For a Kinder, Gentler Society
Fear Anger and Failure:
A Chronicle of the Bush Administration's War Against Terrorism
  • William Pfaff
Reviews Table of Contents Introduction «Back
Fear Anger and Failure:. A Chronicle of the Bush Administration's War Against Terrorism
Sound Bite

This book is a critical account, written as it occurred, of the first phase of the war on terror. It is composed of newspaper columns discussing that “war,” and with the events and forces influencing it or provoked by it.

This collection begins with a column written the afternoon of September 11, 2001, and ends with those written in December 2003. The articles cover the lead up to the attack on Iraq, the war in Iraq, and the political and economic directions the US has taken since then. A world-renowned journalist, William Pfaff then discusses the geopolitical implications for Europe and the rest of the world.

The Iraq War was waged for several different reasons and success in Iraq has been measured by many different criteria. But regardless of any military progress and battles won, regardless of the casualties in Iraq and the loss of international prestige that has accompanied embarassing episodes, most Americans never really considered the possibility that the US could lose the political struggle in Iraq, a defeat that would cast into question the significance of the War against Terror and America’s role as the “sole superpower.” If America is there to re-shape the Middle East and "bring democracy and freedom," what are the implications for America as the elected government asks us to get out of Iraq?


About the Author

William Pfaff's reflections on politics and contemporary history have appeared in The New Yorker since 1971. He writes a column for the International Herald Tribune, in Paris, syndicated by the Los Angeles Times.

His books include The Wrath of Nations, Condemned to Freedom, andBarbarian Sentiments which was a National Book Award finalist and in French translation won the City of Geneva's Prix Jean-Jacques Rousseau as the best political work in 1989-1990.

He is the former deputy director of the Hudson Institute's European affiliate, and before that was an officer of the Free Europe organization. He is a former editor of Commonweal magazine.

About the Book

After September 11, 2001, it was easy to forget the economic uncertainties of the preceding summer, the obvious flaws in the presidential election of 2000, and other brewing problems. But the...

After September 11, 2001, it was easy to forget the economic uncertainties of the preceding summer, the obvious flaws in the presidential election of 2000, and other brewing problems. But the weaknesses are still with us, and a crack-down on liberties may not be the best answer.

Pfaff's columns provide insights into the shifting international dynamics and the reasons why Europeans - and many Americans - distrust what appears to be a newly aggressive American imperialism. He also discusses NATO and other institutions that we have relied upon to help craft a peaceful and cooperative future.

FEAR, ANGER AND FAILURE is a critical account of the “war on terror” and the events and forces influencing it or provoked by it, composed of newspaper columns dating from the afternoon of September 11, 2001, and ending in late December, 2003. These articles discuss American policy and personalities but also the dramatic change the Bush administration’s conduct has produced in Washington’s relations with its European allies.

These articles deal with American policy and personalities but also with the dramatic change the Bush administration’s conduct has produced in Washington’s relations with its European allies. The Israeli-Palestinian struggle, crucial to American interests in the Middle East, was necessarily a part of these dynamics.

The defeat in Baghdad was implicitly acknowledged by President George W. Bush when he announced on November 14, 2003 that the process by which American Occupation authorities in Iraq would hand power over to Iraqi authorities would be accelerated, with a target date of June 2004.

The dream of Mr. Bush and his advisers was that a dramatic democratic transformation of Iraq could be accomplished, provoking quasi-revolutionary political change elsewhere in the Arab Moslem world, accelerating modernizing forces in Islamic society as a whole. Even before the capture of Saddam Hussein failed to improve the situation, this policy was proven to be what its critics had always said it was, a naïve, sentimental, a-historical and utopian illusion.


Introduction

(excerpts)
There has been little or no discussion at the level of national politics and policy of the possibility that the U.S. might lose the Iraq war. There is an all but universal assumption that American power will in the end crush anything that resists it….

(excerpts)
There has been little or no discussion at the level of national politics and policy of the possibility that the U.S. might lose the Iraq war. There is an all but universal assumption that American power will in the end crush anything that resists it….

It is true that critics have warned of a “new Vietnam,” but nearly always in terms that suggested only that the eventual victory might be more difficult and costly than the Bush government expected.

The Vietnam analogy is indeed mistaken in military terms. The insurgents in Iraq are not an organized and disciplined national movement, supported and supplied with arms and leadership from a sister-country across the border, itself within a nuclear sanctuary (as was the case with North Vietnam, allied with both the Soviet Union and China). The relevant analogy Vietnam offers, with respect to the present situation in Iraq, is a political one.

The Bush administration seems blind to the political lesson of Vietnam, which — translated into contemporary terms — is that no leader will be capable of rallying Iraq, or its major religious or ethnic components (except the minority Kurds), whose program is not national sovereignty, an end to American occupation, and national renewal on Iraq’s own terms — which means full control of its resources, its security, and its foreign policy. That is not what the Bush administration has envisaged.

The vital political forces in Iraq will inevitably develop in opposition to the American occupation, and in opposition to the United States itself so long as larger American policies in the Middle East, and elsewhere in the Moslem world, generate massive popular opposition. This is simply a fact of political life and historical process.

In Vietnam, frustrated by the inability of the Catholic mandarin and nationalist the U.S. had brought back from U.S. exile to install in power, Ngo Dinh Diem, to defeat Vietnam’s Communist uprising, the Kennedy administration instigated a military coup to remove him, and acquiesced in his murder.

Yet Diem actually represented a real national force, the educated Catholic middle classes and political elites that had run the country when it was a French colony. However, they represented too small a segment of the population and were too politically compromised by colonialism to deal with the dynamic combination of peasant nationalism and Marxist utopianism that drove the Communist National Liberation Front.

Washington replaced Diem with a general, the first in a series. One after another, each in turn failed, essentially because each was seen as defending the interests and ideas of the United States against those of Vietnamese nationalism.

Eventually, the Nixon administration abandoned the last of these generals, Nguyen Van Thieu, and formally withdrew from the war, calling this “Vietnamization.” When Saigon fell, two years later, President Nixon blamed the U.S. Congress and the liberal press.

In Iraq, the Bush administration is still in search of its Ngo Dinh Diem.


More Information

Sound Bite

Americans did not really consider the possibility that the US could lose the political struggle in Iraq, a defeat that would cast into question the significance of the War against Terror and America’s modern role as the “sole superpower.” Pfaff pokes holes in our “utopian illusions” and pleads for a more rational view.

Sound Bite

Americans did not really consider the possibility that the US could lose the political struggle in Iraq, a defeat that would cast into question the significance of the War against Terror and America’s modern role as the “sole superpower.” Pfaff pokes holes in our “utopian illusions” and pleads for a more rational view.
Reviews
Russell Baker of The New York Times | More »
International Herald Tribune, Book Review | More »
Los Angeles Times, Book Review | More »

Pages 284
Year: 2003
LC Classification: HV6432.P49
Dewey code: 973.931—dc22
BISAC: POL011000
BISAC: HIS036070
Soft Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-254-5
Price: USD 22.95
Hard cover:
ISBN: 978-0-87586-255-2
Price: USD 28.95
Ebook:
ISBN: 978-0-87586-200-2
Price: USD 28.95
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