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Peter Galbraith, the former first ambassador to Croatia book writes, The End of Iraq, a book about the United State’s invasion of Iraq and what to do about the situation now. Galbraith writes, “My purpose is to argue a course of action by which the United States can extricate itself from the mess in Iraq …this strategy should be based on U.S. interests and reflect the reality that Iraq has broken up in all but name.” Galbraith disagrees with American policies towards Iraq. In order to get us out of Iraq, Galbraith argues for the partition of Iraq into three separate states. Straightforward, tough, and at times over the top, The End of Iraq is an overall good read.
Today, Iraq is plagued by civil war, sectarian violence, death, destruction, and instability in the region. As the five-year anniversary of the war has come and gone, it could be argued that nothing substantial has yet to be accomplished. This is due in part by the US invasion of Iraq and a history of occupation by Western countries. Galbraith believes the Bush Administration went into Iraq without a plan. “...President Bush and his top advisors have consistently substituted wishful thinking for analysis and hope for strategy.” Appeasing Hussein was one of the first mistakes made in Iraq by the US.
Chapter Two details the history of the Iran-Iraq war and what it means to the current state of affairs. Galbraith introduces of two leader: Saddam Hussein, former President of Iraq and Ayatollah Tuhollah Khomeini, Iran’s supreme leader. Galbraith highlights not only the historic and political causes for the war, the vendetta Khomeini and Hussein had against each other, but also the ability of the United States to continue diplomatic relations with a dictator who was willing to use chemical weapons on his opponents. By continuing relations with a dictator who went against the 1925 Geneva Protocols ban of the use of chemical weapons, the US appeased Iraq. Motivated by our nations special interests, the Reagan Administration removed Iraq from the list of countries supporting terrorism; gave intelligence to Iraq; overlooked the gross human rights violations, and ultimately, genocide. (19) According to Galbraith, President Ronald Regan admitted to having overlooked these errors and apologized for them. (Page 20). Galbraith also notes Donald Rumsfeld’s failure to raise the issue of chemical weapons with Saddam Hussein on several occasions.
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In Chapter Three, Galbraith continues his list of mismanagements by the US in dealing with Hussein. The Iran-Iraq war has ended and, despite the armistice that went to effect by the two countries, Hussein continues to use chemical weapons, this time against the Kurds. (29) Meanwhile, Hussein was also fighting to destroy Kurdistan. The portrait of Hussein was being clearly painted as an evil, brutal dictator. According to Galbraith, objects displaying symbols of narcissism, his arrogance in the public executions of Kurds and the use of poison gas, and his insatiable fear and distrust of everyone around him, including the Iraqi people.
Galbraith does a good job of outlining the uprising that went on against Iraq. During the early nineties, Kuwait and Iraq’s relations are strained to due to money debts and oil prices. In August of 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Only then did the US finally respond to Iraq. Prior to this, the US was playing nice by providing intelligence to Iraq, continuing with food subsidies, and providing millions of dollars in loans. America did not take action before the invasion of Kuwait because special interests groups would be adversely affected by the sanctions. (23) In a speech given by President Bush, he calls for the people to over throw Hussein. Galbraith goes on to describe how the Iraqis fought to over thrown Saddam yet were not helped at all by the US. In other words, the US was all talk, no game. This caused the breakup of Iraq. The failure on the U.S. to protect culture of Iraq results in a grim outlook on Iraq. The policy of the US was containment. Clearly, the easiest thing to do was to do nothing at all.
Entering Chapter Five, Galbraith brings us to present-day conditions in a post-9/11 society. He argues that George W. Bush and his Administration have led by arrogance and ignorance. This was such the case in the decision to invade Iraq. According to Galbraith, Iraq possessed less of a threat than other countries in the region. By getting bogged down in Iraq, North Korea and Iran were able to purse weapons of mass destruction. Poor planning resulted in chaos after the fall of Hussein. The Bush Administration put in charge people with not enough experience in post-conflict nation-building. All authority vanished. Relations with Iran also suffered due to blunders of the Bush Administration. Galbraith argues that Bush’s ideology counted more than analysis (76). The arrogance of the Bush Administration to believe it could unify a broken country of multiethnic people who were unwilling to negotiate with each other. Example of this is the supposed willingness of the Kurds to work together with Sunni and Shia groups to live together peacefully (99). The arrogance of the US to be able to create a state under such absurd conditions is one of the many failures of the Bush Administration.
