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War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars Hardcover – May 5, 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From 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)
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From Booklist

Given the recent elections and other positive gains in Iraq, it seems premature to call the Second Gulf War a disaster. However, there is an emerging consensus that the current war was unnecessarily launched and that the subsequent occupation was poorly planned and implemented. Haass served Bush I as senior director of the National Security Council from 1989 to 1983 and was director of policy planning for the State Department under Bush II. Privy to the planning and execution of both Gulf wars, Haass paints a stark contrast between them. He asserts that the first war was one of necessity, since diplomatic options had proved futile and Saddam Hussein’s control of Kuwait was a clear threat to our national security. He also illustrates how a patient, competent administration carefully got diplomatic ducks in a row before acting. Haass views the second war as one of choice, planned to transform the nature of regimes in the area. More disturbingly, he reveals an administration that, at the highest levels, refused to seriously consider alternatives to war. A devastating insider account. --Jay Freeman

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (May 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416549021
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416549024
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #758,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. Richard Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations, the preeminent independent, nonpartisan organization in the United States dedicated to the study of American foreign policy. Until 2003, Dr. Richard Haass was director of policy planning for the Department of State, where he was a principal adviser to Secretary of State Colin Powell on a broad range of foreign policy concerns. Confirmed by the U.S. Senate to hold the rank of ambassador, Dr. Haass served as U.S. coordinator for policy toward the future of Afghanistan and was the U.S. envoy to the Northern Ireland peace process. He was also special assistant to President George H.W. Bush and senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs on the staff of the National Security Council from 1989 to 1993. Dr. Haass is the author or editor of eleven books on American foreign policy and one book on management. He regularly writes and speaks on global issues. A Rhodes scholar, he holds a BA from Oberlin College and both master and doctor of philosophy degrees from Oxford University. He has received honorary degrees from Hamilton College, Franklin & Marshall College, Georgetown University, Oberlin College, Central College, and Miami Dade College.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is an important memoir of the two Iraq wars. Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, was a member of the National Security Council advising President George H.W. Bush on Operation Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991. He was later a State Department adviser to Colin Powell on the second Iraq war in 2003. He viewed the first war as a "war of necessity" that we had to wage to evict Saddam Hussein from Kuwait; he viewed the second war as a "war of choice" where the objectives kept changing. In both roles, Haass sought to speak truth to power. In the second case, power didn't listen when he urged that we defer the invasion and give smart sanctions a chance to work.
The book is a poignant personal memoir as well, as Haass ties his connection to powerful historic events with dramatic changes in his own life--marriage and career decision.
All who lived through this cataclysmic period should read this highly readable and riveting book.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Richard Haass brings a unique perspective by having been involved directly in many aspects of the planning of the two gulf wars. During the first Bush administration he was more of an insider than in the second administration, but in both cases he was working directly with the likes of Powell, Rice, Bush I and II, etc.

This is essentially a personal memoir pivoted around the two wars, which were the most important events in the author's career as a policy expert and diplomat. As such, the conclusions about the wars are pretty conventional, i.e. the first war was justified and necessary, while the second one was not. What is more interesting are the little details and stories about the various government meetings and diplomatic trips.

Ultimately I found the book hard to read; it just did not draw me in. I like books that have illustrations, photos or charts, and chapters that are well organized by topic. This book was just an unbroken linear narrative, much of it filled with minute details of meetings between people whose names I didn't care to know.

I would recommend this book only to die-hard foreign policy junkies. The rest of us may found it a little dry and boring, with little original insights into the wars.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Haass had high level policy positions dealing with the Middle East in both Bush I and Bush II administrations. He was thus well placed to understand the how and why of going to war against Iraq both times. He did NOT have any operational role, and was not involved in millitary planning or execution for either war.

His book is highly readable, and adds the policy perspective to the plethora of books describing the more operational issues in both wars. Thus, this is a valuable addition to the rapidly growing library of books on the two Iraq wars.

That said, the policy perspective has some inherent limitations. He honestly admits tht he has no clue how the decision to go to war in Bush II was made. he was doing policy papers, and then all of a sudden, they were completely irrelevant, the decision having been made. He is also willing to criticize some very close friends (Rice does not come accross well), but not the overall process.

His bottom line, which is apparent from the title, is that the first war was right, the second wrong. Hardly a radical position these days. Whether you agree with him or not (which I do not), it is a book well worth rading for an understanding of how policy gets made (or should get made)--at least in the area of foreign affairs.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The author was a high placed advisor in the George H. W Bush (Bush I) administration and was in the inner circle of the decision makers during Gulf War I (GW I). He was part of an influential think tank during the Clinton Administration. During Gulf War II (GW II)the author was again a part of the administration, but a secondary player in the state department. He was not part of the inner circle of decision makers. Thus, the author was much closer to the decisions during Gulf War I, but much further away during Gulf War II. In a way I think it made the book somewhat uneven, because his insights into GW I were much better than GW II. None-the-less, the book is excellent in nearly every respect. I disagree with the author's reasoning about GW II, but that in no way detracts from the author's analysis of the two wars.

Mr. Haass's insights into the cost of ongoing crisis are invaluable. My own research for my Master's Degree substantiate his thoughts about exhaustion and poor decisions. My research confirms that after a rather short period of time under stress, people start making errors, and those errors increase exponentially as time goes on. The author makes this point strongly, and those in power (as well as us common folk) need to pay close attention to this insight. There are several such insights in this book, and those alone are worth the price of admission. His personal insights about the costs of government employment are fun (his postponed honeymoon).

As a diplomat, the author believes in assembling large numbers of partners before going forward in the international realm, and he feels working through international organizations is also necessary - not just desirable. As such, he feels the US went about putting together the first Gulf War correctly.
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