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The War over Iraq: Saddam's Tyranny and America's Mission
Lawrence F. Kaplan and William Kristol


  • Encounter Books


       After four decades of Cold War, and a decade of relative peace and prosperity, we stand at the cusp of a new historical era. Neither forty years of confrontation with the Soviet Union nor the decade-long sigh of relief after its fall prepared us particularly well for this moment. For all the arenas in which it was fought and the moments of high drama that marked its history, the Cold War, as metaphors like containment and the Iron Curtain suggest, presented an essentially static challenge for American foreign policy. We thought it would always be with us. And when we found during the 1990s that it no longer was, we took a holiday from history, presuming that we could rely on commerce and globalization to achieve peace and stability. But the complacent assumptions of the post-Cold War era were destroyed on September 11. That day brought us to a new era, for which we need a new roadmap.

The new era is fluid, perilous, and very much subject to the contingencies of history that define those moments when one epoch has died and another is struggling to be born. If America does not shape this new epoch, we can be sure that others will shape it for us-in ways that neither further our interests nor reflect our ideals. For the United States, then, this is a decisive moment. During the Cold War Americans made choices in places like Berlin and Korea whose implications continued to resonate for decades. Now we face decisions of similar weight and consequence in places like Afghanistan and, most of all, Iraq.

The decision about what course to take in dealing with Iraq is particularly significant because it is so clearly about more than Iraq. It is about more even than the future of the Middle East and the war on terror. It is about what sort of role the United States intends to play in the world in the 21st century. And it is about what sort of world Americans intend to inhabit-a world of civilized norms that is congenial to America, or a world where dictators feel no constraints about developing weapons of mass destruction at home and no compunction about committing aggression and supporting terrorism abroad. Hence, the reasons for choosing war against Saddam, and the lessons we draw from this war, will be as momentous as the choice itself. We believe that it is vital to liberate Iraq and to liberate us from the dangers Iraq poses. But we also believe that the principles that have persuaded the Bush Administration to pursue this course should guide our foreign policy more broadly. That is the argument of this book.

For various historical reasons, Iraq has been the arena in which competing American approaches to foreign policy have been most visible in the last decade and most visibly put to the test. The challenge Saddam Hussein poses has forced the United States to clarify its practical objectives and moral obligations in the world. All three post-cold war U.S. presidencies have possessed distinctive worldviews, each of which has been epitomized by the way in which these administrations have dealt with Iraq.

Guided by a narrow realpolitik that defined America's vital interests in terms of oil wells, strategic chokepoints, and regional stability, the first Bush administration halted its war against Saddam after expelling his armies from Kuwait. It then abandoned tens of thousands of Iraqis whom the United States had encouraged to rise up against Saddam, leaving him in power to bedevil us, and his own people, for the next decade. Then came the Clinton administration, which subscribed to a post-Vietnam brand of wishful liberalism that led it to recoil from the serious and sustained assertion of American power. The one worldview regarded Iraq as little more than a move on a diplomatic board game. The other responded to Saddam's provocations with bouts of handwringing, occassional pin-prick missile attacks, or by simply ignoring them.

Until recently, the record of American policy toward Iraq has mostly been one of failure. But Iraq can now provide a model for success. Having broken with the record of his predecessors, President George W. Bush brings to the problem of Iraq a worldview that reflects what he describes as "the union of our values and our national interests." With his history of aggression abroad and tyranny at home, Saddam Hussein is an affront to both. Thus, the president does not speak of merely containing or disarming Iraq, as his predecessors did. Instead, he speaks of liberating Iraq, and creating democracy in a land that for decades has known only dicatatorship. In short, President Bush speaks of engaging Iraq in accord with American principles.

This will strike many as a tall order-but not nearly so tall as the president's insistence on engaging the world in accord with American principles. In his speeches, in his national security strategy, and in the doctrine named after him, President Bush not only demands that the United States dissuade potential adversaries from seeking to compete with the military might of the United States. The president also speaks bluntly of exporting the American creed "in keeping with our heritage and principles," which will in turn "create a balance of power that favors human freedom." By enshrining in official policy the tactic of military preemption, the objective of regime change, and a vision of American power that is fully engaged and never apologetic, the Bush administration hopes to accomplish this happy end. We think it can. In the aftermath of September 11, we think it must.

The War over Iraq wears its heart on its sleeve. In arguing for the liberation of Iraq, we try to make the case for war honestly and straightforwardly, so the debate can be joined. We present a detailed account of Saddam's evil; a critical history of America's policies toward Iraq, and a description of the competing philosophies that animated those policies; an analysis of the Bush Doctrine; and an argument for making that doctrine the basis of American foreign policy. The War Over Iraq looks back at how a brutal dictator was allowed to acquire so much power on the world stage. But it also offers a roadmap for a more hopeful future. The wisdom of regime change, the merits of promoting democracy, the desirability of American power and influence-these issues extend well beyond Iraq. So we dare to hope that this work will prove useful even after Baghdad is finally free.

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"Anyone who harbors doubt about the imperative of regime change in Iraq for the vital security interests of the United States should read this book."

-Senator John McCain

"Brilliant and definitive. Kristol and Kaplan run right at the "narrow realists" of Bush I and the Clintonian "wishful liberals" and break all tackles. At stake is far more than the future of Iraq: the authors show us why-in the age of terror, rogue states, and weapons of mass destruction-we can only make the world safe for democracy by finishing the job of democratizing it."
                                                        -R. James Woolsey, Director of Central Intelligence 1993-95


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