Circle in the Sand: Why We Went Back to Iraq

Christian Alfonsi, Author
Christian Alfonsi, Author . Doubleday $26.95 (466p) ISBN 978-0-385-51598-6
Reviewed on: 09/04/2006
Release date: 10/01/2006
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Ebook - 384 pages - 978-0-385-51993-9
Paperback - 470 pages - 978-1-4000-9606-0
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In the first Gulf War, the United States routed the Iraqi military with ease, only to find itself unable to win or maintain peace. Having studied the long crisis in Iraq for his Harvard doctoral thesis, the former ad executive brings clear-eyed analysis, deep archival research and interviews with many principal players to support his compelling argument that the first Bush administration's decision to leave Saddam Hussein in power was a deliberate one that unwittingly ensured the continued American presence in Iraq. From Hussein's threats to use chemical weapons against Israel in 1990 up to the discovery that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction to speak of in 2003, Alfonsi reports that the U.S. response to Iraq was hampered by divisions high up in the U.S. government, the lack of reliable intelligence on Iraqi affairs and the collision of political ambitions with messy domestic and international realities. Along the way, Alfonsi shows how a well-financed public relations campaign and Bush's own "Manichaean" rhetoric galvanized widespread domestic support for the war, but left the United States with no clear plan for extricating itself. While Alfonsi's treatment of Iraq after 1992 in the last quarter of the book feels abbreviated, the connections between the two conflicts are striking. (Oct.)

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