“The Wars of the Bushes” and “Operation by sdaferv


									                                           BOOK REVIEWS
THE WARS OF THE BUSHES                                            The essential premise of “The Wars of the Bushes”
by Stephen Tanner,                                           is that George H.W. Bush was an incomparably
Philadelphia: Casemate, 2004                                 better wartime president and strategist than George W. Bush.
                                                             Tanner is candid in his assessment. The first Bush he sees as
OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM                                      a gifted and capable leader, a talented tactician, a gifted
                                                             diplomat and a masterful strategist. George H.W. Bush’s
by Thomas Donnelly,                                          tenure in Washington is depicted as being possibly
Washington: AEI Press, 2004                                  “the most surehanded military leadership” in American
                                                             history. Tanner’s book assesses the development of
Reviewed by Lieutenant-Colonel Michael
                                                             the First Gulf War as “a near-perfect campaign, one in
                                                             which foreign policy, a brilliantly recast American
                                                             military, and a superb team at the White House engineered

                he Wars of the Bushes” and “Operation        a magnificent victory at very little cost.” He sees ‘George
“               Iraqi Freedom” are two recent publications
                that are worth reading for the starkly
                differing views they provide on the war
                                                             Senior’s’ triumphs in the Middle East as his paradoxical
                                                             undoing – Americans released from their external
                                                             worries were freed to concentrate on internal matters.
                in Iraq. Although both books have evident
political biases, they are useful in                                               George W. Bush he views in rather
gaining a sense of perspective on the most                                    less flattering terms. The younger
important conflict of the post-modern era.                                    Bush he describes as a frightening
                                                                              gunslinger who has left America isolated
     Both books view the Iraqi campaign                                       and pursuing a reckless and incoherent
from a political and a strategic perspective,                                 foreign policy in the world’s most
but these volumes offer a good deal                                           dangerous flashpoint. While it is difficult
more than that for they define the                                            to find fault with Tanner’s view of
limits of the strategic debate on Iraq.                                       Bush the Elder’s strategic abilities,
Neither provides much in terms of                                             his assessment of Bush the Younger
what the available intelligence picture                                       is harsh and disparaging. Time will
was like before the war, nor do they                                          prove one way or another as to whether
present a great deal of information                                           Tanner’s assessment is correct – and
in terms of understanding how the                                             it is beyond the remit of this journal
Iraqi campaign is currently being fought.                                     to forward judgments on allied politicians.
And, given their timely nature, both                                          Nonetheless, Tanner’s book is an
books show evidence of being written                                          instructive read for the military officer
in haste. Despite these issues, which                                         for a number of other reasons. He
are far from fatal criticisms, both                                           provides a useful overview of American
books should be read as a kind of news                                        military policy in two post-modern
genre and not as definitive examinations                                      wars, and he provides a representative
of the subject. In a world of sound                                           critical synopsis of American strategy
bytes    and     shrink-wrapped      opinion                                  in dealing with terrorism in the Islamic
pieces, such a genre has its place                                            world. Tanner also gives us much food
on the reading list of the thoughtful                                         for thought on the efficacy and the
officer. These slender books are very                                         implementation of the new post 9/11
much a ‘snap shot in time’ viewed                                             doctrine of pre-emptive war. For these
from     two      diametrically     opposed                                   reasons alone, this book is worthwhile
angles. If regarded as such, they                                             reading for Canadian officers. Whether
have value.                                                                   or not one agrees with Tanner’s position,
                                                                              there is value in Canadians looking
     “The Wars of the Bushes” is a brief,                                     at both sides of these issues. There is
highly readable examination of the                                            unquestionably a degree of ambiguity
First and Second Gulf Wars. It was                                            and complexity about the Iraq war that
written by the American historian Stephen                                     soldiers, politicians and private citizens
Tanner and provides an overview of                                            cannot ignore. Studying all dimensions
American policy towards Iraq from                                             of this phase of what is likely to be
the early 1990s until 2004. Tanner’s                                          a long and involved conflict is a
assessment of the last 15 years is, in a                                      useful exercise. Tanner’s criticisms of
unique way, non-partisan, but it is by no                                     George W. Bush’s war in Iraq are terse
means neutral.

78                                                                   Canadian Military Journal         ●   Spring 2005
                                       BOOK REVIEWS
and pointed, but his criticisms are a more tempered         as an apologist or an advocate for Bush, but he
variety than the strident brand of foreign policy           provides context and structure for his descriptions
assessment popularized by Michael Moore and kindred         of how the subsequent campaign unfolded. He spends
members of the anti-war movement. Canadian Forces           little time assessing the issue of weapons of mass
officers should understand the nuances of this              destruction or the al Qaeda link and, instead, focuses
conflict and Tanner’s assessment is potentially one         on the nature of Saddam Hussein’s rule and the need
aspect of that understanding. Even though Tanner            to rebuild a prosperous and democratic Iraq.
shows an unconcealed bias, his assessment is a
worthwhile examination of a problem that will be with            Donnelly spends considerable effort in describing
us for some time to come.                                   the build-up to war and the conduct of the actual
                                                            invasion. Although his descriptions of the actual
    Tanner’s book has incidental qualities that recommend   campaign are concise and authentic, they do not
it as well. He provides useful insights into some           provide the reader with much detail or any real
of the key players and the political milieu that has        feel for the pace and nature of the battle. Donnelly’s
been influential in shaping the events of these wars:       views (and Tanner’s) on the counter-insurgency campaign
Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Clinton, Clark and of             that followed the conventional victory are again
course, the two Bushes are all painted in fascinating       ‘light’ on descriptions of the actual operations or
vignettes, each of which underscores the need to            any assessments as to how the war should be fought.
understand the force of individual characters in            Instead, he concentrates, for the most part, on the
shaping global events.                                      political aspects of a prolonged war in Iraq. Donnelly
                                                            is a proponent of the school of thought that advocates
     “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, written by Thomas           a further transformation and development of the
Donnelly is, on the other hand, a useful contrast           American army to turn it into a force capable of
to Tanner’s book. Donnelly has a background both            defeating the insurgency in Iraq.
as a journalist and as a staffer on the House Armed
Services Committee. He is also a resident fellow                 Both these authors focus on staking out their
of the American Enterprise Institute. “Operation Iraqi      views on the strategic advisability of the war.
Freedom” is worth reading for several reasons, not          Both volumes are short and have been written with
the least of which is that it provides balance and          a view to influencing a thoughtful readership as to
contrast to Tanner’s trenchant views on the war.            the value of the war to both Americans and the rest
Donnelly believes that the invasion of Iraq and             of the world. In this respect, they will have a brief
the creation of a democratic beachhead in the               shelf life. That should not deter people from reading these
Middle East was a strategic necessity. He also              works. There is value in this kind of extended essay.
puts forward the interesting proposition that it            At the time of writing, it is too early to predict how
was the Pentagon that misunderstood the true nature         the war will play out, but the conflict is certainly a long way
of the conflict as it organized the US military to          from its final conclusions and war is not a predictable
fight the war rapidly rather than thoroughly crushing       endeavour. Accordingly, we would do well to give both
all armed resistance. Donnelly takes a much more            these interpretations of the war some serious thought.
benign view of George W. Bush than does Tanner,
and the early and latter chapters of his book are
liberally sprinkled with quotations from President Bush’s   Michael Goodspeed is an infantry officer employed in staff duties
speeches. Donnelly is careful not to be perceived           at the Canadian Defence Academy.

Spring 2005     ●   Canadian Military Journal                                                                                   79

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