Book Review: Full Spectrum Dominance, by Rahul Mahajan


5-20-05, 10:01am

Few writers have delivered clarity of analysis and the scope of information on the Iraq war as does Rahul Mahajan in Full Spectrum Dominance. Impeccably researched and insightfully argued, Mahajan's short book slices through the layers of lies, misleadership, hidden agendas, and criminal acts perpetrated by the Bush administration in its drive for war in Iraq.
Contextualizing the history of US involvement with Iraq and its determined efforts to establish military control in the region, Mahajan describes a roughly 25-year history of US support for the dictatorship, then its turn against the Hussein regime, the subsequent period of the sanctions and ultimately Bush's war.

Mahajan exposes the differences between the Bush administration, its imperialist ideology and its outline framed by the infamous Project for a New American Century and the National Security Strategy, and the less overt methods of control embodied in the neo-liberalization policies pushed by those sections of capital that favor multilateral arrangements created and watched over by instruments such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, etc. Mahajan argues that this latter 'mode of control doesn't appeal much to the Bush administration or to the neoconservatives because it frequently involves multilateral institutions that are at least nominally not under US control (although the IMF comes close) and because it has been ineffective in penetrating the societies where most of the world's oil lies.' Special interest in oil has meant developing strategies of control outside of existing multilateral arrangements.

Working outside of these arrangements has fostered the intensification of the use of a militarily aggressive and driven foreign policy. Made possible by the climate of fear cultivated by the Bush administration after the terrorist attacks in September 2001, openly excessive militarism was part of the Bush administration's central political tactics from day one. More specifically, establishing military control over Iraq was part of the plan from the beginning. Simplistic explanations such as the attempt on George H.W. Bush's life aside, which Mahajan shows to be an unsubstantiated claim, several goals stand out. Oil, obviously, is primary. But long-term military power in the region and the formation of the basis for building military and economic leverage against states such as Russia and China were also foremost among the administration's objectives. Mahajan also lays bare the lies advanced that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the U.S., that it possessed WMD, that the Bush administration was concerned about human rights, and that other international organizations such as the UN and the International Atomic Energy Agency failed to contain whatever threat the Hussein regime posed internationally. As is well known, evidence for the administration's claims was fabricated, enhanced, or distorted to present a picture of a real threat to the American people. Meanwhile, in the weeks leading up to the war, the administration used any means to dismantle the country's legitimate defense systems in order to make an attack on that country much smoother.

The war on Iraq, Mahajan notes, did not take place because that country posed a legitimate threat, but for exactly the opposite reason: because it could not defend itself and because its natural resources and strategic geopolitical position made it a prime target. In contrast, a well-defended North Korea that may have developed nuclear weapons remains untouched and the U.S. seems intent on talks rather than military intervention. The lesson, Mahajan argues, is not that the world has become safer by making sure that only the U.S. has the authority and power to start wars and use WMD. It is the exact opposite. Countries have learned that building arsenals that contain nuclear weapons and other WMD are needed to prevent attacks by the U.S. 'Proliferation,' writes Mahajan, 'has become the order of the day.' The world has become decidedly a more dangerous place to live.

It has also become clear, Mahajan shows, that despite the rhetoric about Iraq's threat, no amount of reduction in that threat diminished the administration's intention to attack that country. Reports by UN weapons inspectors that showed that 95 percent or more of the country's WMD had been destroyed, the exposure of much of the administration's evidence for the country's possession of WMD as at best shaky and at worst simply made up, along with attempts by the Hussein regime to demonstrate an effort to adhere to specific demands did not turn the momentum generated by the enormous military buildup of hundreds of thousands of troops and the production of tens of thousands of new weapons for an invasion. Mahajan goes further: 'The obvious conclusion is that the war was decided on, irrespective of Iraq's actions . . . . This makes this war a clear case of aggression.' In other words, a war crime of the type codified into international law as a result of the Nuremberg Trials after World War Two.

Mahajan's effort to detail this argument is monumental and his documentation is impeccable. This book should be among those studied for complete and accurate understanding of the precursors and motivations for Bush's war on Iraq as well as the potential for peace in the region, on earth and for human survival.

Rahul Mahajan,Full Spectrum Dominance: U.S. Power in Iraq and Beyond, Seven Stories Press, New York, 2003.

--Reach Joel Wendland at