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Is democracy possible in Iraq? Or should the United States divide Iraq along ethnic or sectarian lines? In The Future of Iraq, Anderson and Stansfield, two British political scientists, suggest the United States has four options in Iraq: "Democracy Lite," prolonged occupation, establishment of a puppet regime, or "managed partition." They make clear their preference for the latter.

The authors are hostile to the idea that Iraq as a single entity is capable of democracy. "The complex and traumatic legacy of 80 years of Iraqi history will prove difficult to overcome," they write. Their historical narrative, however, is flawed. Iraq is not as artificial as they claim: the concept of Iraq dates to the seventh century; reference to Iraq is common in nineteenth-century diplomatic correspondence, both British and Iranian. Attempts by Anderson and Stansfield to "contextualize" Saddam's crimes fall flat. Saddam may have used chemical weapons against the Kurds in 1988, but hadn't the British also used chemical weapons against them in 1920, they ask. Yes, but times change.

The narrative is handicapped by its snide anti-Americanism, which sheds more light on British academe than on U.S. decision-making. Anderson and Stansfield wrap the introduction, for example, around a Daily Mirror survey exposing American geographic ignorance.[1] But, the Daily Mirror, a leftist British tabloid, is not known for its accuracy. In May 2004, its editor resigned after publishing fabricated prison abuse photos.

A "blame America first" mentality pervades the book. Anderson and Stansfield argue, for example, that it was Washington's no-nonsense approach to sanctions, rather than either Saddam's own pathology or flagrant violations by European and Arab companies, that forced Iraq to cease cooperation with the U.N. The authors lament failure by Washington to deal with immediate causes of regional resentment such as "U.S. support for Israel" before the Bush administration launched an ambitious campaign to democratize the Middle East.

Anderson and Stansfield have little understanding of U.S. policy. They juxtapose the U.S. war on terrorism with questions about the Iraq-Al-Qaeda link. But, the Bush administration has never limited the war on terror to Al-Qaeda. Saddam bragged of spending millions on suicide bombers. He hosted Achille Lauro mastermind Abu Abbas. Their shallow reading of U.S. policy is due in part to over-reliance on secondary sources. Rather than reference carefully crafted U.S. policy statements, for example, the authors cite commentary from British pundits. The authors are also selective with evidence. They fault the liberation of Iraq for exacerbating regional hostility toward the United States but completely ignore the cheering Iraqi mobs that greeted U.S. troops in Baghdad, subsequent pro-American demonstrations in Tehran, and the vibrant debate about democracy sparked among Arab liberals.

The Future of Iraq is an impassioned plea for Iraq's dissolution. Both the situation in Iraq and Iraqi discourse about its future are far more complex than either author lets on. As a result, The Future of Iraq is far more likely to inhabit the dusty stacks of university libraries rather than the shelves of policy practitioners.

[1] Nov. 21, 2002.