For the massive bibliography on Middle East crises after September 11, 2001, Frédéric Bozo has contributed a superb analysis of how the United States went to war with Iraq in 2003, and why France, a close North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally, did not. With this excellent translation, it should become a staple in ongoing American debates over why Washington's decisions after September 11 triggered a series of wars and terror that haunt the world more than a decade later. The book's strengths rest solidly on Bozo's mastery of the conflict's extensive bibliography and are enriched by seventy-two interviews, mostly with leading officials in Paris and Washington; exploitation of French, U.S., and United Nations records; and personal papers of French participants. The documents reveal differences among President Jacques Chirac's advisers but also a remarkable consensus that Chirac fashioned to resist Washington's intense pressure to support an invasion of Iraq. Bozo's primary attention is given to 2002 to mid-2003. He emphasizes, however, the importance of the 1990s given both the growing American disaffection for Iraq's Saddam Hussein and the widening split between Paris and Washington. President Bill Clinton came to define Iraq as a rogue state, while, Bozo argues, pressured by Republicans and neoconservatives, Clinton adopted unilateral policies, such as imposing sanctions on Cuba, Iran, and Libya, which were paired with “an increasing temptation to resort to military force” (p. 7). Chirac instead worked for the political rehabilitation and disarmament of Iraq, usually within the United Nations framework. A French official later said that in regard to Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD), “we did not deny the possibility, but we had no proof whatsoever, no ‘smoking gun’” (p. 155). The split rapidly widened after September 11. President George W. Bush defined Iraq as a leading source of that horror (although of the nineteen 9/11 terrorists, fifteen were Saudi), and as a possessor of WMDs. Bozo gives only a brief summary of Iraqi oil's global importance in the decision making, although that importance had become a major priority for top American officials. In May 2002 Chirac warned the president not to intervene militarily because “the Arab world will not accept it” (p. 111). In November, Chirac told Bush, “Once you are there, you are going to have to stay there for years, and you run the risk of creating battalions of little [Osama] Bin Ladens.” Bush, an observer remarked, had a “slightly disdainful air” (p. 159). After initial victories in March 2003, the American-led invasion met considerable Iraqi resistance. Iraqi WMDs were never found. In April 2003, Chirac concluded that the war was “a triple error: moral, political, and strategic” (p. 269). Relations between the two nations warmed again in 2005, but Chirac never retracted his 2003 characterization. © The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Organization of American Historians. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Journal of American History – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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