The Military Error: Baghdad and Beyond in America's War of Choice

Overview

Why did George W. Bush invade Iraq? What were the real motives, the overarching policy decisions that drove events from September 11 until the war began?To a large extent, we still don’t know. But by now we do know in some detail, as Thomas Powers carefully explains in the essays collected here, how the administration made its case for war, using faulty intelligence to argue that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and posed a mounting threat to the Middle East. Once Iraq was occupied and the ...
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Overview

Why did George W. Bush invade Iraq? What were the real motives, the overarching policy decisions that drove events from September 11 until the war began?To a large extent, we still don’t know. But by now we do know in some detail, as Thomas Powers carefully explains in the essays collected here, how the administration made its case for war, using faulty intelligence to argue that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and posed a mounting threat to the Middle East. Once Iraq was occupied and the weapons turned out not to exist, the case for war seemed to disappear as well. Bit by bit the evidence–the documents suggesting that Iraq was trying to buy yellowcake uranium in Niger, the aluminum tubes that the United States claimed were meant for uranium enrichment, the Iraqi defector code-named Curveball who claimed Saddam had mobile biological weapons labs–has been exposed as unreliable, misinterpreted, “cherry-picked,” exaggerated, or just fake.But as faulty as the intelligence was, it was always only a pretext, a way of persuading Congress, America, and the world to support a war that President Bush had already decided to wage. The real question remains: Why did Bush insist on a war of choice, refusing to accept any solution short of an American occupation of Iraq? The answers Powers proposes to that question, which assess the Iraq invasion as an insistence on responding to political and cultural conflicts with military action, suggest an overarching failure of American policy in the region that, as long as it remains insufficiently understood and publicly debated, will make it difficult for any president to change course.No one is better prepared than Powers to evaluate the way the Bush administration used intelligence to make its case for war, used the CIA for political ends, and used arguments of secrecy to advance both its geopolitical agenda and its claims for executive power. But beyond the now-familiar stories of nonexistent WMDs, The Military Error proposes a new, deeper analysis of the error of using military force, which has succeeded primarily in generating opposition and increasing resistance to American aims. America went into Iraq full of bright hopes and confident ideas, but Powers argues that those ideas, based on the ability of force to solve problems, defeat opponents, and make friends, were largely illusions. Such illusions, as we learned at great cost in Vietnam, die hard, but we can make decisions about our future role in Iraq only by understanding the errors that got us embroiled there in the first place.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Powers (The Intelligence Wars) is a journalist whose recent writings focus on policy and intelligence. This anthology of pieces published between 2003 to 2008, all but one in the New York Review of Books, offers a scathing and eloquent critique of the Bush administration's Middle East policy. Its main points are familiar. Even before 9/11 the president and his advisors were planning to use U.S. military power to "make the Middle East safe for America and its friends" ("Friends" being a transparent euphemism for Israel). Powers's most controversial, and as yet unverifiable, thesis is that Afghanistan and Iraq were merely steps to the primary goal: ending a potentially nuclear-armed Iran's threat to the Persian Gulf. Powers describes a series of ill-considered actions generating intractable new problems, including two expensive wars, the draining of American moral capital and reducing foreign policy to threats unenforceable by overextended armed forces. But the book suffers from the familiar error of America-centeredness. Powers repeats Bush's flawed assumption that the situation lay essentially within America's capacity to determine. A broader perspective might suggest that the Middle East offers no good options except in hindsight.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590172995
  • Publisher: New York Review Books
  • Publication date: 8/12/2008
  • Pages: 140
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Powers is the author of The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA, Heisenberg’s War: The Secret History of the German Bomb, Intelligence Wars, and The Confirmation, a novel. He won a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 1971 and has contributed to The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, Harper’s, The Nation, The Atlantic, and Rolling Stone.
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Table of Contents

Introduction The Option on the Table

1 The Failure 1

2 How Bush Got It Wrong 15

3 The Election and America's Future 37

4 Secret Intelligence and the 'War on Terror' 41

5 Black Arts 61

6 Bringing 'Em On 79

7 'The Biggest Secret' 85

8 What Tenet Knew 101

9 The Reason Why 125

10 The Military Error 131

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