The Iraqi state has existed for just one decade short of a century. The history of this diverse polity, which for centuries had been three separate provinces of the Ottoman Empire, is divided into the four decades of the British-sponsored Hashemite monarchy, which was abruptly ended by a military coup in 1958, and the half century from 1958 to the present. This latter period can be subdivided into the roughly one decade of rule by generals and the Baathist era that evolved into the Stalinist despotism of Saddam Hussein. Then, in 2003, came the drastically disruptive U.S. military intervention. Dawisha's political history covers the nine decades with equal attention and offers a severe but fair appraisal of all of Iraq's rulers and regimes. His reliance on the many memoirs, monographs, and histories written by Iraqis themselves, plus his own intimate knowledge of Iraq in its domestic, regional, and international setting, makes for a fine (if disheartening) study of abortive state building.
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