William Shawcross first came to prominence with Sideshow
, a ringing condemnation of Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon's actions in Cambodia. This time around, however, he heartily endorses the military actions of the American government as it invades Iraq and ousts the regime of Saddam Hussein. Preemptive war, says Shawcross, is not the anomalous tactic that some of George W. Bush's critics might suggest but rather a necessary strategy in dealing with dangerous despots. Shawcross treads lightly on the dispute over the existence of weapons of mass destruction and the unsettled landscape of post-Saddam Iraq while describing at length the human rights crimes committed by Saddam and his sons Uday and Qusay to make the point that that the war was justified. Germany and France are cast here as unappreciative opportunists for their opposition to Bush. Chirac, in particular, is on the receiving end of much enmity by Shawcross who never misses a chance to cite nicknames like "Super Menteur" (Super Liar) or "The Crook" to describe the French president. Oddly, given the book's title and cover photo of Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, there is little inside information on the relationship between the two men and the British and American decision makers that hasn't been well chronicled in mainstream news outlets' coverage of the war. This shallowness extends to the rest of Allies
as well. One hopes for some innovative analysis or revolutionary research but Shawcross mostly just presents his opinion: that Saddam was dangerous, the Americans were right to remove him, and that the UN and much of Europe were wrong to object. Another problem with Allies
is how fluid the situation in Iraq was as the book went to press. As a result, Shawcross's analysis runs the risk of being outdated and irrelevant within a comparatively short period of time. Allies
is a quick read and Shawcross is a fine writer but one wishes that he could have provided more depth to such a complicated situation. --John Moe
From Publishers Weekly
Once a prime critic of U.S. foreign policy in his much-acclaimed Sideshow (1979), Shawcross has now become convinced that the U.S. is the only country capable of changing the world for the better. Arguably, the one common thread between Sideshow and Allies is the laudable conviction that wholesale violation of human rights crimes against humanity cannot be tolerated in a just world order. Just as he excoriated Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger for the saturation bombing of Cambodia, Shawcross now lauds George W. Bush and Tony Blair for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. But unlike the earlier book, this one is short on investigative journalism and long on opinion. Bush, Blair and Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz are cast as unalloyed heroes in a morality play, with the French and the Germans portrayed as ever-"cynical" villains. The absence of nuance will no doubt appeal to Bush and Blair partisans, but will put off some others. Shawcross offers little that has not already appeared in the newspapers, and glosses over the failure to discover weapons of mass destruction, the contracts awarded to companies close to the U.S. administration, and the growing restiveness of Iraqis in "liberated" Iraq. President Bush can do no wrong; French President Chirac (the "crook") can do no right. This is a polemic, not a work of careful research and persuasion. It contributes more heat than light to the debate over Iraq, and will change few minds.
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