In the aftermath of Hussein, the Bush Administration made several mistakes. The leadership they established in Iraq was incompetent. As a result of mismanagement, many important items were left unguarded. Materials used to make nuclear weapons were left unguarded. Yellowcake, high precision artilitery, viles of black fever, polio, HIV, and cholera were stolen and more than likely ended up in the hands of insurgents. According to Galbraith, Donald Rumsfeld, was unable to manage Iraq after the fall of Hussein and so the culture of Iraq was also lost. Public buildings, institutions (with high value to intelligence) and museums were destroyed. The legitimacy and creditability of the United States as effective was tarnished in the region. Galbraith states that, “…The Administration failed in its legal duty as an occupying power to safeguard the country’s culture heritage”
Galbraith goes on to cite examples of the failures in the Bush Administration this time by bringing to light cronyism, people getting jobs who were not qualified, corruption, fraud, problems with the police. He ends with this chapter by pretty much saying the transfer of power all a joke.
Galbraith dedicates Chapter 8 is the chapter on Kurdistan. Galbraith believes that the Kurds will fight to the end for their independence. Their strong deep seeded hatred and resentment will prevent the US’s hope of the unified country of Iraq.
Several years into Iraq, the Bush Administration is still clueless about the complexities of the Iraq’s people. Despite the hand over of power to Iraq’s leaders, Sunni, Shiites, and Kurds are unable and unwilling to reach an agreement over the terms of constitution.
Chapter 10 is the proposed solution to the mess in Iraq. Galbraith believes the US should work with the divisions that are already present with Iraq. The Kurds, Shiites, and Sunni are concentrated in their respectable regions. Furthermore, Galbraith believes the terms of the constitution of Iraq allow for the Kurds to retain the de-facto independence they have thus achieved as well as secular status and human rights protections. The arrogance and ignorance of the Bush Administration have proved that a single country cannot be constructed based on ideology alone. Galbraith argues for America to help facilitate the establishment of governments in each state. When the situation becomes stable, US forces can withdraw. The US has already failed miserably in Iraq. Working with the different ethnic groups in Iraq is in the interests of the US. (206)
The last chapter of the book is dedicated to Galbraith’s opinion on how American can get out of Iraq. In Galbraith’s opinion, the US cannot leave the Green Zone. Iraq would have come part sooner or later after Hussein. A unified Iraq is not possible. The US should work to keep its friends in the region i.e. the Kurds. Realize that the there is little America can do in the Sunni /Shia mixed areas. Iraq must be partitioned into Kurdistan, a Shiite south, and a Sunni Arab center.
Throughout the book, a question that comes to mind is, “ Did the United Sates ever got anything right in Iraq?” Although the tone of the book is arrogant, Galbraith does a good job of outlining mistakes made in Iraq since 1979. From Ronald Regan complacent strategy on Iraq i.e. his administrations failure to impose sanctions against Hussein after the use of poison gas, to the millions of dollars provided in food subsides, intelligence sharing, then changing strategy and arming Iran, President George H. W. Bush inability to remove Hussein, George W. Bush “axis of evil speech”, invasion of Iraq based on incorrect intelligence, and much more are laid out quite nicely. The evidence presented in this book is persuasive by the use of melodrama. The strengths of the book that it makes personally compelling story that appeals to everyone. The plight of the Kurds is especially compelling. On the flip side, it is interesting to note Galbraith’s relations with Kurdistan, as he is a paid advisor. The author however does not fully fulfill its promise in the preface to explain how the US is to get out of Iraq. Instead, it follows the author’s personal experiences in Iraq. Only the last two chapters are actually dedicated to the solution of the Iraq problem. However, the book is a must read.