the war hawks, Saddam was a new Hitler; and the lesson of the 1930s
was that aggression could not stand. The entire structure of the
post-Cold War world depended on forceful American military action
against Iraqi aggression.
for the first time since the early 1950s, there were prominent pockets
of antiwar sentiment on the Right: the columns of Patrick
Buchanan and Robert
Novak and Rowland Evans were widely read, and the three made
TV appearances; Joseph Sobran, then a senior editor of National
Review, was one of the founders of Committee to Avert a Middle
East Holocaust; military experts like Edward Luttwak were skeptical
that Iraq could be driven from Kuwait without thousands, even tens
of thousands of American casualties.
liberals like Arthur Schlesinger Jr. disseminated the unpleasant
but important truth that the Gulf Arabs whose nations and oil we
were supposedly defending held the United States in complete contempt.
Scarcely a week before the bombing began, Schlesinger quoted in
the Wall Street Journal dispatch from Saudi Arabia: "You
think I want to send my teen-aged son to die for Kuwait? We have
our white slaves from America to do that." And, quoting a Saudi
teacher: "The American soldiers are a new kind of foreign worker
here. We have Pakistanis driving taxis and now we have Americans
the weeks prior to the beginning of the bombardment, the don't-go-to-war-party
was gradually winning the day. Polls showed public opinion almost
evenly divided on whether to "give sanctions a chance"
or to attack Iraq. The leaders of all the main Christian churches
urged a negotiated solution to the crisis.
there were few antiwar demonstrations, there was serious argument
among opinion leaders at nearly all levels. Barely a year after
the Soviet empire's collapse, Americans, as one foreign correspondent
put it, were debating seriously "what it meant to be an American
in the world in the 1990s."
most people, the rapid military victory seemed to vindicate the
pro-war side. The antiwar conservatives generally changed the subject.
Saddam was ousted from Kuwait. The much vaunted Iraqi Republican
Guards had fled in terror. Iraqi troops surrendered by the thousands,
sometimes to journalists armed with no more than cameras. American
casualties were measured not in the feared tens of thousands, but
in the hundreds. The only question most asked was whether the US
erred in assuming that Saddam would be toppled after he was forced
a few skeptical essays appeared, wondering what, actually, had been
the Atlantic Monthly, Christopher Layne argued that the
Gulf War had not been in the national interest: Washington, argued
Layne, had been manipulated by regional powers – Saudi Arabia, Israel
and Egypt, principally – and emerged from the conflict with an intoxicating
but unrealistic belief in its unchallenged power. Contrary to the
Bush administration's rhetoric, no "New World Order" had
been brought into being, there was little prospect for a durable
Mideast peace, and great danger that the United States would be
tempted into further interventions, of a scope far wider than the
Cold War containment of Marxist-Leninism had allowed. The apparent
"unipolar moment" brought about by the victory would,
Layne said, prove fleeting.
W. Tucker, writing in the conservative National Interest,
noted the disparity between the negligible American casualties and
the possibly hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded on the Iraqi
side, and questioned whether such a slaughter could be fit into
any theory of a "Just War." He was skeptical.
generally, the feeling at the rapid collapse of the Iraqi forces
was relief, even glee.
debate over the first Iraq war – whose surface this column has
only skimmed – didn't predict the future well, but any reader who
delves into the periodicals of eleven plus years ago will be rewarded
by its openness and intensity.
who really was right? It now seems arguably correct (as it did not
seem to me at the time) that the first Iraq war was ill-conceived.
The United States action did manage to stabilize the world oil market,
and pump billions of barrels from the Gulf in the roaring 1990s.
As a result, SUVs now rule the road in the upscale suburbs.
against the putative benefits of the triumph of the gas-guzzler,
global animosity towards Americans has increased tremendously. The
decade of the 1990s saw the escalation of terrorist attacks against
American interests and citizens, culminating in September 11. There
may be far worse in store.
one (to my knowledge) accurately predicted the chain of events which
actually transpired: an easy American victory over Iraq, and the
subsequent establishment of a sort of military protectorate over
the Gulf, that in turn led to a fundamentalist reaction in most
Arab states against American power and the American presence, thereby
giving a fanatically anti-Western terrorist movement tens of thousands
of potential recruits.
no sane person could look at the world today, nearly 11 years after
America waged its unnecessary war to ensure Kuwait's survival and
the power of its corrupt ruling family, and say that world is a
safer place for the average American because of it.
printable version of this article
As a committed
cold warrior during the 1980's, Scott McConnell wrote extensively
for Commentary and other neoconservative publications. Throughout
much of the 1990's he worked as a columnist, chief editorial writer,
and finally editorial page editor at the New York Post. Most
recently, he served as senior policy advisor to Pat Buchanan's 2000
campaign , and writes regularly for NY Press/Taki's Top Drawer.
columns on Antiwar.com
War One – Reconsidered
An Open Letter to David Horowitz on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
War and the
Intellectuals: Facts and Fantasies
In the January
Campaign Is that All There is to Victory?
in the Land
Sneering at Powell, Flacking for Sharon
of the War Party
Hearts and Minds
Strategic Withdrawal Option
Open Letter to Arab Readers
Push for A Wider War
Bushes and the Palestinians: Act 2
Struggle Over War Aims
They Hate Us
Many Arabs Hate America
is Still Right
Real Plan for the Mideast
Just Mideast Peace
Liberalism on the March