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The United States and the Middle East are at a critical moment in their individual and common histories. The first international crisis of the post-Cold War era culminated in war. But despite the flood of instant information and analysis provided by television and the press during the course of the Gulf War, most Americans remain ill informed about the history of the region, the policies that brought Iraq, Kuwait, and the U.S.-led coalition to confrontation, and the complex problems that will shape the postwar Middle East. The United States has embarked upon a qualitatively new involvement with the region -- a commitment that raises important questions: What is the proper role of U.S. power in the world today? Can it be guided by moral precepts, or is realpolitik and the balance of power the only choice for policymakers? What are the root causes of instability and discontent in the Middle East? Can lasting peace be brought to that tormented part of the world by the forcible intervention of outside powers? Are there other, less violent ways of resolving the disputes among the countries and peoples of the region? Can America's foreign policy be more tightly tethered to democratic debate and control? And what about the "peace dividend" and the pressing priorities back home?
With these words, we began our 1991 anthology, The Gulf War Reader. Sadly, or ironically, the same observations and the same questions, with minor variations, seem just as relevant today. The Gulf War, which ended in an unsettled cease-fire ordered by the first President Bush, is being finished by the second President Bush. And despite the explosion of 24-hour news coverage and the Internet, most Americans still "remain ill informed" about the history and complexity of the region. For example, polls show that about half believe one or more Iraqis helped hijack the planes of September 11th, when in fact none were involved on that terrible day that is so altering our country's self-perception. (This observation is more than merely academic: cross-tabulation shows that those who believed that were 20 to 35 percent more likely to support going to war with Saddam.) Moreover, questions about the proper role of American power and the root causes of instability and discontent have only grown more urgent since our earlier book. Today, America, and indeed much of the Western world, face a new kind of enemy, a network of angry individuals that does not appear to be deterrable through conventional means. In the face of this threat, the leaders of the United States have embraced a new doctrine of pre-emptive action that they say is needed to prevent future September 11ths. Others see it as a dangerously destabilizing and self-defeating grab at imperial dominance.
This book is meant to be a guide to the most urgent foreign policy questions of our time, as raised and interpreted by political leaders, academics, diplomats, journalists and critics. First, in Part One, "Sins of the Fathers," we examine how the West, and in particular the United States, came to clash with Saddam Hussein. What are the roots of Arab and Islamic resentment? Where did Saddam come from? How and why did the United States support him for so many years? And what happened when both sides, not quite allies but not enemies either, came to misunderstand each other's intentions over Kuwait?
In Part Two, "Aftermaths of the Gulf War," we cover the period from 1991 through 2001. How did Saddam manage to survive the Kurdish and Shiite uprisings of 1991, and what might his unlikely survival teach future rulers of Iraq? In what ways did the Pentagon and the White House succeed in manipulating the American press and public, and what lessons in skepticism may we learn as citizens judging present statements from our leaders? How did the sanctions and inspections regimes of the 1990s fall apart? How far did Iraq get in trying to develop a nuclear bomb? And who planted the seeds for the current war?
In Part Three, "War With Iraq," we endeavor to cover the whole spectrum of domestic debate over the war (with a few salient international voices as well). How should the country have responded to September 11th? Who are the authors of the new Bush Doctrine, and will their handiwork prove practicable and constructive? Is unilateral action wise or foolhardy? Did Congress abrogate its constitutional responsibility when it authorized President Bush to decide whether the nation should go to war? Was Saddam deterrable? Was he even the right target? What are the odds that regime change in Iraq will have long-term positive effects, like the liberation of long-suffering peoples and the emergence of new Arab democracies? Were U.N. inspections working, or was war the only way to enforce the Security Council's resolutions? Can countries with huge stockpiles of their own weapons of mass destruction prevent others from wanting, and getting, them too?
Finally, in Part Four, "Through a Glass Darkly," we peer forward through the fog of war into the future. There was much discussion even before the war started of how Iraq's society and government might be remade for the better after Saddam's fall; most of our authors offer cautionary notes on how difficult and dangerous a task that will be. Likewise, much was made of how this war represented a paradigm shift in America's relations with the rest of the world. Here we offer muscular and optimistic views of Pax Americana from three of its leading proponents, along with several essays presenting a more skeptical view of empire.
