Book Review: ‘Peril’ By Bob Woodward And Robert Costa

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Bob Woodward and Robert Costa's book "Peril."

By James M. Kramon

If you are going to read only one book about the Trump era, read “Peril.”

The authors of this book, Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, have assiduously commemorated this horrific period in our country’s history. Each of the 79 sections of this book is brilliantly crafted to include every relevant fact, quotation, and other information, without packing the text with irrelevant details.

While the backgrounds of “Peril’s” authors certainly suggest their work would be thorough and impressive, it is impossible for any reader to fail to recognize their unyielding effort to provide “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

“Peril” differs from many other books about the Trump era in that it is not a polemic. Woodward and Costa obviously decided to provide readers with everything needed to make their own judgments about the significance of events and the conduct of protagonists. “Peril” stands apart from the swelling ranks of books and articles that continue to be written to vindicate viewpoints of their authors. To anyone who has tried to exercise such restraint in regard to a matter as inflammatory as the Trump era, Woodward and Costa’s ability to do this is profoundly impressive.

With regard to almost every section of the book, I was able to arrive at a reasonably settled judgment about particular decisions. A striking exception, however, was Section 60, which concerns President Biden’s decision to remove all United States troops from Afghanistan. The president’s choice, as understood by every authoritative civilian or military advisor, was between leaving a small number of troops (perhaps only 3,500) or none. On the one hand, the 20-year longest war of the United States was accomplishing nothing significant in Afghanistan and President Biden had on numerous occasions promised total withdrawal. On the other hand, withdrawal of all United States troops virtually assured a nightmare for the few remaining Americans and the many Afghanis who supported our efforts in reliance on the promise to protect and remove them. In addition, the treatment of women, the horrors of which will almost surely take place in the soccer stadium we gifted to Afghanistan years ago, is unthinkable.

Woodward and Costa kept their bargain in Section 60 to give readers everything necessary to make an informed decision about the correctness of President Biden’s decision, but I was unable to do so. Although virtually everyone knew that the Taliban would, sooner or later, displace the shapeless government of Afghanistan, its acquisition in only 11 days of the capital, Kabul, and a majority of its provinces, exceeded the most pessimistic prediction. The world must now hope that the total pullout of the United States and its allies does not portend the depravity and violence of which the Taliban and numerous other terrorist groups in Afghanistan are capable.

Regardless of one’s political persuasion, there is no doubt that generally recognized boundaries that existed in this country prior to the Trump era no longer exist. A short while ago, no one in public office would tolerate former President Trump’s remarks about Senator John McCain’s heroism or referring to Americans who have fought and died for our country as “losers” and “suckers.” By providing readers with everything we need to know, Woodward and Costa have made it impossible to conclude anything other than what most Americans once understood to be self-evident truths may now be subordinated to temporal exigencies and personal ambitions. By allowing readers to reach our own conclusions about this development, and by showing no mercy to omission or exaggeration, “Peril” assumes its place on the “must-read” list of every American.

James M. Kramon can be reached at jkramon@kg-law.com or 631-288-4366. He is a co-founder of the law firm Kramon & Graham, P.A., Baltimore, Maryland and formerly served as a federal prosecutor.

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