War in a Time of Peace

This book was a masterful journey coming full circle from George Bush Sr.’s unsuccessful second term bid, Clinton’s excursions into Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia to George Bush Jr.’s ascendance. The book presents a new kind of war, the precision-driven air strike that can immobilize a weaker enemy with brutal force without the massive innocent bloodshed that characterized the earlier campaigns of World War II. Strikers could take out communication centers in densely populated areas from hundreds of miles away. The only obstacles to wielding the power are more or less bureaucratic and political.

Halberstam again deftly presents the awkward dance of the Clinton Administration and the U.S. Military, where global political crises are framed and evaluated in terms of domestic political repercussions. It carries us through Clinton’s reluctant yet deepening involvement in conflicts spanning the developing world from Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti to Bosnia. Whereas the senior Bush largely succeeded in a military campaign of the Gulf War’s magnitude and successfully steered Russia toward a soft-landing from Soviet collapse, he failed miserably in the field of domestic economy. Clinton on the other hand, through all his trials and tribulations managed to revive and sustain the American economy while minimizing American military involvement abroad.

I found it deeply ironic that George W. Bush initially campaigned by criticizing Clinton’s escalating involvement in global conflicts and foreign affairs and that a man who had only travelled to Mexico and China would lead the America into a prolonged and tortuous war in Iraq, the same country that brought his father down.

The value of this book is not only in the scope and details showing new military dynamics at work on the global front but that it also foreshadowed the unravelling of everything achieved during the Clinton years. This book is highly relevant to not only contemporary politics because it helps frame the current American dilemma. Technology may help bring a swift military victory lead by precision air strikes at little human cost until ground forces are mobilized to sort out the political mess and wreckage that ensues. Perhaps the uncommon success of limited military campaigns during the Clinton years had emboldened George W. Bush to press on in the name of waging “war on terror” when in fact they would ill-prepared had they been victorious. I enjoyed reading this book and only wish David Halberstam had lived long enough to follow this important piece of work up.

War in a Time of Peace: Bush, Clinton, and the Generals by David Halberstam