The Threatening Storm, by Kenneth Pollack

I picked this up on Josh Marshall’s recommendations here and here.

Pollack shows just how badly the administration has screwed up advocating an Iraq war; the book is pretty much a point-by-point analysis of policy options based on the historical record and Saddam’s known goals, and makes a damn convincing argument. Dear lord, conservatives, the war is polling at 55% without the mention of casualites; would laying out a reasonable case for action be too much work? Not only is the White House/WSJ/talk radio strategy of calling everyone terrorist-lovers dishonest, it hasn’t worked. Hint: terrorism is the absolute least of threats from Iraq, and admitting so doesn’t weaken your case.

I’m post more later. If you care about Iraq at all, get this book.

I’m about 3/4 way done, and it really is fascinating and authoritative. In the administration’s defense, I’m not sure how exactly they’d fit the argument that it takes Pollack 450 pages to mount into a few ten minute speeches, some sound bites, and an occasional appearance by a staff member on Meet The Press. They’re sort of forced to go for more sweeping statements. If there’s one thing the book does well, it’s disabuse you of any notions that the Iraq problem had largely been solved and that Bush’s Iraq policies have emerged out of nowhere. Things have clearly been steadily escalating for the last decade.

Some blogger has saved me the trouble!

This does a pretty good job summarizing the book’s argument as to why war is the only option.

It doesn’t mention Saddam’s rather unique approach to human rights, though. If Pollack is to be believed, he’s the worst dictator on earth. This pdf covers it; officials raping relatives of prisoners as they’re forced to watch is of particular interest, as is dipping people alive into vats of acid.

Don’t forget throwing babies out of fourth-story windows. Actually, maybe I’m confusing my dictators with my pop stars.


This does a pretty good job summarizing the book’s argument as to why war is the only option.

That is pretty good, though it doesn’t cover the reasons that other options - most importantly containment - aren’t viable. Without addressing that, no summary can be as persuasive as the book. And that leads to the ideas that Pollack can express that would be much more problematic for the administration - for instance, the book’s utterly frank assessments of Iraq’s neighbors and the P-5. Specifically, France and Russia’s policy resistance due less to principled dissent and more to sanction profiteering, and China’s blatant disregard for the sanctions that it was instrumental in instituting in the first place.

But he doesn’t even like pop music! And I’m sure Saddam doesn’t, either! And he didn’t “throw” that baby out the window, he just “dangled” him. Though I don’t know what’s sadder: the blatant cry for attention, or the fact that there were a horde of photographers waiting outside the hotel all day in the remote possibility that he might come out on the balcony to dangle a baby over the ledge.

While I have no doubt that Saddam would be stupid enough to use a nuke on US interests in some kind of first strike, I also have no doubt that with a nuke, Saddam might feel like he can bully/invade his neighbors at will and that no one will dare try to stop him. He’s got scores to settle, not just with us, but with Iran, the Kurds, the Kuwaitis, and the Saudis. And he’s actually ignorant enough to believe that all he needs is a nuke to be unstoppable.

Erik’s right, of course.