Saturday, May 30, 2009

War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars by Richard N. Haass

Much, in fact too much, has already been written about the latest war against Iraq (in this book, it is the "War of Choice"). Thus, there is little to be revealed in this book that has not been said or written about before. What is interesting, on the other hand, is the various contradictions that come through between what the author terms the "War of Necessity", that is the First Gulf War, and that of the invasion and "occupation/liberation" of Iraq which occurred most recently. The fact is the administration under the first Bush was hesitant to go to war and had to be convinced in numerous ways. And this after Saddam Hussein annexed a sovereign nation, something few thought he would actually do. This was followed up with a UN backing and half a million troops in the Gulf before any military activity even began. What happened most recently? Threats of Saddam Hussein having "WMDs", which proved to have been false, a badly planned and managed after-action campaign on behalf of our government and troops (whom, in retrospect, can hardly be blamed since they are trained for war, not peacekeeping). All of this is related in various details with some interesting commentary about various personalities the author dealt with throughout both Bush administrations. I was interested in his explanation for why during the first Bush presidency Cheney could say that the US was not interested in 'regime change' but during the recent war changed his mind. According to the author it was the atmosphere of the administration which dictated what Cheney could say and follow through with, both publicly and privately. Makes sense in retrospect, we all act differently depending on the situation and company we find ourselves among. Obviously this does not change the fact that he was wrong, horribly wrong, and much of what occurred in the aftermath of 9/11 (both in domestic policy and foreign) is the fault of the second Bush administration which did an immense amount of damage to this country's reputation as well as its economic and political state. Much of what the author conveys has a ring of truth, but I'm sure there is some self service here and there as well, so I'd take it with a grain of salt. Otherwise an interesting text and comparison between the first Iraq War, that of necessity, and the second, that of choice, which cost this country thousands of lives, hundreds of billions of dollars, time and attention we'll never get back, and whose affects we'll feel for years, if not decades, to come (and this does not include all the turmoil the Middle East has experienced as a result).

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