- The Continuing Problem of Iraq
In an insightful 2004 article, the Atlantic's James Fallows expressed his bewilderment over why the US administration showed so little interest in preparing for the predictable problems and potentially serious setbacks of the post-war period in Iraq once Washington had decided on war. Being ready for such problems would seem a logical priority since the US public and future historians would certainly judge the administration by its response to any such difficulties.1 Numerous efforts to explain this situation have been provided since then, but none seem totally satisfactory. Perhaps the best starting point for examining this issue and the subsequent missteps in Iraq has been established by retired US Army Colonel Andrew J. Bacevich (now of Boston University), who assessed that there was a dangerous tendency among Bush Administration civilians to confuse strategy and ideology. Supporting this thesis, Bacevich stated, "The president's freedom agenda, which supposedly provided a blueprint for how to prosecute the global war on terror, expressed grandiose aspirations without serious efforts to achieve them."2 This serious indictment is difficult to ignore in seeking to understand US actions in Iraq since March 2003. It is also useful to consider as one reads the many books that deal with both the roots and implications of the current difficulties in Iraq.
Richard N. Haass' War of Necessity: War of Choice is a memoir of a senior government official with special attention given to the two wars that the United States waged against Iraq. As indicated by the title, Haass agrees with the decision to wage war in the first instance (1991), but was guardedly against initiating the second war (2003), which he later [End Page 661] characterized as "a blunder" (p. 269). Haass portrays himself as a national interest-oriented government professional, who sought practical solutions to problems presented by Saddam Husayn. As such, he was completely at home in the George H.W. Bush Administration and progressively more uneasy in the son's administration. He views the problems of 1991 as requiring a military response in a way that the problems of 2003 did not. This viewpoint does not seem particularly radical, and a strong case can be made that the 1991 war was substantially more justified than the 2003 war, and was a war of necessity. In 1990, Saddam's aggression and his military strength was a direct threat to many Middle Eastern allies as well as to the flow of oil from the Gulf. While the question of whether Saddam would have invaded the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia remains uncertain, he certainly would have been left with the capability to do so without forceful action by the United States. Haass underscores this point by noting that the Saudi Arabian, Egyptian, and Syrian leaderships emphasized that they would pay a huge price if the conflict were settled in ways that left an angry Saddam with his military machine completely intact. Rather, it was important to them that the United States destroy "enough of Saddam's warmaking machine so that they wouldn't have to continue to live in fear and in Saddam's shadow" (p. 79). Haass portrays the 1991 war as a pragmatic conflict with limited objectives, waged with broad international support and a solid understanding of how US and global interests overlapped.
After a brief outsider's account of the Clinton Administration's Iraq policies, Haass moves on to discuss the George W. Bush Administration. Haass did not hold a position as close to presidential decision-making in 2003 as he had in 1991. Rather, he served under Secretary of State Colin...