Study Guide

Allies

by William Shawcross

Allies Summary

Summary (Literary Masterpieces, Critical Compilation)

In Allies, William Shawcross readily admits that the American-British invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq in March, 2003, was full of risks. At stake were the alliance the Americans and the British had formed with Western Europe, the credibility of the United Nations and the United States, the possibility of an extremely bloody war (one in which Iraq might use the weapons of mass destruction they were believed to possess), and the added chance that the invasion might itself spawn other terrorists and broaden the conflict. For Shawcross, however, the risks had to be taken, despite the opposition within the United States and the rest of the world, because Iraq posed a challenge unlike any other the Western powers had to confront since the collapse of communism.

While he does not discuss why the North Koreans, who do possess nuclear capability, or the Iranians, who have defied U.N. nuclear mandates, do not pose threats comparable to Iraq's, Shawcross does make the case that Hussein's regime did use chemical weapons against both the Kurds and Shiites in his own country, that his invasion of Kuwait reflected his willingness to attack other countries, and that he and his sons Uday and Qusay were responsible for the torture and deaths of thousands of Iraqis. According to Shawcross, “Iraq was a wonderland for this gangster family.” Shawcross also documents Hussein's repeated failures to abide by U.N. rules and to allow U.N. inspectors unlimited access to suspected sites where weapons of mass destruction (WMD) might be located. In addition to detailing these egregious provocations, Shawcross describes how the twin evils of socialism and nationalism have ruined the Iraqi economy. While per capita income and labor productivity have faltered in Iraq, poverty and the curtailment of civil liberties, especially for women, have increased. (Shawcross does not attribute these economic results to U.N. sanctions, which he terms failures because some countries, notably France and Germany, profited by circumventing the trade embargo.)

In fact, Shawcross devotes one chapter solely to Germany and France, America's post-Cold War allies, which he accuses of prevarication and obstructionism. For Shawcross, the French/German response is part of European anti-Americanism. While American foreign policy seems to have decided that all nations are not equal and, by extension, that the United Nations’ one country-one vote policy (exclusive of the Security Council) is not always or often enough consistent with the United States’ interests, the Europeans seem to have a “collectivist” approach that seeks compromise and insists on the rights of all nations.

In addition, Shawcross feels that France and Germany are determined to create a power base to challenge American supremacy, something that U.S. president George W. Bush has stated will not happen. The author is critical of Germany, but most of his vitriolic attacks are focused on France and its leader, Jacques Chirac, whom he describes as Hussein's closest foreign friend. France made nuclear gifts to Iraq and was, Shawcross suggests, rewarded for the beneficence by receiving oil contracts from Hussein. Later in his book, the author even states that French procrastination resulted in Chirac having American and British blood on his hands. Shawcross also points out that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), with French and German support, bombed Yugoslavia without U.N. backing. Consequently, Shawcross suggests some hypocrisy on the part of the Untied States’ erstwhile allies.

Shawcross has almost unqualified praise for Bush, whom he regards as a “conviction politician” who not only sees the world in black and white but who also is certain that he is right. As Shawcross admits, this kind of ideological president is likely to polarize his constituency. Although the Europeans believe that Bush is an intellectual lightweight, Shawcross has a different read on the American president. He is, as Shawcross puts it, more Ronald Reagan, Jr., than he is the “Bush Lite” portrayed by the liberal press. One chapter treats British prime minister Tony Blair and Bush as allies with much in common, though a few years earlier Blair was seen to have much in common with former U.S. president Bill Clinton, who...

(The entire section is 1741 words.)