Circle in the Sand. the Bush Dynasty in Iraq

By Rubin, Michael | Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Circle in the Sand. the Bush Dynasty in Iraq


Rubin, Michael, Middle East Quarterly


Circle in the Sand. The Bush Dynasty in Iraq. By Christian Alfonsi. New York: Vintage, 2007. 470 pp. $15.95.

"Bush derangement syndrome" - the irrational hatred of George W. Bush and the embrace of conspiracy theories about him - has moved from fringe websites to mainstream publishing houses. Circle in the Sand seeks to show how the decisions and unfinished business of George H. W. Bush's Iraq policy shaped his son's decision to invade Iraq. Alfonsi, a New York-based writer trained as a political scientist, argues that Operation Desert Storm reoriented U.S. policy toward Arab states, reoriented Republican foreign policy, and made the second war inevitable. Furthermore, he argues, the first Iraq conflict's inconclusive end sparked a new generation of Al-Qaeda terrorists that led to 9/1 1.

For Alfonsi, none of these developments were inevitable but instead resulted from foreign policy decisions about which the American people are ignorant. With a tone of hubris, Alfonsi tells readers that he has pieced together the hidden record that others have ignored or failed to detect. What results might sway conversation in a coffee shop but will appear silly to anyone ever involved in policy.

Alfonsi writes well and his narrative flows. In order to develop his thesis, though, he glues together 80 percent truth with 20 percent supposition. He neither understands the complexity of policymaking nor how little power any single individual has in the process. He depicts the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act as a Republican and neoconservative plot but omits mention of overwhelming Democratic support for the bill. …

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