Eight years after the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, Dan Caldwell answers the question put to him by so many Americans, both civilians and service people alike: "Why are we there?" The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have become so much a part of our post-9/11 lives that most Americans no longer have a clear, accurate understanding of their origins—much less how and why the U.S. became so involved in the affairs of Pakistan. And while there have been many books on each of these wars, there has been no single-volume resource to which readers can turn for a more holistic view of these wars and their inter-relationship. Dan Caldwell, Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Pepperdine University, aims to rectify that in his new book, Vortex of Conflict: U.S. Policy Toward Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq (Stanford University Press, April 15, 2011, $25.95).
Caldwell begins by giving the reader a clear history of U.S. foreign policy pre-1979, taking us through the Revolution in Iran, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the first Gulf War, the rise of Al Qaeda, the emergence of “the Bush Doctrine” and other significant events. Within this context, he then outlines and analyzes the major issues of the two wars, including intelligence quality, military operations, U.S. relations with allies, the shift from a conventional to a counterinsurgency strategy, the military surges in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and postwar reconstruction. He concludes by summing up key lessons to be learned from the wars and their application to future conflicts.
Among the issues Caldwell addresses:
- While the Bush administration used this issue as the "least common denominator" rationale for the invasion, prior to the United States invaded Iraq on March 19, 2003, virtually all experts—American and non-American—believed that Iraq had WMD.
- By diverting vital resources from U. S. effort in Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq dissipated the effort to defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban, making the overall problem of terrorism worse rather than better.
- With its population of 175 million, its possession of nuclear weapons, and its position contiguous to Afghanistan and India, Pakistan is the most important and dangerous country in the world at the present time.
- The country that gained the most from the Iraq war was Iran.
- Technology has played a key role in the war on terror, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. The use of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles in the Soviet-Afghanistan war; the internet enabled al Qaeda to communicate and recruit new followers; and now pilotless drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan enable the U.S. and Pakistan to locate, track, and attack those who support terrorism.
- Caldwell describes the major errors of Ambassador Paul Bremer's tenure in Iraq: de-Baathification, disbanding Iraqi security and military forces, and postponing the return of sovereign control of the government to Iraq.
- Caldwell traces the thinking of General David Petraeus from his Princeton doctoral dissertation on the lessons of the Vietnam War to supervising the revision of the Army-Marine Corps counterinsurgency manual to his command of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and Central Command.
- Vortex of Conflict traces the historical development of relations between the United States and the Islamic world, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, and contains a comprehensive chronology of the major international events since the 9/11 attacks.
Vortex of Conflict is the first, accessible, one-volume resource for anyone who wishes to understand why and how the U.S. became involved in these two wars—and in the affairs of Pakistan—concurrently. It will stand as the comprehensive reference work for general readers seeking a road map to the conflicts, for students looking for analysis and elucidation of the relevant data, and for veterans and their families seeking to better understand their own experience.
About the Author: Dan Caldwell is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Pepperdine University. Previously, he held positions at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, Brown University, and the Executive Office of the President in Washington, D.C. His books include American-Soviet Relations, The Dynamics of Domestic Politics of Arms Control, World Politics and You, and Seeking Security in an Insecure World. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and Chair of the Council's Academic Outreach Initiative.