The Iraq War and Global Governance

Article excerpt

David Malone, The International Struggle Over Iraq: Politics in the UN Security Council 1980-2005, Oxford University Press, 2006.

Ramesh Thakur and Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu (eds.), The Iraq Crisis and World Order: Structural, Institutional, and Normative Challenges, United Nations University Press, 2006.

Ramesh Thakur and Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu (eds.), Arms Control After Iraq: Normative and Operational Challenges, United Nations University Press, 2006.

Richard Ashby Wilson (ed.), Human Rights in the "War on Terror, " Cambridge University Press, 2005.

More books on Iraq? Is there really more we need to know about the miscalculations, incompetence, deceptions, and abuses of executive power that have characterized this war of choice? We do want to know about how the almost unimaginably costly experience is going to turn out in the end for the Iraqis who are still unreconciled to each other, but those books have yet to be written.

The answer is yes, there is a perspective on how this war has affected global governance that needs study and reflection. That essential perspective is presented by the four books reviewed here: The International Struggle Over Iraq: Politics in the UN Security Council 1980-2005 by David Malone; The Iraq Crisis and World Order and Arms Control After Iraq, both publications of the United Nations University; and Human Rights in the War on Terror, edited by Richard Ashby Wilson.

The outstanding books on how the Bush administration got into the Iraq War and mishandled the occupation are mostly driven by the central and compelling US political narrative. There has also been a recent surge of books about the implications for US predominance in the world as a result of the Iraqi debacle (see "What Happened to the American Empire?" by Alan Ryan in the New York Review of Books, 23 October 2008, on recent books by Eric Hobsbawm, Amy Chua, Parag Khanna, Fareed Zakaria, and Robert Kagan).

In addition, a few outstanding works look back at the causal factors that drove the events surrounding September 11, such as The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright. Others explain the chronic failures of intelligence and intelligence agencies, including those leading up to this war of miscalculation, such as the mammoth Legacy of Ashes: A History of the CIA by Tim Weiner.

Then, there is the shockingly thorough reporting by Jane Mayer who, in "The Dark Side--The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals," sets down the facts of ethical compromise and corruption on the part of the Bush-Cheney chain of command, and deepens work provided by some of the contributors to the Wilsom collection under review.

A Democratic Congress may seek legal accountability for the abusive treatment of prisoners, though the new US administration might decide in a spirit of reconciliation to turn the page and move on. On this, though the personal instinct of Barack Obama is to reconcile, much may depend on inside disclosures yet to come about the role of "the enablers," as Guantanamo human rights defender Major David Frakt has termed those who gave torture a green light from the top of the US administration (see Anthony Lewis, Official American Sadism, reviewed in the New York Review of Books, 25 September 2008).

Missing from the Iraq library is the authoritative book on British official deception and collusion in the decision to invade Iraq (though not the abusive treatment of prisoners), in part because the Official Secrets Act has kept the memoirs of former civil servants from readers' eyes. It may take inspired fiction to explain the dynamics of personal ambition and the school-prefect mentality of duty that kept London's lid on when Blair rode his moral horse to Washington and Crawford to align the UK with US power come hell or high water, and to do at home whatever it took to pull it off; Robert Harris had a first go in his novel The Ghost. …