In This Review

A History of the Iraq Crisis: France, the United States, and Iraq, 1991–2003
A History of the Iraq Crisis: France, the United States, and Iraq, 1991–2003
By Frédéric Bozo. Translated by Susan Emanuel
Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Columbia University Press, 2016, 408 pp

Commentators still do not agree on what exactly motivated the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, senior members of the George W. Bush administration sold the war as vital to counterterrorism, counterproliferation, democracy promotion, and Middle East peace. It is unclear whether they believed any of that. French President Jacques Chirac, along with some other European leaders, strongly opposed the war. In this book, Bozo relies on official documents and interviews with insiders to reconstruct how Paris viewed these developments. At the time, pundits on both sides of the Atlantic spilled much ink on France’s purported anti-Americanism and principled stance against U.S. “hyperpower.” Yet behind the scenes, Chirac’s opposition was almost entirely pragmatic. He tried hard to avoid a direct confrontation with Washington and warned Bush that “war will have catastrophic consequences, including on terrorism throughout the entire world.” Bush rejected his advice with disdain. Yet ironically, the invasion eventually brought the Americans and the French closer—if only to cope with its disastrous consequences. Today, Paris may be Washington’s most constant ally in the fight against terrorism, spearheading pressure for decisive military action in Libya, Mali, and elsewhere.