Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

Wanting War: Why the Bush Administration Invaded Iraq

Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

Wanting War: Why the Bush Administration Invaded Iraq

Article excerpt

Wanting War: Why the Bush Administration Invaded Iraq

By Jeffrey Record

Washington, DC: Potomac

Books, Inc., 2010

217 pp. $24.95

ISBN: 978-1-59797-437-0


President John F. Kennedy reminded scholars and pundits of their limits: "The essence of ultimate decision remains impenetrable to the observer--often, indeed, to the decider himself.... There will always be dark and tangled stretches in the decision-making process--mysterious even to those who may be most intimately involved" (Allison and Zelikow, Essence of Decision, 1999). The young President, himself an author of note, knew the difficulties of reconstructing the past and the delicate complexities of navigating the shoals of motivation. It is nevertheless imperative that national decisions, policies, and operations be dissected, analyzed, and assessed, lest we repeat our mistakes, a common failing of great powers.

Jeffrey Record, an Air University scholar-practitioner with impeccable credentials, has taken up that challenge on the war in Iraq. Drawing on the growing record of how we entered into our second war with Iraq, Record has produced an excellent interpretative analysis of the rationale for the George W. Bush administration's invasion of Iraq. Along with the post-Inchon phase of the Korean War and the Vietnam conflict, Record believes that Operation Iraqi Freedom was America's third costly and unnecessary war of choice. In a scorching attack on the neoconservative reasoning underpinning the war, Record's central thesis is that the decision to invade was:

more about the United States than about Iraq. Specifically, the invasion was a conscious expression of America's unchecked global military hegemony that was designed to perpetuate that hegemony by intimidating those who would challenge it. The invasion represented power exercised first and foremost for its own sake.

Record skillfully weaves insights from many previous studies, including my own (Choosing War, INSS Occasional Paper No. 5 [NDU Press, April 2008]), into his narrative. The heart of his book is the nearly 70-page chapter 4, "The Reasons Why." There, the author discusses the rationale, aims, objectives, and motives of the war. Among the "reasons why"--and I draw on his terminology spread over a few dozen pages--he analyzes the need to redeem the false victory in Desert Storm, demonstrate a new willingness to use force, assert the principle of preventive military action, intimidate North Korea and Iran, promote political reform in the region, create a regional alternative to Saudi Arabia, eliminate an enemy of Israel, vindicate defense transformation, and reestablish the imperial presidency. Record concludes by looking at the consequences of the war, which he believes will be regarded as "a horrible mistake."

The final few pages of the book assess the war in Iraq in light of the Weinberger Doctrine. Record wisely concludes that the war violated the doctrine's prudent prescriptions, but that doctrine itself is not an accurate gauge for assessing future cases where the use of force may be necessary.

While one may salute Record's attempt to get at the root causes, it is also important to pay attention to what the people who made or contributed to these decisions were thinking at the time. …

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