Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, And Iraq Wars (History Summarized), by Tom Firme
It is interesting that the author thinks it is worthwhile to summarize three wars which are only tangentially connected together, in one book that perhaps symbolizes more the lack of foreign policy understanding of the book’s intended reading audience and the fact that all of the conflicts were run by Centcom rather than being organically and fully connected as one might wish. To be sure, it would be easy enough to connect the Persian Gulf War of 1991 with the Iraq War given that they were in the same location (roughly) and involved the dynastic rivalry between the Bushes and the Husseins, and there is much to be said for the Iraq War being a continuation of the unfinished business of Desert Shield and Desert Storm, just as it is likely that the unfinished business of what remains will keep foreign policy experts busy for some time. Similarly, it is easy enough to combine an interest in the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan because they happened contemporaneously, even though their origins are quite different, if interconnected because of the combination of rising Islamism and the snare of Cold War politics that led to the start of both problems.
This book is a short one at between 100 and 150 pages. The book begins with a preface that describes the series and what it tries to accomplish in summarizing history in this and other volumes. After that comes a preface that asks what the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq Wars were, at least up to the point in 2018 when this book was written, when the author assumed that these wars were finished to the point where they could be summarized. After that, the first chapter of the book covers the Persian Gulf War of 1991, thus focusing on the Desert Storm aspect of the conflict rather than the Desert Shield part of the conflict and the context of Iraq’s dealings that led to the war (1). This is followed by a chapter on the Afghanistan War that focuses on the initial success of arms and then the lengthy period of reconstruction (2). This is a natural lead in to the Iraq War (3), of the 2000’s which had a similar blend between an initially successful conventional effort and then a lengthy and less decisive role in peacemaking. This is followed by a chapter that discusses the role that each of these wars played in indicating the struggle between security and civil rights in times of crisis (4), as well as an index and suggestions for further reading.
It should be noted, though, that however accurate it is to combine all three of these elements into one book, that the book itself is a decent enough summary of its history. If this book is by no means the last word on any of the conflicts it talks about, it certainly presents the reader with insights into how the wars were fought and what stakes were involved for the United States as well as for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. There are plenty of maps to be found here, some photos, and the text is not challenging enough to make this book unsuitable as an introductory text for relatively young and unseasoned readers. To be sure, it does not include all of the context that one would wish, but that comes with the territory, and a reader of this book would be equipped to at least understand the fundamental elements of what was going on with the sudden and perhaps unexpected interest of the United States in an area of the world where aside from oil there was not much hope to be gained from trying to govern or conquer such a region.