George Bush's War

By Jean Edward Smith

16 ratings - 3.44* vote

In a bipolar world, the president's power to begin a war was balanced by the nuclear deterrent. But in the glasnost era, what restrains his trigger finger? In Smith's opinion, nothing at all. In a textual analysis of who did what to whom and when, George Bush's War shows a president using diplomatic channels and the media in pursuit of a war that need not have been fought. In a bipolar world, the president's power to begin a war was balanced by the nuclear deterrent. But in the

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Book details

Hardcover, 0 pages
March 1st 1992 by Henry Holt & Company
Original Title
George Bush's War
0805013881 (ISBN13: 9780805013887)
Edition Language

Community Reviews

Philip Girvan

George Bush’s War is a powerful condemnation of President George H.W. Bush's decision to go to war with Iraq, and an unheeded warning of the dangers of the imperial presidency.

Dr. Smith takes pains to explain the two conflicting strands of US foreign policy regarding Saddam: the diplomatic that began with Carter in 1979 that saw Iraq “as a valuable bulwark against Iran and the Moslem fundamentalism represented by the Ayatollah Khomeini” (41) that took place alongside "a second stream of policy, focused in the intelligence agencies, sections of the Pentagon, and especially among Israel’s supporters in Congress and the media. It emphasized the danger Iraq posed to the Middle East, and stressed the negative side of Saddam’s regime, including its quest for chemical and nuclear weapons, as well as its links to wanted terrorists (42).”

These conflicting policies were maintained by the Reagan and Bush administrations and resulted in the Iraqi leadership's mistaken assumption re the US reaction to their invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. In addition to the challenges involved in deciphering official US policy, there was the problem of George Bush.

As Smith notes,
Predictability and consistency had always been problems for George Bush, but never with such momentous consequences. Steering without an ideological compass, with few underlying principles to guide his policy, the president had been salvaged in the past by Washington’s press corps for his unseemly willingness to adopt whatever momentary issue captured his fancy — “the momentum of shallow enthusiasm,” in the chilling words of The New Republic’s Michael Kinsley (70).

Smith notes that Bush's initial reaction to the invasion was muted until he had meet with UK Prime Minister Thatcher, who managed to convince him of the dangers of an unchecked Saddam. Only after this, on August 6, did Bush make his famous statement, "This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait". Mobilization swiftly followed.

Smith does an excellent job explaining how the Bush Administration convinced King Fahd of Saudi Arabia of the imminent threat posed by Iraq, and how the US military buildup in the Gulf was positioned as a defensive stance to protect Saudi Arabia.

In addition to the coverage of the diplomatic overtures, the struggle getting Congress on board is well-told. As Smith puts it, Congress’s “prerogative to declare war was viewed as a tactical impediment—not a constitutional imperative” (238). The Bush team simply works around them, and Congress appears highly ineffective.