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Saddam Hussein: A Political Biography

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Over ten years after his armies were routed in Desert Storm, the world continues to deal with, and be persistently thwarted, by the menace of Saddam Hussein. Here in this timely biography, authors Efraim Karsh and Inari Rautsi, experts on Middle East history and politics, have combined their expertise to write what is largely considered the definitive work of one of the ce Over ten years after his armies were routed in Desert Storm, the world continues to deal with, and be persistently thwarted, by the menace of Saddam Hussein. Here in this timely biography, authors Efraim Karsh and Inari Rautsi, experts on Middle East history and politics, have combined their expertise to write what is largely considered the definitive work of one of the century's most reviled and notorious figures. Drawing on a wealth of Iraqi, Arab, Western and Israeli sources, including interviews with people who have had close contact with Saddam Hussein throughout his career, the authors traces the meteoric transformation of an ardent nationalist and obscure Ba'th party member into an absolute dictator. Placing Hussein in the larger context of the ancient and modern Arab world and Iraqi history and traditions, Karsh and Rautsi examine the nature of the political system in which he thrived, a system built on blood and fear, betrayal and deceit. Skillfully interweaving a realistic analysis of Gulf politics and history, this authoritative biography is essential for understanding the mind of a modern tyrant.


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Over ten years after his armies were routed in Desert Storm, the world continues to deal with, and be persistently thwarted, by the menace of Saddam Hussein. Here in this timely biography, authors Efraim Karsh and Inari Rautsi, experts on Middle East history and politics, have combined their expertise to write what is largely considered the definitive work of one of the ce Over ten years after his armies were routed in Desert Storm, the world continues to deal with, and be persistently thwarted, by the menace of Saddam Hussein. Here in this timely biography, authors Efraim Karsh and Inari Rautsi, experts on Middle East history and politics, have combined their expertise to write what is largely considered the definitive work of one of the century's most reviled and notorious figures. Drawing on a wealth of Iraqi, Arab, Western and Israeli sources, including interviews with people who have had close contact with Saddam Hussein throughout his career, the authors traces the meteoric transformation of an ardent nationalist and obscure Ba'th party member into an absolute dictator. Placing Hussein in the larger context of the ancient and modern Arab world and Iraqi history and traditions, Karsh and Rautsi examine the nature of the political system in which he thrived, a system built on blood and fear, betrayal and deceit. Skillfully interweaving a realistic analysis of Gulf politics and history, this authoritative biography is essential for understanding the mind of a modern tyrant.

30 review for Saddam Hussein: A Political Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Wesley

    God as my witness, this is one of the best books I have read in a long time. The author takes careful time to delineate every one of the remarkable connections between Saddam Hussein and his striving to parallel the great leaders of old. This style of writing carries this book to be not only an interesting biography, but something like an epic. What Lenin was to Stalin, Stalin became to Hussein and Saddam took great care to model Stalin's policies as best practices in dealing with his own people. God as my witness, this is one of the best books I have read in a long time. The author takes careful time to delineate every one of the remarkable connections between Saddam Hussein and his striving to parallel the great leaders of old. This style of writing carries this book to be not only an interesting biography, but something like an epic. What Lenin was to Stalin, Stalin became to Hussein and Saddam took great care to model Stalin's policies as best practices in dealing with his own people. The author draws on Saddam's rich history as a resident of Tikrit to show that Saddam based his much of his personal legitimacy on Mesopotamian legends. This began with his claiming of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar in his genealogy and later even adding the Prophet Muhammad. Saddam began his life with a strict regimen of personal discipline and while in prison he would get up early, exercise, then hone his debate and rhetoric skills with the other prisoners. The author illustrates how Saddam's growing paranoia later in life stole his sense of personal balance and forced him to cling tightly to his power. This ended in the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, in which Hussein refused to give up an obvious defeat out of fear that losing to the U.S. would admit too much weakness. Obviously, I recommend anyone interested in men seeking power and the complexities that can arise in doing so read the book. Even if only the first few chapters.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Saman

