This incisive study by historian Lester Brune examines the background and implications of the two conflicts. Considering the late twentieth-century involvement of the United States in Iraq, Brune discusses the policy of containment and the decision to go to war a second time. He traces the situation up to the creation of an Iraqi government and Saddam Hussein’s capture and trial. The continuing implications of the wars are also analyzed.
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In the 1980s and 1990s, many Americans agreed that the role of the United States in the Iraq-Iran war and in the first Gulf war generally served the nation’s basic interests. Again, in 2002-2003, many Americans accepted President George W. Bush’s claim that Saddam Hussein’s threatening weapons of mass destruction and his assistance to terrorists threatened the Western world and they supported the decision to depose Hussein. U.S. inspectors who fanned out across Iraq to find the weapons of mass destruction subsequently issued a report that “contradicted nearly every prewar assertion about Iraq made by top Bush administration officials.” Concentration on tactical operations for the invasion of Iraq and the failure to develop postwar strategic plans allowed the momentum created by toppling Hussein to slip away. There was little realization of the resources needed for reconstruction or the force requirements for internal security, nor was there a plan for how to establish a new governing structure of Iraq. Moreover, few Americans involved in the postwar period spoke the languages or possessed an understanding of the Iraqi culture. All of this contributed to the growth of an Iraqi insurgency, the resilience and effectiveness of which caught civilian and military officials in Baghdad and Washington unprepared. Many Democrats, independents and some Republicans changed their minds about the Iraqi intervention after it became evident Iraq had not possessed weapons of mass destruction, the insurgency began taking an increasing number of American lives and no exit strategy was in sight. A USA Today/Gallup poll of July 21-23, 2006, revealed only 37 percent of Americans approved of Bush’s handling of the war’s aftermath, a factor that contributed to the Democrats gaining control of Congress in January 2007.
This incisive study by historian Lester Brune examines the background and implications of these events. Considering the late twentieth-century involvement of the United States in Iraq, Brune discusses the policy of containment and the decision to go to war a second time in the region in the twenty-first century. He traces the situation up to the creation of an Iraqi government and Saddam Hussein’s capture and trial. The continuing implications of the wars are also analyzed.
Lester H. Brune was a professor of History at Bradley University. He has written several important studies of recent political crises in American politics.