In This Review

Saddam Hussein: A Political Biography
Saddam Hussein: A Political Biography
By Efraim Karsh and Inari Rautsi
307 pp, The Free Press, 1991

A political biography seems to invite the reader to get inside the mind of its subject. This attempt falls short of that goal, but is nonetheless a useful account of how Saddam came to power and how he behaved at various moments in his political career. The authors are on track when they reject the simplistic notion that Saddam is crazy, and they remind us that on many occasions he has shown an adaptability when his personal survival required it. But we do not get much insight into why he behaves as he does. The authors refer frequently to his "insecurity," but most leaders in the Middle East are insecure, and not all are like Saddam. Unfortunately the authors frequently write as if they know what Saddam was feeling or thinking. Surprisingly they see his decision to go to war with Iran in 1980 as forced upon him, a view Saddam has always been eager to promote, but which many dispute.