    Not very comprehensive as a political biography and little bit dry. They barely touch upon his early life and the book almost starts from 68. Most of the book about the wars.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Stieb

    Good overall biography of Saddam with a few major points to make: 1. Saddam, above all, was a "ruthless pragmatist." He rose up in a brutal political culture, raised by his Uncle Khairallah to view the world as dog-eat-dog. He climbed the Baath Party ranks by allying himself with disgruntled people (usually in the military) to take down whoever was on the next rung of the ladder. He would then turn on his co-conspirators almost immediately. Karsh sees SH's acts of foreign aggression as a mix of a Good overall biography of Saddam with a few major points to make: 1. Saddam, above all, was a "ruthless pragmatist." He rose up in a brutal political culture, raised by his Uncle Khairallah to view the world as dog-eat-dog. He climbed the Baath Party ranks by allying himself with disgruntled people (usually in the military) to take down whoever was on the next rung of the ladder. He would then turn on his co-conspirators almost immediately. Karsh sees SH's acts of foreign aggression as a mix of anticipatory self defense (somewhat legitimate with Iran) and attempts to shore up domestic political control. He would back off on foreign adventures fairly consistently if they jeopardized his rule at home and then use overwhelming force to crush domestic challenges. 2. Saddam was not non-ideological, but ideology was largely instrumental for him. He certainly believed in Arab nationalism as a younger person, but this faded as he gained more power. He was probably an Iraqi nationalist, although his association of IQ with himself made his Iraqi nationalism another form of narcissism. Karsh does a great job showing how SH reversed himself repeatedly on issues like women's rights, Arab nationalism, and Islam when politics dictated. 3. Saddam was violent, but mostly sane. It's hard to see a truly insane person rising this high in the backstabbing (literally) world of Iraqi politics with all the plotting and strategizing he had to do. He could be personally violent, like when he personally executed the Minister of Health during the IR-IQ War for suggesting that he temporarily step down from power in order to facilitate a peace deal with Iran. Violence, like ideology, was purely instrumental for Saddam. In that sense, he's a product of Iraqi political culture, which has never found a way to de-legitimize domestic political violence and exclude it from the public sphere. I think Karsh pushes the pragmatist/sane argument a little far in this otherwise solid biography. By the 1990's, SH had so few people who were willing to speak truthfully to him and was so paranoid about internal challengers that he was killing off competent officers and reducing everyone else to terrorized submission. The bar for violence just seemed so low (a whisper of suspicion would suffice) that it is hard to see him as fully rational. Still, a policymaker reading this book (let's say, before the IQ War) would have to agree with the general thesis that SH was above all a political survivor who was unlikely to attack the US directly or by proxy and bring down the world's largest superpower on his head. I'd recommend this book for people looking for a solid primer on how Saddam fit into Iraqi politics and history who also wants a fairly concise volume. This information is getting a little repetitive to me so I didn't enjoy every part of this book, but it's still good work.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sairam

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ali Noor

  6. 4 out of 5

    P.J. Mills

  7. 4 out of 5

    Peter

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nasser

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nick Giorgio

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mohammed Aamir

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lucas

  13. 5 out of 5

    Eddy Lissu

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brvno

  16. 4 out of 5

    Eric Nies

  17. 4 out of 5

    George

  18. 5 out of 5

    Martinez

  19. 5 out of 5

    LP

  20. 5 out of 5

    Anita

  21. 4 out of 5

    Malika Dhalla

  22. 4 out of 5

    Don Incognito

  23. 5 out of 5

    Neil

  24. 4 out of 5

    Angelis Konstantinos

  25. 5 out of 5

    Majorlaky

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jamie MacAodh

  27. 4 out of 5

    Faysal

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ján Kapusňak

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ina Cawl

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