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War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars

War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars

by Richard N. Haass

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When should the United States go to war?

It is arguably the most important foreign policy question facing any president, and Richard Haass — a member of the National Security Council staff for the first President Bush and the director of policy planning in the State Department for Bush II — is in a unique position to address it. Haass


When should the United States go to war?

It is arguably the most important foreign policy question facing any president, and Richard Haass — a member of the National Security Council staff for the first President Bush and the director of policy planning in the State Department for Bush II — is in a unique position to address it. Haass is one of just a handful of individuals — along with Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and Bob Gates — involved at a senior level of U.S. government decision making during both Iraq conflicts. He is the first to take us behind closed doors and the first to provide a personal account. The result is a book that is authoritative, revealing, and surprising. Haass explains not only what happened but why.

At first blush, the two Iraq wars appear similar. Both involved a President George Bush and the United States in conflicts with Saddam Hussein and Iraq. There, however, the resemblance ends. Haass contrasts the decisions that shaped the conduct of the two wars and makes a crucial distinction between the 1991 and 2003 conflicts. The first Iraq war, following Saddam Hussein's invasion of neighboring Kuwait, was a war of necessity. It was limited in ambition, well executed, and carried out with unprecedented international support.

By contrast, the second Iraq war was one of choice, the most significant discretionary war undertaken by the United States since Vietnam. Haass argues that it was unwarranted, as the United States had other viable policy options. Making matters worse was the fact that this ambitious undertaking was poorly implemented and fought with considerably more international opposition thanbacking.

These are the principal conclusions of this compelling, honest, and challenging book by one of this country's most respected voices on foreign policy. Haass's assessments are critical yet fair — and carry tremendous weight. He offers a thoughtful examination of the means and ends of U.S. foreign policy: how it should be made, what it should seek to accomplish, and how it should be pursued.

War of Necessity, War of Choice — part history, part memoir — provides invaluable insight into some of the most important recent events in the world. It also provides a much-needed compass for how the United States can apply the lessons learned from the two Iraq wars so that it is better positioned to put into practice what worked and to avoid repeating what so clearly did not.

Editorial Reviews

Geoffrey Wheatcroft
it sometimes seems that the books dealing with Iraq will outnumber those on both world wars. But if there has to be one more, few people are better equipped to write it than Haass, and especially to "compare and contrast," as exam papers say, the Persian Gulf war of 1991 and the Iraq war that began in 2003.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Haass (The Opportunity), president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former adviser to Secretary of State Colin Powell, offers a combination of memoir and analysis on two wars that, he says, began in 1990: Desert Storm, the response to Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Haass describes Saddam's attack on Kuwait as undertaken in the face of U.S. efforts to persuade him to stand down. The 2003 war emerges as a consequence of 9/11, a "radical" initiative to oust Saddam and restructure the Middle East. In a pattern common to senior advisers without ultimate responsibility for decisions, Haass repeatedly describes perceptive memoranda ignored and perceptive insights rejected by those at the levers of power. He claims neither prescience nor precognition. Instead he presents himself as a realist and a moderate, preferring diplomacy to force while recognizing the necessary synergy of soft and hard power. Haass concludes that the first war succeeded because its limited aims were accomplished: Iraq was defeated and Kuwait's sovereignty restored. Whether or not Iraq eventually stabilizes, the second war ultimately failed because it was neither necessary, desirable nor just. Bungled execution only highlighted the waste of finite moral and material resources. Wars of choice are not inevitably mistaken, Haass concludes, but they are best avoided. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Having served several U.S. administrations in high-level foreign policy positions for over two decades, Haass (The Opportunity), president of the Council on Foreign Relations, arguably the most influential foreign policy think tank in the United States, is uniquely qualified to provide readers with foreign policy insights and analysis. In this book, he compares, from both personal and historical perspectives, the U.S. decision-making process during two wars launched against Iraq. Haass was on the Security Council staff during George H.W. Bush's war, and he was director of policy planning in George W. Bush's State Department. As Haass persuasively argues, the first Iraq War was launched by a broad coalition of countries to evict Iraqi forces from Kuwait and is described by Haass as an example of a classic war of collective self-defense, or a war of necessity. The second Iraq conflict, which was launched by the United States in 2003, was a war of choice because it was a preemptive war that ignored viable alternatives to war. Haass also addresses broader issues and forces that continue to affect the making and conduct of U.S. foreign policy. Recommended for all readers interested in U.S. foreign policy.
—Nader Entessar

