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The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq Hardcover – September 18, 2002

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Editorial Reviews


"One of the most important books on American foreign policy in years. There is no greater strategic challenge than Iraq, and nobody better qualified to tackle it than Kenneth Pollack. To have such comprehensive, high-quality professional analysis available publicly and in real time is simply extraordinary. From now on, all serious debate over how to handle Saddam starts here."
-Gideon Rose, Managing Editor, Foreign Affairs

"Iraq is at the top of America's foreign policy agenda and this book should be at the top of your reading list. Kenneth Pollack approaches the problem of Saddam Hussein without ideological blinkers or prejudices. He provides an clear-eyed account of the breakdown of American policy toward Saddam Hussein and makes a powerful case for a shift in that policy. Whether or not you agree with Pollack's solution -- and I do -- you will admire The Threatening Storm. It is intelligent, balanced, and measured; a model of fair-minded analysis on a topic that rarely gets any. Before you make up your mind on Iraq, read this book."
-Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International

" Kenneth Pollack has brilliantly written a comprehensive and insightful analysis of the problem Iraq poses for the United States. This is a must read for those desiring an in depth understanding of the issues in this complex problem and for those who are responsible for developing policy."
-General Anthony C. Zinni, USMC (Ret.)

From the Inside Flap

In The Threatening Storm, Kenneth M. Pollack, one of the world?s leading experts on Iraq, provides a masterly insider?s perspective on the crucial issues facing the United States as it moves toward a new confrontation with Saddam Hussein.

For the past fifteen years, as an analyst on Iraq for the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council, Kenneth Pollack has studied Saddam as closely as anyone else in the United States. In 1990, he was one of only three CIA analysts to predict the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. As the principal author of the CIA?s history of Iraqi military strategy and operations during the Gulf War, Pollack gained rare insight into the methods and workings of what he believes to be the most brutal regime since Stalinist Russia.

Examining all sides of the debate and bringing a keen eye to the military and geopolitical forces at work, Pollack ultimately comes to this controversial conclusion: through our own mistakes, the perfidy of others, and Saddam?s cunning, the United States is left with few good policy options regarding Iraq. Increasingly, the option that makes the most sense is for the United States to launch a full-scale invasion, eradicate Saddam?s weapons of mass destruction, and rebuild Iraq as a prosperous and stable society?for the good of the United States, the Iraqi people, and the entire region.

Pollack believed for many years that the United States could prevent Saddam from threatening the stability of the Persian Gulf and the world through containment?a combination of sanctions and limited military operations. Here, Pollack explains why containment is no longer effective, and why other policies intended to deter Saddam ultimately pose a greater risk than confronting him now, before he gains possession of nuclear weapons and returns to his stated goal of dominating the Gulf region. ?It is often said that war should be employed only in the last resort,? Pollack writes. ?I reluctantly believe that in the case of the threat from Iraq, we have come to the last resort.?

Offering a view of the region that has the authority and force of an intelligence report, Pollack outlines what the leaders of neighboring Arab countries are thinking, what is necessary to gain their support for an invasion, how a successful U.S. operation would be mounted, what the likely costs would be, and how Saddam might react. He examines the state of Iraq today?its economy, its armed forces, its political system, the status of its weapons of mass destruction as best we understand them, and the terrifying security apparatus that keeps Saddam in power. Pollack also analyzes the last twenty years of relations between the United States and Iraq to explain how the two countries reached the unhappy standoff that currently prevails.

Commanding in its insights and full of detailed information about how leaders on both sides will make their decisions, The Threatening Storm is an essential guide to understanding what may be the crucial foreign policy challenge of our time.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (September 18, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375509283
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375509285
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.7 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #421,936 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Neil K. Banman on October 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I was opposed to an invasion of Iraq prior to reading this book, and I still am--barely. Dr. Pollack makes an excellent case for invasion, much better than the Bush administration or Congress has been able to do. He certainly disagrees with a number of things that our leadership wants us to believe. For instance, that Iraq has anything to do with 9/11.
Pollack's argument is that no policy except invasion will keep Saddam Hussein from acquiring nuclear weapons. He contends that Hussein is a uniquely dangerous person to have access to nuclear weapons, moreso even than other totalitarian leaders. He's got good reasons for both, and while I have a few reservations with some of the details, on the whole it's quite sound.
Pollack should definitely have spent more time on some topics. For instance, I don't think he adequately addresses the effect of world-wide opposition to Iraqi invasion and how that compromises our standing in the world and specifically the Middle-East.
He also constantly refers to the "perfidy" of China, France and Russia, and I don't think he makes a strong enough case that these countries are wholly corrupt. Sure, they're acting in their own interests, but the US does this all the time. I think in this case he is speaking from the point of view as a policy analyst who has been frustrated for a decade, and has written these countries off. I don't think we should ever do that, and I don't think we've exhausted our diplomatic options.
His case for invasion is very well thought out, and as such he is cognizant of many potential traps and pitfalls. So he writes a prescription for invasion that is extremely specific, and admits that straying could well lead to disaster.
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40 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Helder Gil on August 31, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I read this book when it first came out. I thought it was very well researched, well written and had some very useful insights into reasons for going to war with Iraq.

I've re-read parts of the book recently with the benefit of more than a year in hindsight. Pollack's claims of WMDs - similar to the claims by both US and foreign intelligence agencies - proved to be totally wrong. Some of Pollack's other reasons for going after Saddam (that he was a very bad man and did very bad things) could just as easily be applied to dozens of other countries all around the world. (One could take many of those arguments, apply them to North Korea, and ask why when we have totally verifiable proof that a rogue nation with a history of aggression towards its neighbors and the US is in possession of WMDs, our response is to do nothing more than talk.)

Yet although one premise of Pollack's book turned out to be totally wrong, the book still has useful background on recent Iraqi history, Saddam's rise to power, and the US approach to that part of the world. It also features some good information on the various factions and elements that make up Iraqi society. But it is difficult to read the last chapters and not chuckle sadly - Pollack makes some good recomendations on how to rebuild Iraq after a war. The problem is that his recomendations did not take into consideration the political realities of Washington or of the possibility that Iraqis might not be so amenable to dealing with an occupying force of coalition troops.

If Pollack's book is a good reflection of what Washington policymakers believed in the run-up to war with Iraq, then it shows how badly off the mark everyone was.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Vandal from St. Paul on February 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The Threatening Storm provides the most unique of opportunities, a thorough analysis of the most urgent and fluid issue in the world. For anyone who wants to firmly understand the arguments for an invasion, all one needs to do is read this book.
Mr. Pollack, while favoring an invasion, is sincere in his contention that it is really the last and only option before us. Pollack goes through every possible option for disarming Iraq. His arguments are convincing and, more importantly, he critiques the weaker arguments that favor his position (e.g. Hussein's link to terrorism). The result is a reasoned analysis that does not throw the kitchen sink at you and instead provides the most concise and powerful argument possible for an invasion.
As strong as the analysis is, I don't think he anticipated the situation unfolding quite as it has. He provides relatively short shrift to a new attempt at inspections, believing that it is such a weak option that it does not require an extensive review. He also does not anticipate the resistance that is coming from France and Germany.
What he does get right is the assessment that Hussein's strategy is clearly to divide the U.N. and the international community. His arguments for action are largely based on the weakening of sanctions and the failure of containment. The inability of the U.N. to be tough on containment is what on one hand provides the reason for invasion and at the same time demonstrates the inability of the international community to muster the will to take action.
Reading this book will enable the reader to fully appreciate the politics of the situation (particularly the extent that France and Russia are literally profiting from the current situation) and the stakes that the casual observer will not understand.
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