OVERREACH by Michael  MacDonald


Delusions of Regime Change in Iraq
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An academic employs a variety of theories to explain the failure of American policymakers after the invasions of Iraq that began in 2003.

MacDonald (International Relations/Williams Coll.; Why Race Matters in South Africa, 2006, etc.) does not come across as neutral, despite employing sometimes-abstract theory to discuss on-the-ground warfare; in fact, he calls the war "destructive and irrational." While the ideas of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke provide material for MacDonald in substantial sections of the book, the author mostly integrates theories from a variety of modern academic disciplines to explain why the George W. Bush administration chose to mount a war that seemingly had no chance of achieving even most of the stated objectives. Although keenly critical of Republicans, MacDonald does not spare the Democratic supporters of the war, and he discusses the apparent calculations of then-Senator Hillary Clinton for voting, however reluctantly, to wage war. If the American war machine had simply settled for ousting Saddam Hussein, the war may have been considered at least a partial success. However, writes MacDonald, the regime change so desired by the war's supporters failed to result in anything resembling American-style democracy, thus rendering the costly (both in the financial sense and regarding the loss of life) war counterproductive. The author calls into question some of the popular theories about why Bush chose to invade, theories that revolve around Israeli influence, the quest for Iraqi oil reserves, and the Republican Party's electoral campaigns to win the White House as well as both chambers of Congress. While knocking down certain theories, MacDonald demonstrates vigorously and with intellectual clarity why the tenets of American exceptionalism do not usually translate to other areas of the world, with Iraq being just one example.

A useful analysis of failed American military initiatives that could inform future debates about interventions in traditionally despotic nations that are also split among historically hostile religious factions.

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0674729100
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Harvard Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2014


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