I finally finished reading The Threatening Storm. Regular readers already know that this book is Kenneth M Pollack’s argument that the United States should launch a massive invasion of Iraq, remove Saddam Hussein from power, and then reconstruct Iraq. First, let me say that reading this book humbles me as a writer. I spend five minutes dashing off little arguments in favor of this or against that every day. Pollack wrote over 400 meticulously footnoted pages making a single argument. Not only does he make his argument exhaustively, but he also gives the alternatives to his argument a fair shake before ultimately rejecting them. Finally, he provides an enormous amoungt of background information. Even if you ultimately wind up disagreeing with Pollack, unless you’ve been spending the last 10 or 20 years studying the Middle East, you’ll wind up much better informed than you were when you started.
Pollack’s argument is far more complex and nuanced than a lot of the other pro-war arguments that you’ll see. Personally, I find Pollack’s argument to be quite compelling. The question we must ask ourselves is what Saddam will do once Iraq becomes a nuclear power. I don’t fear that Saddam will provide nuclear weapons to terrorists who will then use them America. I fear Saddam will assume that his nuclear weapon(s) will deter America and provide him with cover to invade Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, or any of his other neighbors. Whether we would be deterred or not, if Saddam believes that we will be, then he’ll attack another country.
Of course, Pollack also presents the fantasy invasion plan. He recommends that the US send in a massive force to quickly dispatch Saddam’s regime and secure the country. His plan also involves weakening Al Qaeda further and reaching a less violent status quo in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians before launching an invasion. He also recommends spending the cash it takes to build a truly massive invasion force and reconstructing Iraq under the aegis of the UN the way Bosnia and Kosovo were rebuilt. Right now it looks like war is imminent, and that none of these recommendations will be heeded. There’s talk of the “Afghan Approach,” which Pollack succeeds in discrediting comprehensively, and the odds of a Republican administration signing up for a long term effort to rebuild Iraq seems slim to me. One thing you learn from Pollack that it’s possible to be open to invading Iraq without supporting the Bush administration’s agenda in any significant way.
In any case, I give this book my highest recommendation. Regardless of what you think we ought to do about the Iraq problem (and it is a huge problem), reading this book will increase your literacy on the issue. It also provides a pro-invasion perspective that I haven’t seen anywhere else.