Dark Victory: America's Second War against Iraq
by Jeffrey Record
Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2004. 375 pp. $24.95.
Reviewed by Michael Rubin
Middle East Quarterly
In 1993, Record, a former Senate Armed Services Committee staff member, authored Hollow Victory: A Contrary View of the Gulf War in which he took President George H.W. Bush to task for not ousting Saddam Hussein. In the present book, Record takes George W. Bush to task for having corrected his father's mistake.
The new book, while well written, is reduced by the author's permeating antipathy for so-called neoconservatives, alleging without proof that a sympathy for Israel's Likud Party colors their view of the world. While it is true that neoconservatives tend to be staunch supporters of Israel, every president since Harry Truman has defended Israel's right to exist and to defend itself. Nor is there anything new about U.S. support for democracy or opposition to terror. The only recent development is a willingness of the U.S. government to reach out to new partners, even if this means working without traditional allies. Record further blames neoconservatives for "the president's controversial use-of-force doctrine," curiously overlooking the impact of 9/11 on Bush's thinking.
Record holds neoconservatives responsible for pursuing policies that cause many adversaries to dislike the United States. He laments "the Bush administration's foreign policy fails to grasp the fact that others do not see us as we see ourselves—that is, as a benign and historically exceptional force." But the Bush administration does grasp this; it just believes that being respected is more important than being liked. The costs of winning Syrian, North Korean, or Chinese favor for U.S. policy would be too high if it meant abandonment of democracies such as Israel, South Korea, and Taiwan. Conversely, Libyan strongman Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi may not like the United States, but it was his respect for the Bush administration's willingness to back force with military action that led to his decision to abandon his nuclear ambitions.
Record's style is confident and authoritative with plenty of facts cited and examples given. A close read, though, shows that Record ignores facts that undermine his arguments. For example, he trumpets a 1999 UNICEF report that relied on Iraqi government statistics to conclude that sanctions on Iraq killed 500,000 Iraqi children; he ignores a joint Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization study the following year that found that half the Iraqi population was overweight, and that hypertension and diabetes—not diseases of the hungry—were among the leading causes of Iraqi mortality. Other facts he simply gets wrong. How could the Defense Department have airlifted Ahmad Chalabi into Iraq during military operations when Chalabi had returned to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq months before the war began?
Dark Victory has many other weaknesses. Record engages in one-man's-terrorist-is-another's-patriot moral relativism. He conflates the Afghan mujahideen with Al-Qaeda, an anachronism that ignores a decade-long fight between Al-Qaeda pan-Islamists and Afghan nationalists such as Ahmad Shah Masud. While determined to debunk any analogy between postwar Japan and Iraq, Record ignores the South Korea example, frequently cited by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Notably absent from a book about Iraq is any consideration of what Iraqis think; Record writes as if Iraqis do not exist.
A book should be more than a glorified op-ed. Unfortunately, Dark Victory is not.
 Washington: Brassey's, 1993.
 Assessment of the Food and Nutrition Situation: Iraq (Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2000), p. viii.
Related Topics: Iraq, US policy | Michael Rubin | Spring 2005 MEQ
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