the people, add up to a crime for which he could be convicted in a court of law?
I believe the answer is to be found in the speech made by Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, after the second attempt to impeach Trump had failed.
Describing what happened on 6 January as a “disgrace” and an “act of terrorism”, he said
“There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible “
“by the strict criminal standard, the President’s speech probably was not incitement”.
Donal Trump, after all he has done, still leads the Republican polls.
The peril to American democracy comes from kindly, decent Americans, who are putting cultural and party loyalty , ahead of the interests of democracy in America.