Retired General Wesley Clark's follow up to his insightful, detailed memoir of NATO's victorious Kosovo campaign begins as a concise analysis of the 2003 military invasion/occupation of Iraq and wends its way to a troubling yet ultimately hopeful examination of America at an unprecedented domestic, economic, and geopolitical crossroads. Clark's keen intellect (he was a Rhodes Scholar and graduated first in his class at West Point) and refreshing gift for intelligent plain-speaking often call attention to salient observations too often overlooked in the daily jumble of selective news and political spin. Our conflicts with Iraq have not been two distinct wars, but an unceasing, 13-year-long military campaign; the ambitious Pax Americana envisioned by Bush administration neocons is not only unsustainable, but a redundant anachronism, America having long ago created a "virtual empire" by dint of its interlocking international business relationships, cultural lure, and (ideally) moral leadership. His critics may label it the political manifesto of an ambitious presidential contender (a charge he quickly addresses in his introduction with a pre-emptive strike that is, given the subject matter, a bit ironic), but Clark's vision of an engaged, enterprising America leading the world instead of dominating it is rooted in an objective understanding of history, our nation's own longstanding philosophical ideals, and no small amount of refreshing horse sense (are we fighting terrorism by creating terrorists? And how safe is a country that starves its very security apparatus with unsound economic policies?). Ever loyal to the armed forces he served with distinction for 33 years, Clark also never passes up an opportunity to praise our nation's best and bravest, the men and women who are the cutting edge of America's sword, be it yielded with restrained wisdom or reckless abandon. --Jerry McCulley
From Publishers Weekly
While this work's origins do not seem to lie in its author's presidential ambitions, its publication is clearly timed to reinforce General Clark's newly announced candidacy. The effect is a work with a split personality. Its first half is a narrative and analysis of the military campaign that overthrew Saddam Hussein's government in three weeks during the spring of 2003. Clark, a highly visible commentator during the operation, describes the U.S. ability to synchronize firepower and maneuvers as decisive in crushing an Iraqi army whose fighting power had been significantly overestimated. He is appropriately enthusiastic about the competence displayed at all levels, from the senior headquarters down to companies and platoons. He recognizes a level of flexibility and a readiness to take risks that are unusual, if not unique, in U.S. military operations, even though both seem to make him uncomfortable. The plan, Clark argues, took unnecessary risks by skimping on the forces committed. More seriously--and here the work shifts focus and becomes a campaign statement--the Bush administration, he says, was so focused on winning the military war that it made inadequate preparations for occupation and reconstruction. Clark argues that the administration has refused to seek legitimacy from the U.N. and NATO, or to build on the international sympathy manifested immediately after 9/11. The strategic result, Clark says, has been a loss of focus on what he calls the "real war" against terrorism, a neglect of domestic security and a concentration on preemptively challenging purportedly hostile states. The practical consequences, he believes, include a series of wasted opportunities in Afghanistan, a possible quagmire in Iraq and the increasing isolation of a U.S. that uses war as a first option instead of a last resort. Clark concludes by calling for a return to international cooperation combined with greater emphasis on a sound economy.
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