Education: Harvard University, Ph.D.
Writer. Young & Rubicam Brands, New York, NY, vice president of strategic planning.
Circle in the Sand: Why We Went Back to Iraq, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2006.
As a doctoral student in political science at Harvard University in the 1990s, Christian Alfonsi began researching the Gulf War of 1991, in which a coalition of forces led by the United States forced Iraqi troops out of Kuwait. That research became the foundation of Circle in the Sand: Why We Went Back to Iraq, which explores the major differences between the first U.S.-led military confrontation with Saddam Hussein—a brief endeavor that resulted in few coalition casualties—and the second, which began in 2003 and by early 2007 had claimed the lives of more than 3,000 American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians.
Alfonsi argues that President George H.W. Bush's decision to leave Saddam Hussein in power at the end of hostilities in 1991 was a major factor in the build-up to the war in 2003. Alfonsi points out that Saddam's highly publicized defiance of United Nations sanctions, for example, undermined the political gains that the United States had enjoyed after expelling Iraq from Kuwait, and destroyed the first President Bush's hopes of reelection. When the second President Bush assumed office, his advisors were easily able to persuade him that Saddam would always be a problem unless he were removed from power.
In the Washington Post Book World, Warren Bass praised Alfonsi's research but observed that Circle in the Sand is "shot through with what historians call ‘presentism’—seeing the past through contemporary lenses, with the inevitable distorting effects of reading the history of Operation Desert Storm in the light of Operation Iraqi Freedom." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly, however, hailed the book as a "clear-eyed analysis," and Vanessa Bush, writing in Booklist, deemed it an "illuminating" work.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 15, 2006, Vanessa Bush, review of Circle in the Sand: Why We Went Back to Iraq, p. 18.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2006, review of Circle in the Sand, p. 761.
Publishers Weekly, September 4, 2006, review of Circle in the Sand, p. 54.
Washington Post Book World, November 26, 2006, Warren Bass, review of Circle in the Sand, p. 5.
Doubleday Books Web site,http://www.randomhouse.com/doubleday/ (February 21, 2007), author profile.