In This Review

The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End
The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End
By Peter W. Galbraith
Simon & Schuster, 2006, 272 pp

Reading this fast-paced account, which covers the United States' dealings with Iraq since the 1980s but concentrates on the last few years, I found myself protesting at one point, "Didn't the United States ever get things right, if only for a while? Even a stopped clock is right twice a day." Yet my overall appraisal is that the perceptive and well-informed Galbraith, who has closely followed, and often been involved in, U.S.-Iraqi relations since 1979, has it just about right in his litany of miscalculations and mismanagements. Ronald Reagan's flip-flops on Iraq, George H. W. Bush's 1991 call for Iraqis to rid themselves of the defeated Saddam Hussein (which resulted in a massacre of Kurds and Shiites while the United States stood aside), George W. Bush's resort to forcible regime change in Iraq, Coalition Provisional Authority head L. Paul Bremer's opting for direct control rather than moving quickly to put Iraqi governance in Iraqi hands -- all of this adds up to a bleak case study in faulty diplomacy. What to do now? Galbraith concludes that the breakup of Iraq is a fait accompli. The Kurds will retain their autonomy and probably eventually achieve independence. The Shiite south will put things together. As for Baghdad and the surrounding Sunni areas, there being no good solution, it is best that the coalition forces withdraw and monitor matters from outside, perhaps from bases in the Kurdish north.