Kirkus Reviews
A former member of both Bush administrations compares the two Iraq wars. Now the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Haass (The Opportunity: America's Moment to Alter History's Course, 2005, etc.) is one of a very select group-which includes Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Bob Gates and Paul Wolfowitz-that was involved in making high-level decisions in both major Iraq conflicts. Haass makes the case that the 1991 war, spurred by Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, was a necessary and well-planned operation. The current Iraq conflict, he says, was a poorly executed war of choice. Haass backs up his assertions with firsthand knowledge. He was in the room when many of the initial plans were hashed out, for example, and he was standing next to Bush I when he famously said, "This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait." Bush I's foreign policy was of a more practical, "realist" bent, the author argues, and its aims during the first conflict were concerned with reestablishing the status quo in the region. Bush II and his circle, on the other hand, had much more ambitious, difficult and dangerous goals: They wanted to truly transform the Middle East, and do it in one bold stroke. Haass admires then-Secretary of State Powell for his caution during the 2003 rush to war, but it's clear that Powell's (and Haass's) push for a more diplomatic approach with Iraq had few advocates in Bush II's inner circle. The result, he argues, was slipshod war planning. Haass also astutely notes the two presidents' differing management styles. While Bush I welcomed rigorous and inclusive policy debate, Bush II was far less careful and more informal, which, Haass argues, led to disastrous postwaroversight in Iraq. A unique perspective on how war policy was formed by two very different presidents. Agent: Esther Newberg/ICM
From the Publisher
"This is not your usual foreign policy tome. It is a vivid, honest account of recent history from the author's unique vantage points inside the White House and the State Department. Richard Haass is always intelligent. In this book he teaches us a great deal about how American foreign policy should be made, what it should seek to accomplish, and how it should be carried out. The result is a fascinating memoir and a primer for the future." — Fareed Zakaria, editor, Newsweek International, author, The Post-American World

"This important book, written with style and polish, is what history needs more of: first-person testimony on crucial events from those who were there. Haass takes us into the heart of the decision making of the first Gulf War and witnesses the morass that produced the Iraq invasion. But it is also, at bottom, a personal primer on what it is to dissent on policy from the inside, on when to stay in government, and when to go. A narrative that moves forward at a great pace but with real historical and academic ballast." — Peggy Noonan, columnist, The Wall Street Journal, author, Patriotic Grace

"In this compelling and important volume, a world-class scholar and diplomat takes us behind the scenes of both American wars against Saddam Hussein. Richard Haass's book is full of surprises. It will do much to shape the way historians come to understand the American experience in Iraq. But more crucial, Haass's story deserves every American's attention now to make sure that we all learn from both the victories and the tragedies." — Michael Beschloss, author, Presidential Courage

"When a nation faces that gravest of decisions — is it justified in going to war? — abstract moral principles alone don't suffice. Richard Haass, an insider who participated in the making of two very different wars with Iraq, provides a finely textured account that applies the writings about just and unjust wars to the real world. His blend of conceptual thinking and concrete experience makes for an engrossing tale that educates in every sense." — Peter Steinfels, codirector, Fordham Center on Religion and Culture, author, A People Adrift

"A devastating insider account." — Booklist

"A unique perspective on how war policy was formed by two very different presidents." — Kirkus Reviews

"Recommended for all readers interested in U.S. foreign policy." — Library Journal

"Part recent history, part wide-ranging personal memoir, part case study in decision-making — deserves to be read carefully.... Haass was a top foreign policy official who provides a perceptive insider's account of deliberations at the top of the U.S. government that, within a dozen years, resulted in U.S. engagement in two significant wars with Iraq. The book's significance is to be found in the wider lesson that a future U.S. secretary of state or U.S. national security adviser should draw for U.S. policy in the Middle East." — Zbigniew Brzezinski, Foreign Affairs

Product Details

Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Richard Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher. Until June 2003, Richard Haass was director of policy planning for the Department of State, where he was a principal advisor to Secretary of State Colin Powell.Previously, Haass was vice president and director of foreign policy studies at The Brookings Institution. He was also special assistant to President George Bush and senior director on the staff of the National Security Council from 1989 to1993. Haass is the author of The Opportunity: America's Moment to Alter History's Course. A Rhodes Scholar, he holds a B.A. from Oberlin College and Master and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Oxford University.

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