book review of full spectrum dominance: U.S. power in Iraq and beyond

book review of full spectrum dominance: U.S. power in Iraq and beyond


bright flowers 2


Just came across this book a few weeks ago and read it earlier this month.

Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond, written by Rahul Mahajan (2003, paperback, 207 pages, An Open Media Book, Seven Stories Press, New York).

The book is divided into 2 main sections:  The “War on Terrorism”, and The War on Iraq.

Published shortly after the US led invasion of Iraq in early 2003, the author makes the case that US foreign policy and military policy are geared to controlling the production and transportation of the world’s oil, and to benefitting US corporations around the globe.  In the post Cold War world, the US as the lone superpower is a threat to world peace.  Albeit written 10 years ago, the concerns that the book raises are still relevant today.

In the first section, the author tells how the war on terrorism was used to justify an increase in US defense spending, the acquisition of more foreign military bases throughout the world, and the war in Iraq in 2003.  Even today in 2013, we hear that the US spends more on defense than all other countries combined and that it has bases and/or military personnel in more than a hundred nations.  One rightly wonders is this really necessary?

In the second section of the book, Mahajan deals at length with Iraq, the first Gulf War in 1991, the punitive sanctions on Iraq subsequent to the 1991 war, the lead up to the second Gulf War in 2003, and future concerns about US militarism in the region and the rest of the world.  The author makes the case that Iraq posed no threat to the US as it was never allowed to recover (either economically or militarily) from the 1991 war, and thus lacked the means of attacking the US.  This is all covered very extensively and backed with much research and many notes.  As such, it is difficult to quarrel with the facts he presents.  This leaves only his conclusions to evaluate.

Let us offer one lengthy quote from this book and then give our thoughts.

From pages 27 – 28:

Empire Corrupts

The United States has reached a new zenith of political dominance–capable of flouting the express wishes of the vast mass of humanity and the vast majority of nations and still force them to assimilate into its ever-expanding structures of control.  There is no longer any pretense that the United States is not an empire, or even that it is a reluctant one.  For the apologists of the new order, the entire question hangs on not whether or not an empire exists, but whether or not the empire is benevolent.

For the rest of us, two things should be clear.  First, that even the most benevolent empire is no substitute for independence and international equality.  Second, that empires are never benevolent; the considerations of the empire-builders cannot possibly align with the considerations of the people being ruled.

As we will discover, the claims to benevolence of this empire ring particularly hollow.

I want to focus first on punitive actions taken (by the victors) after the cessation of hostilities.  The sanctions imposed after the first Gulf War in 1991 led to the collapse of Iraq’s economy during the 1990s.  As Mahajan points out in his book, even when Iraq tried to comply with weapons inspections and other post war requirements, the US made no move to end or reduce the severity of the sanctions, and even gave notice that complete Iraqi compliance with post war demands would not necessarily end the sanctions.

These punitive and unduly harsh sanctions led to much malnourishment and suffering for the children in Iraq.  Estimates vary (some in the hundreds of thousands), but many Iraqi children died during the 1990s because of the post war sanctions.  (Is it any wonder then that the Iraqis did not welcome the US forces as “liberators” in early 2003?)

(In the summer of 2001, prior to the events of September 11, there was small public display, more like an information table, with several concerned individuals protesting the harm done to the Iraqi children by the crippling sanctions.  This was in the plaza in front of the federal building in Oakland, California.  At that time, there was a website with more information about the children’s plight under the sanctions.  So there was a miniscule public awareness of this injustice in the US prior to Gulf War 2 in early 2003.)

The US and Britain have a history of engaging in punitive actions after a war is over. Britain blockaded Germany after World War One for several months during 1919.  This lead to malnourishment and starvation among the civilian population.  The US engaged in a punitive policy in its zone of occupation after World War II towards both the German civilians and their disarmed military men.  (The US occupation in Germany was much harsher than its occupation of defeated Japan.)  These types of actions are not moral.

This is why the facade of moral superiority (the holier than thou attitude and rhetoric) on the part of the Allies after the two world wars rings so hollow with some of us.

Defeated enemies (both armed forces and civilians) are still human beings.

US military leaders and political authorities need to recognize the reality of the 21st century.  It is going to be a multi-polar world with several regional powers.  No one nation is going to be able to run the world so to speak.  There is a real danger here of falling prey to a “might makes right” mentality given the current US military superiority over all other nations.

Current threats to world peace include an arrogant China (discussed in an earlier essay back in February), a radical and violent Islamic fanaticism and chauvinism, and at least regionally, Zionism in Israel (however, war between Israel and its neighbors could easily escalate and bring major powers into the conflict).  The US drive to dominance in the world has to be considered as a threat to world peace.  The US ought to stop acting like an imperial power.  (The founders of the country envisioned a republic, not an empire.)

Here are links to some earlier, relevant essays that you might be interested in.

Thanks for reading.

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