GEORGE BUSH'S WAR by Jean Edward Smith


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According to Smith (Political Science/Univ. of Toronto; Lucius D. Clay 1990, etc.) in this volatile study, America's adventure in the Persian Gulf War was not a crusade for freedom but a checkpoint on the personal agenda of George Bush, who disregarded constitutional restrictions on presidential power and cynically manipulated the public, the press, Congress, and even the military. Quoting contemporary media accounts, books, and academic and law journals, Smith chronicles Bush's personalization of the crisis and details the resulting twists and turns of public perception, policy, and action. By Smith's account, Bush showed little interest in the Iraq situation until he met with Margaret Thatcher, who ""performed a successful backbone transplant"" and convinced him that Saddam Hussein posed a Hitler-like threat to the entire Middle East. According to Smith, this resonated with Bush's penchant for heroism and led him to adopt a ""crusading"" posture against Iraq. This personalizing of world affairs resulted in rapid, short-term success, but Smith spells out its possible dangers for democracy: Bush's alleged disregarding of expert advice, particularly from the State Department and the military, could have led to disaster, Smith says; and the crumbling of congressional caution during the crisis, he adds, undermined the separation of powers, making the President a virtual dictator of foreign policy. Particularly damning is Smith's abundant evidence of the Administration's policy of ""minimum candor"": even Generals Powell and Schwartzkopf apparently learned of Bush's decision to switch from defensive to offensive operations through TV news reports. Balancing criticism of the President with praise for military professionalism (especially in resisting adventurous campaigns), this study gives a better sense of the complexities of the situation, and sticks closer to the reported facts, than Stephen Graubard's similar (and similarly titled) Mr. Bush's War (to be published next month).

Pub Date: March 20th, 1992
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Henry Holt