Confronting Saddam Hussein: George W. Bush and the Invasion of Iraq

WoodrowWilsonCenter Mar 16, 2023

Confronting Saddam Hussein is a major new interpretation of George W. Bush’s intervention in Iraq. Often considered the most consequential foreign policy decision of the 21st century, Leffler rejects previous accounts that focus on hawkish advisers, like Cheney and Rumsfeld, and places the president at the center of the decision-making process. Leffler vividly portrays the emotions and anxieties that shaped the thinking of the president after the shocking events of 9/11, and shows how fear, hubris, and power influenced Bush’s approach to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Employing a unique set of personal interviews with dozens of top officials as well as declassified British and American documents and captured Iraqi records, Leffler describes Bush’s motivations empathetically, yet critically assesses his performance and illuminates the reasons for the turbulent, unexpected, tragic aftermath of the invasion. This book reconfigures our understanding of the most important international event of the 21st century – the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Melvyn P. Leffler is Emeritus Professor of American History at The University of Virginia. He is the author of several books on the Cold War and on U.S. relations with Europe, including For the Soul of Mankind (2007), which won the George Louis Beer Prize from the American Historical Association, and A Preponderance of Power (1993), which won the Bancroft, Hoover, and Ferrell Prizes. In 2010, he and Odd Arne Westad co-edited the three volume Cambridge History of the Cold War. In 2017, he published Safeguarding Democratic Nationalism: U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security, 1920-2015 (Princeton Univ Press). He has served as president of the Society for the History of American Foreign Relations, Harmsworth Professor at Oxford University, and Dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences at The University of Virginia.

The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is organized jointly by the American Historical Association and the Woodrow Wilson Center’s History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks its anonymous individual donors and institutional partner (the George Washington University History Department) for their continued support.

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