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The End of Iraq by Peter W. Galbraith

The End of Iraq

by Peter W. Galbraith

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197593,887 (3.83)2
The United States invaded Iraq with grand ambitions to bring it democracy and thereby transform the Middle East. Instead, Iraq has disintegrated into three constituent components: a pro-western Kurdistan in the north, an Iran-dominated Shiite entity in the south, and a chaotic Sunni Arab region in the center. The country is plagued by insurgency and is in the opening phases of a potentially catastrophic civil war.George W. Bush broke up Iraq when he ordered its invasion in 2003. The United States not only removed Saddam Hussein, it also smashed and later dissolved the institutions by which Iraq's Sunni Arab minority ruled the country: its army, its security services, and the Baath Party. With these institutions gone and irreplaceable, the basis of an Iraqi state has disappeared.The End of Iraq describes the administration's strategic miscalculations behind the war as well as the blunders of the American occupation. There was the failure to understand the intensity of the ethnic and religious divisions in Iraq. This was followed by incoherent and inconsistent strategies for governing, the failure to spend money for reconstruction, the misguided effort to create a national army and police, and then the turning over of the country's management to Republican political loyalists rather than qualified professionals. As a matter of morality, Peter W. Galbraith writes, the Kurds of Iraq are no less entitled to independence than are Lithuanians, Croatians, or Palestinians. And if the country's majority Shiites want to run their own affairs, or even have their own state, on what democratic principle should they be denied?If the price of a unified Iraq is another dictatorship, Galbraith writes, it is too high a price to pay. The United States must now focus not on preserving or forging a unified Iraq but on avoiding a spreading and increasingly dangerous and deadly civil war. It must accept the reality of Iraq's breakup and work with Iraq's Shiites, Kurds, and Sunni Arabs to strengthen the already semi-independent regions. If they are properly constituted, these regions can provide security, though not all will be democratic. There is no easy exit from Iraq for America. We have to relinquish our present strategy-trying to build national institutions when there is, in fact, no nation. That effort is doomed, Galbraith argues, and it will only leave the United States with an open-ended commitment in circumstances of uncontrollable turmoil. Galbraith has been in Iraq many times over the last twenty-one years during historic turning points for the country: the Iran-Iraq War, the Kurdish genocide, the 1991 uprising, the immediate aftermath of the 2003 war, and the writing of Iraq's constitutions. In The End of Iraq, he offers many firsthand observations of the men who are now Iraq's leaders. He draws on his nearly two decades of involvement in Iraq policy working for the U.S. government to appraise what has occurred and what will happen. The End of Iraq is the definitive account of this war and its ramifications.… (more)



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Interesting view of what should be done in Iraq.
  jhawn | Jul 31, 2017 |
The premise is that Iraq or Iraqis were never real entities and goes on to explain why rather well. The usual list of mistakes are enumerated but with the background of Kurd, Sunni, and Shiite in fighting. Next time you read about the Iraqi army think about whose soldiers they really are. ( )
  JBreedlove | Oct 22, 2008 |
Peter Galbraith can not see any hope in continuing to work towards a united and secular Iraq and after reading this book I agree with him. Scathingly critical of the Bush administration for its constant blunders and prioritising cheap shallow PR gains for real strategies PG says that this is a war which the US can not win. He argues that Iraq is already at civil war and has effectively split into three states already. While he sees some ways forward in cartain areas the fact that he has no answers on how to deal with Baghdad, the increasing Iranian influence in the South or the international problems created by an increasingly independent Kurdistan suggest that we are all going to be hearing about this region for decades to come. ( )
  furriebarry | Oct 9, 2008 |
Very interesting book by someone who has spent much of the last 20 years in the middle east, especially Kurdistan. Very harsh judgement not just on George W. Bush and his administration, but also his father. Very explicitly cites the Reverse Domino Theory ( )
  jaygheiser | Jul 23, 2008 |
I saw this book on the library shelf and almost passed it up, not sure if I wanted to read another book on Iraq. But I looked at the author information and saw that Peter Galbraith spent several years in the U.S. government and thought it might be an interesting perspective. And so it is. Galbraith worked for many years as the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as the first U.S. Ambassador to Croatia, and as a professor at the National War College, He is now the Senior Diplomatic Fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

In those jobs, particularly as the Senate staffer, he had a lot of contact with Iraqi matters, particularly with the Kurds, and his personal experiences make fascinating reading. He also is enough of an insider, and enough of an expert, to give a well-reasoned analysis of the U.S intervention in Iraq and the current situation in Iraq.

The single most telling piece of information about the U.S. involvement in Iraq is the meeting President Bush had with three important Iraqis, two of whom talked to Galbraith about the meeting. It was two months before the U.S. invasion. The Iraqis were discussing the situation in Iraq, and it became clear to them that Bush did not understand the terms Sunni and Shia, and the Iraqis spent most of the meeting trying to explain (p. 83). Galbraith uses this to point out the dangerous arrogance in the Bush administration: "...there was a belief that Iraq was a blank slate on which the United States believed it could impose its vision of a pluralistic democratic society. The arrogance came in the form of a belief that this could be accomplished with minimal effort and planning by the United States and that it was not important to know something about Iraq." (p. 84) And later: "Charles Freeman, who served as George H. W. Bush's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, put it this way: "We invaded not Iraq, but the Iraq of our dreams, a country that didn't exist, that we didn't understand. And it is therefore not surprising that we knocked the kaleidescope into a new pattern that we find surprising. The ignorant are always surprised." (p. 101)

Galbraith also gives a masterful depiction of why civil war in Iraq was almost inevitable once Saddam Hussein was gone: "All the ingredients for civil war existed in Iraq in 2003: Sunni Arabs bitter at their ouster from positions of power and privilege, and fearful of the future; Shiites insistent that Iraq will be ruled on their terms; a Sunni belief that Shiites are traitors bent not only on destroying the Iraq the Sunnis had built but also on handing over the country to a bitter national enemy [Iran]; a Shiite belief that many Sunni Arabs were unrepentant supporters of Saddam Hussein who would enthusiastically resume the killing of Shiites if ever again given a chance at power." (p. 175)

As for the future, Galbraith believes devolution is the best answer to the realities of an Iraq that was an unnatural pairing of religious and ethnic groups to begin with and which has suffered miserably from the cruel oppression of a minority. The autonomy of the Kurds is pretty well assured and in the future Kurdistan is almost certain to become an independent state, and even Turkey has become more resigned to that outcome. The Shiite South is also moving towards becoming a region, and may become fairly stable. The Sunni Arabs in the Sunni-dominated areas are beginning to see the wisdom in fighting the insurgents. It is in Baghdad that Galbraith sees no solution. Like many commentators, Galbraith believes the U.S. presence is harmful, not helpful, although he advocates strengthening the Kurds, our best ally in the region, and thinks a U.S. base there would be appropriate and not unwelcome to the Kurds.

The book also has a good index, and a useful appendix about the political parties in Iraq.

In sum, an excellent, highly recommended book. ( )
  reannon | Nov 22, 2007 |
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