The Iraq War Reader was completed as the diplomatic dance in the Security Council came to an end and the war began. Whether that war was destined to be quick or drawn-out, relatively painless or truly horrifying, we cannot know, although you, dear reader, probably already do. (Visit our website at IraqWarReader.com for ongoing updates and more recommended reading.) It is our hope that our book will enrich and deepen the debates that are to come.
Assembling an anthology like this, especially against a background of quickly changing events, would have been impossible without the extraordinary efforts of many people.
First and foremost, we'd like to thank our mutual friend Victor Navasky, who introduced us in 1991, just in time to collaborate on The Gulf War Reader. (Imagine our sense of déja vù -- pardon the untimely use of French! -- as we once again scrambled to put together a book as war clouds gathered over the Middle East.)
We are also especially grateful to Richard Butler, Joost Hiltermann, Lewis Lapham, and Kevin Phillips, who took extra time and effort to contribute newly written or adapted works to our anthology, and who offered shrewd and useful suggestions for other pieces as well.
Special thanks are due Jane Aaron, Bill Arkin, Monie Begley, John Berendt, Marc Cooper, David Corn, Bill Effros, Gloria Emerson, Louise Gikow, Hendrik Hertzberg, Christopher Hitchens, Doug Ireland, Michael Levine, John Moyers, Danny Schechter, Nermeen Shaikh, Norman Stiles, Raymond Shapiro, Bob Silvers, Ken Socha, Chris Toensing, Katrina vanden Heuvel, and (last but hardly least!) Steve Wasserman, for their friendship, patience, advice, and support. Nick Nyhart and the whole staff of Public Campaign cut one of us much valuable slack, and his colleagues Nancy Watzman and Rick Bielke deserve special appreciation for picking up that slack, as do the many generous members of the Between the Lions creative and production teams whose phone calls went mysteriously unanswered during the early weeks of 2003.
The writers whose works form the body of this book are, of course, the true creators of The Iraq War Reader; we are truly grateful for their kindness and cooperation. We owe a debt as well to several very fine resources: the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP), Laurie Mylroie's Iraq Daily, TheWarInContext.org, the Global Policy Forum (globalpolicy.org), the International Crisis Group (crisisweb.org), Chuck Spinney's Defense and the National Interest (d-n-i.net) and Gary Milhollin's Iraq Watch.
We offer our special thanks to our agents Ed Victor, Kim Witherspoon, and David Forrer; to Tina Fuscaldo and Lisa Weinert, who worked tirelessly on assembling and organizing our manuscript (and us!); to Brett Valley, who was always there to lend a cheerful and efficient helping hand; and to Donna Fuscaldo, whose research efforts played a critical role. We are especially grateful, too, to Cheryl Moch, our peerless permissions editor (and longtime friend); to Nancy Inglis, who shepherded our book wisely and thoughtfully through a daunting series of typesetting and copyediting deadlines; to Kelly Farley and the gallant folks at Dix Type, who excelled at an impossible typesetting task; to London King and Marcia Burch, our public relations gurus; to Francine Kass, our art director; and to Mark Gompertz, publisher of the Touchstone division of Simon & Schuster, who believed in our endeavor from the outset, and graciously smoothed the way for us whenever smoothing was required.
Were it not for Trish Todd, our editor (and the editor-in-chief of Touchstone Books), whose unexpected email message launched this project, there would have been no Iraq War Reader. Thanks, Trish, for getting us started, and for the vision and good humor you displayed throughout the editorial process!
Thanks as well to our families (both official and non-official), who put up with more than the usual amount of distraction and free-floating angst from us during the final weeks of this project; your love and support mean everything to us.
And, finally, we'd like to acknowledge our debt to Marcus Raskin and the late Bernard Fall, editors of The Vietnam Reader, and Marvin Gettleman, who edited Vietnam: History, Documents, and Opinions on a Major World Crisis. Their seminal works were the "mothers of all wartime anthologies," and we're honored, for the second time in twelve years, to be able to follow in their footsteps.
Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf
New York City
March 27, 2003
Copyright © 2003 by Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf