The Middle East Scholars and the Gulf War

NORVELL B. DeATKINE

© 1993 Norvell B. DeAtkine


From Parameters, Summer 1993, pp. 53-63.


The Arabist revisionists have been hard at work dissecting the causes and results of the 1991 Gulf War. Their passionate and often acerbic outpourings are everywhere evident. It would seem that in order to be published, the first requirement is that the piece either push a thesis that we should not have initiated military action against Iraq or that the war was pursued with unnecessary brutality, e.g. striking Iraqi columns on their way out of Kuwait--or conversely that the war was terminated too early, allowing Saddam Hussein to regroup and remain in power. A frequent ancillary argument to these positions has been to point to the intervention of US forces as the reason for the plight of the Shia or the Kurds and a host of other ills in the region.

Having followed events in the Middle East for more than 25 years, including nearly eight years living in the region, I have become concerned that Middle East scholarship and reporting appears to be increasingly colored by political or personal agendas. Despite some earlier misgivings with the leading lights and gurus of the Middle East academic community, I had always felt that somehow they--owing to impressive academic credentials or an assumed direct line to a cabal of Middle Eastern movers and shakers--were in the know. Prior to the Gulf War, at the many gatherings of these icons of Arabist wisdom--The Middle East Institute, The Middle East Studies Association--I listened in growing dismay as the experts forecast, often in graphic terms, the coming disaster in the Gulf.[1] Predictions of massive upheavals in every Islamic country, Americans slaughtered in the streets of Arab cities,[2] airliners blown from the skies,[3] Arab units turning their weapons on their Western coalition allies, and Saudi Arabs emerging from their villas to toss Molotov cocktails at American tanks[4] were duly and gravely intoned to audiences in symposiums and disseminated through the media.

In actuality very little of this happened, despite some 43 days of well-publicized coalition pounding of the Iraqi military and civilian infrastructure. There were some minor media events in Jordan, well orchestrated and controlled by the Jordanian authorities,[5] and there were massive demonstrations in Algeria and Morocco, although they were more anti-government than anti-American.[6] Moreover, there is little doubt that Arab public opinion, such as it is, was probably pro-Iraqi.[7] Whether this was all visceral anti-Americanism or flavored by an equal amount of distaste for Kuwaitis and Saudis is very difficult to say.[8] The fact remains, however, that little of the predicted upheaval in the Arab and Islamic worlds occurred. In an admission that some of the gloom-and-doom thinking had infected even our own State Department, ex-Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie told a congressional committee, "We misjudged the Arab street."[9]

Why were the Middle East pundits so wrong? Let us say for starters that there has been an unfortunate trend among post-Orientalist[10] scholars and journalists to justify every inanity, every brutality, every outrage, with some sort of cultural-relativity outlook. Just the fact that the act perpetrated was anti-Western or inexplicable seems enough justification for these scholars to dredge up some lingering residue of Zionism, imperialism, or colonialism to explain it. This attitude has become firmly lodged in the collective outlook of the Middle East community of scholars. The frequent meetings, seminars, and symposiums were not the vehicles for an "exchange of views" as they are so often advertised, but in actuality were simply keyboards for reinforcing the harmonics of a distinctly anti-Western ideological agenda. Dissents to the prevailing caviling pessimism were generally received and interpreted as official government platitudes conveyed by lackeys of the Administration.[11] As Joseph Sobran sagely observed in a recent column, moral issues are arguable, but once they are enshrined as an article of etiquette, they are not. Over the years certain views of Middle East issues seem to have metamorphosed into such articles of etiquette, or axioms, rather than legitimate points of dispute. These axioms, as it turned out, were part of the problem.

From that prologue comes my central thesis. The Middle Eastern scholars and pundits--their views having proven embarrassingly wrong prior to, during, and after the Gulf War--have come forth with a plethora of presentations, articles, and books denigrating the source of their embarrassment, i.e. the outcome of the war. It was not a victory, or it was a "victory without triumph," or it was an unjust war, or it was something else to be decried. So let us look at the revisionists' salient arguments.

First, we often hear the revisionist view that the war was unnecessary.[12] This view has many permutations: the incursion was an Arab problem, requiring an Arab solution,[13] or the Iraqis had a justifiable claim to Kuwait,[14] or Kuwait was unimportant and there was no danger of an Iraqi invasion of Saudi Arabia.[15] An adjunct to these arguments is that we should have "allowed sanctions to work," that is, we should have sat in the desert for some indeterminate time, hoping an economic embargo would bring Saddam to his knees.[16] These claims are without substance. In the first case, it was and remains obvious that there is no such thing as an "Arab solution" to anything. Beyond some antipathy to Israel, ranging from genuine to feigned, the Arabs agree on nothing, and Kuwait was no exception. After a period of harsh verbal exchanges, the anti-Iraqi Arabs would simply have accommodated themselves to the fait accompli of Kuwait's demise, leaving that intolerable situation unresolved. Kuwait was "an Arab problem" to the same extent that Hitler's absorption of the Rhineland, Austria, and Sudetenland was "a European problem." A corollary to the aforementioned "axioms" is that, despite evidence to the contrary spanning 70 years of modern Middle Eastern history, there is a viable entity called "the Arab World."[17] No one would dispute cultural, linguistic, and emotional affinities among Arabs, but to ascribe political unity to those affinities involves reifying an idea which was reality only for a short time 1200 years ago. An "Arab solution" remains a chimera, a fact trenchantly embodied in an Iraqi-born scholar's observation: "Nothing so divides the Arabs as the question of unity."[18] An extension of the Arab solution argument was the "Muslim solution." Imagine the prospect of the Iranian clerics working out a peaceful and mutually agreeable solution with the Ba'athis of Iraq! Four years after the end of their conflict, they still cannot account for each other's prisoners of war.

Second, we hear the view that while Iraq's invasion of Kuwait may have been a bit extreme, it was justifiable based on historical legacy. The fact that there was or could be or just might be a revealing document residing in some dusty cabinet of a dragoman's Ottoman claim file, or a letter recording injudicious border agreement wording by some bumptious British colonial officer, has the same relevance as reviving Christopher Columbus's claim on India for the King of Spain or now asserting an American claim to the territories above the Great Lakes. Are the revisionists actually proposing that the Ottoman Empire be reinstituted? One of my professors at the American University of Beirut did in fact constantly remind his unappreciative students that the only era of peace in the area was Ottoman-imposed. In fact, if the Middle East were returned to a pre-World War I concept of Arab allegiances, the holocaust ensuing would make the Armenian exodus from Turkey seem like a nature walk by comparison. Even the present war in the Balkans can be considered a delayed reaction to the breakup of the Ottoman Empire.[19] The Ottoman Empire was an Islamic spiritual state in which allegiance was a matter of one's religious faith, not of his location. The modern nation-state with inviolable geographic boundaries was a totally alien concept.[20] Until Iraq's invasion and attempted absorption of Kuwait, the boundaries imposed by colonial powers, while universally proclaimed as an evil legacy of imperialism, were nevertheless generally accepted.

Third, the oft-heard revisionist argument that there was no intention on the part of the Iraqis to push farther into Saudi Arabia misses an obvious and essential point, which is that Iraqi control of Saudi oil would have inevitably followed had the absorption of Kuwait been allowed to stand. Anyone who has followed the trends of Saudi foreign policy for the past two decades cannot escape the conclusion that a salient feature of that policy has been accommodation.[21] For years the Saudis paid to the Palestine Liberation Organization what amounts to protection money, notwithstanding some altruistic motivation as well.[22] For their donations the Saudis received assurances that the PLO would play in other peoples' yards. Why in all these years has there never been a significant PLO incident in Saudi Arabia? The point here is simply that the Saudi royal family, astute and alert to the prevailing political winds, would eventually realize after an unchallenged Iraqi occupation of Kuwait that they faced a fateful choice: either accept a long-term US military presence in their eastern province (assuming that the American public's patience would remain constant, in itself an unlikely prospect) to counter Iraqi enmity; or institute a policy of accommodation toward the Iraqis. Accommodation with a despot such as Saddam Hussein would not have been bought as cheaply as with the PLO. Within a short period of time, the liquid gold under Saudi sands would have been controlled by Iraq--directly or indirectly.

Fourth, as to "Why didn't we let sanctions work longer?" the irony is that many who asked the question are now pointing out how the Iraqis are working around the sanctions that were in fact put in place.[23] The history of the efficacy of sanctions and embargoes is not encouraging.[24] Given the volatility of the Arab World and the precarious position of King Hussein in maintaining the Jordanian sanctions,[25] a long-standing embargo would never have been successful in dislodging Saddam from Kuwait. Moreover, as has been repeatedly pointed out, the sanctions now in place seem to have had little adverse impact on the elites who are keeping Saddam Hussein in power.[26]

The view of the post-Orientalists that the war was unnecessary has become intertwined with criticisms of the war from other quarters. The view that the war was pushed with undue vigor is a favorite theme of some of the mainline church organizations. Their perspective of the Gulf War seems to be centered on the belief that there were disproportionate casualties and damage to the Iraqis. This perspective follows from their general world view, which all too often is much more forgiving of Third World tyrants. Having been outraged that the war was initiated at all, they invoked "just war" concepts to depict barbarism on the part of the US military in decimating the Iraqi forces and inflicting "the destruction of a country and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people."[27] Some went beyond even the just war principle to embrace the total rejection of Western involvement in a Middle Eastern war for any reason--a principle which, if observed, would be sure to leave the victims in splendid and eternal bondage to the Saddam Husseins, Moammar Gadhafis, and Idi Amins in this messy, not-so-nice world.[28]

The one common element in all these probably sincere and well- intentioned objections to the amount of force applied is a lack of understanding of the brutality institutionalized by the Iraqi regime. Thus Saddam Hussein is not responsible for the mass butchery of the Kurds--the "war" was! It reminds me of a line in the movie The Killing Fields, in which the lead character imputes the wholesale genocide of the Cambodian people to some sort of mass insanity to which the Khmer Rouge were driven by American bombing. In fact, a calculated Iraqi policy of eradicating Kurdish identity pre-dates the 1991 Gulf War.[29]

Another aspect of the Western cruelty-and-brutality thesis is the steady torrent of stories emanating from Iraq detailing the sorry plight of the people--the starvation, deplorable health conditions, destroyed roads and bridges, etc.--but, in the same articles, the authors will point to the monumental rebuilding efforts going on in Iraq.[30] To my mind, this massive reconstruction of the infrastructure by a starved, sickly people doesn't compute. But many gullible people continue to swallow the Iraqi line.

Finally, my favorite thesis, heard often after the war, is that the Bush Administration failed to push the war hard enough. This theme emanated from a segment of the American press which has a problem separating Israeli interests from American. A prime example is U.S. News and World Report,[31] which eviscerated President Bush for ending the war too quickly. While it may appear to be in Israel's short-term interest for Iraqi power to be destroyed, it is by no means certain that an Israel separated from an implacably hostile Iran by only a weak Jordan would be in their long-term interest. Certainly that result would not appeal to the United States.[32] A viable Iraq is the only Middle East actor with the means to block the hegemonic aspirations of the militant Islamic fundamentalism of Iran.

Those who advocated the extension of the war or criticize the abrupt termination of the offensive have no sense of history nor appreciation of the complexities of long-term occupation and subjugation of an alien nation. Most of all they do not understand the limitations of force. In terms of history they should recall the ill-fated Mesopotamian campaign of 1915-16 in which British forces, harried by Arab irregulars and enfeebled by the climate of one of the most inhospitable areas of the world, surrendered to Ottoman forces at Kut.[33] Even with the advances in military medicine and modern communications, the notion of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers combing the cities and countryside looking for an elusive Saddam Hussein (who, perhaps in the manner of a predecessor, would be clothed as a woman, sans mustache) would seem to be a dismal prospect. It is hardly the sort of operation in which American soldiers excel. The counter-argument, of course, is that the physical apprehension of Saddam would be unnecessary, that we need only to have destroyed his institutions of power--the Ba'ath Party infrastructure, Saddam's security apparatus, and the Republican Guard. Just how American occupation forces would have gone about this delicate and long-term task has never been explained. It would ultimately have required our total immersion in the byzantine world of Arab political culture. There would have been little if any help from our Arab allies, who would have avoided at all costs overt entanglement in Iraqi politics.

The installation of a leader acceptable to all parties--the coalition nations, Iraq's Sunni Arabs, Iraq's powerful neighbors, and Iraq's restive minorities--was and is an impossible dream.[34] If such a leader had been found, his tenure would not have extended beyond the withdrawal of the coalition forces. His image as a stooge or quisling would have resulted in a very short life span.

Most of all, the destruction of the instruments of oppression and power in Iraq would have led to the one thing none of Iraq's neighbors want--the fragmentation of Iraq. The prospect of an Iran-dominated Shia state on the Saudi border is indeed a frightening one. A Kurdish republic in Iraq would provide a powerful incentive for renewed efforts by Iranian and Turkish Kurds to achieve the same.[35] Moreover, the deep suspicions with which Iran and Turkey view one another would be exacerbated at a time when both are competing for influence in Central Asia.[36] The Iranians believe, for example, that the Turks harbor a desire for the incorporation of oil-rich northern Iraq into their dominion.[37]

In short, a further and prolonged military campaign in Iraq would have ultimately ended in disaster. The "missed opportunity" to totally destroy the nucleus of Saddam's power, the Republican Guard, is viewed by the "not enough" detractors as the major error of the war. In my view this would have resulted in the inability of Saddam and his coterie of followers to hold on to Iraqi Kurdistan and the Shia south, resulting in a fragmented Iraq and a power vacuum. A more dismal prospect from the vantage point of stability is hard to imagine. Undoubtedly it will come as a surprise to him, but sooner or later the Iraqi despot will pass from the scene and it is to everyone's interest that Iran, the most powerful state in the region, be kept within its present boundary. Iraq serves that purpose.

Two other views held by segments of the Middle East academic community were also far off base. First, there was the belief that the Islamic bond and common virulent antipathy toward the United States were sufficient to bring together Iran and Iraq against the allied coalition.[38] Whatever has been said of Persians, to my knowledge no one has characterized them as stupid. To believe that the Iranians would throw overboard an immense advantage they obtained by simply doing nothing for some esoteric metaphysical link with their arch enemy boggles the imagination.

Second, the mother of all absurdities was the oft-heard conspiracy theory that the Americans, Israelis, Saudis, Kuwaitis, and a host of other nefarious actors encouraged the Iraqis to attack Kuwait in order to create a public opinion environment enabling the United States to launch a preemptive attack against an Iraq nearly ready to challenge Israel.[39] Several times I have sat and listened in disbelief as speakers detailed various permutations of this theory.[40] Even more disconcerting was the response of the academic audience nodding approvingly. As a military and civilian functionary for my country for some 30-plus years, my experience has been that one US government agency has trouble getting a directive across the street to another. To believe that we could orchestrate the massive number of national and individual actors required in this conspiracy would be conceivable only in the mind of an Oliver Stone[41] after prolonged overindulgence in controlled substances. I only wish we were as good as our conspiratorial-minded critics allege!

The fact that much of the commentary coming from the Middle East academic and journalistic community during the crisis turned out to be wrong is not the problem. The problem is that there has been no hard reassessment of why they were wrong. Midst the avalanche of revisionist articles and books on the Gulf War, I have yet to see one examining the analytical response of the academic community prior to the war.[42] A responsible and professional academic and journalistic community would have simply acknowledged they were mostly wrong and gone back to the basics to find out why. But they did not. They chose to obfuscate and compound their misjudgments with what appears to be a process of disparagement of the war's results.[43] Unfortunately there is no self-adjustment mechanism within this academic community, and accountability for their views has thus not become an issue of analysis.

I brought this subject up at a Foreign Service seminar about a year ago, and the moderator seemed incensed that the question was asked. His answer was basically that the members of the Middle East academic community who were featured in the media were mostly second-stringers, not the first team.[44] To some extent his response was true, which then engenders another question. Where was the first team during the Gulf crisis? It would seem that duty to country and, indeed, the world should have required that they provide their assessments.[45]

While my intention has not been to analyze the reasons for the weak showing of the Middle East academic community, we might mention two good ways to begin such an analysis. First, read (or reread) the essay "The State of Middle East Studies" by Bernard Lewis, who develops the valid point that there is a generally low level of competence in Middle East studies.[46] Second, take a hard relook at the status of the Arab-Israeli dispute in Middle East studies, where it is the de rigueur cause of all evils. To borrow again from Joseph Sobran, we should eliminate the obligatory Arab-Israeli issue from the etiquette of political science studies of the Middle East by placing it in its proper perspective. It has never been, and is not now, the primary issue in the Middle East, yet numerous scholars have been nurtured on the concept that the Middle East issue equals the Palestinian issue. Saddam Hussein did not invade Iran nor Kuwait because of Palestine. The conflicts in Sudan, Western Sahara, Eritrea, Kurdistan, and Afghanistan were not instigated by Israel. The fact that tyranny reigns almost everywhere in the Arab World is not a by-product of Zionism or imperialism. Until the Middle East academic establishment begins to educate scholars free of personal agendas so that they can appreciate the whole complex tapestry of national motivation in this vexed part of the world, and until their institutions break free of teaching a lock-step liturgy in place of a truly liberal perspective, its diminished reputation will not improve.


NOTES

1. Robin Wright of the Los Angeles Times keynoted the Middle East Institute meeting in Washington, D.C., on 12 October 1990, stating among other things that any alliance against Iraq was an "illusion," and that there were no attractive alternatives. The presence of Americans on Saudi soil would "undermine" the royal family. Ms. Wright stated that she had no confidence in sanctions, and there could be no solution to the Gulf problem without first solving the Arab-Israeli dispute. Dr. Charles Doran of the School of Advanced International Studies at John Hopkins followed with an even more pessimistic view, i.e. the crisis would drag on and Saddam would outwait the United States, the embargo would leak, the coalition would crumble, Saddam would become a folk hero, US troop morale would decline, US public support would quickly erode, etc., etc. The Middle East Studies Association meeting in San Antonio, Texas, in November 1990, was the forum for a similarly gloomy assessment. Dr. Rashid Khalidi stated that the war would be much bloodier (in US casualties) than the public expected, that there would be a terrible backlash against Americans, and that a power vacuum would be created causing long-term problems. In the halls during these conferences, private views were even more emphatic in painting a gloom-and-doom assessment. If there were dissenting views, I did not hear them.

2. Robert Kupperman and Jeff Kamen, "War Over There, Terror Over Here," The Christian Science Monitor, 24 September 1990, p. 18.

3. Marshall Ingwerson, "U.S. Experts Cite Warning Signs," The Christian Science Monitor, 21 September 1990, p. 1.

4. Judith Caesar, "Dissent in Saudi Arabia," The Christian Science Monitor, 24 August 1990, p. 19. "American soldiers may find themselves in more danger from Saudi opposition forces than from the Iraqi Army."

5. Depiction of Jordanian reaction based on interview with senior US Foreign Service Officer of US Embassy in Amman, 16 October 1991.

6. Mohammad Muslih and Augustus Richard Norton, "Political Tides in the Arab World," Headline Series, Foreign Policy Association (Summer 1991), p. 58. This was also my own observation gathered during a visit to North Africa in December 1990.

7. Ann Mosely Lesch, "Contrasting Reactions to the Persian Gulf Crisis, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and the Palestinians," Middle East Journal, 45 (Winter 1991), 30-50.

8. Generally speaking, the wealth and sometimes the conduct of Gulf Arabs in other Arab nations engendered resentment. In one study conducted at the American University of Cairo, Saudi students were considered more socially distant than Westerners. Ralph R. Sell, "International Affinities in Modern Egypt: Results from a Social Distance Survey of Elite Students," International Journal of Middle East Studies, 22 (February 1990), 71.

9. Testimony to Senate Foreign Relations Committee, C-SPAN, 19 March 1991.

10. The term "post-Orientalist" here is used to identify the newer genre of Middle East scholars for whom the term Orientalist has become a pejorative. The Orientalist is seen as a Western scholar who views Islam and the Middle East through a Eurocentric prism with a sympathetic but condescending viewpoint. The neo-Orientalist viewpoint, popularized by Dr. Edward Said, seems to be marked by a knee-jerk anti-Western ideology that all too often results in simplistic conspiracy theories. See Georges Corm, Fragmentation of the Middle East: The Last Thirty Years (London: Hutchinson, 1988), pp. 6-7.

11. An attitude I encountered in the gatherings of scholars and academicians, typified by the usual rejoinder, "Oh well, you're in government service; you have to say those things." On the other hand, articles published by government agencies which seemed to support their views were and continue to be quoted ad nauseum. A case in point is Iraqi Power and U.S. Security in the Middle East, published by the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College (1990). In its well-intentioned effort to impress policymakers with the importance of establishing friendly relations with Iraq, the authors glossed over Iraqi treatment of the Kurds and overestimated the fighting capability of the Iraqi army. To cast doubt that the Iraqis used gas on the Kurds at Hallabja, Godfrey Jansen in an article in the 26 June 1992 issue of the Middle East International, "The Truth is Emerging" (p. 20), cites from one of numerous anti-Gulf War books a passage referring to the Army War College study.

12. Many recent revisionist books contained this theme. See Michael Rubner's review of the two books, George Bush's War and Mr. Bush's War, in Middle East Policy, 1 (1992), 174-78.

13. Rashid Khalidi, presentation to the Middle East Studies Association, San Antonio, Texas, 11 November 1990.

14. Mention of the fact that the borders of the Gulf states were drawn largely by or under the influence of the British was de rigueur in every apologia for the invasion of Kuwait. For example, see Edward Said, "Behind Saddam Hussein's Moves," The Christian Science Monitor, 13 August 1990, p. 18. Another view includes not only the border factor but "the moral equivalency" shibboleth, i.e. "You're not OK, but I'm not either." Piero Gleijeses, "It's Not Worth Fighting a War," The Christian Science Monitor, 26 October 1990, p. 12. For the best short summary of the issue see Alfred Prados, "Iraq and Kuwait: Conflicting Historical Claims," Congressional Research Service Report, Library of Congress, January 1991.

15. George Joffe review of Dilip Hiro's book Desert Shield to Desert Storm: The Second Gulf War in Middle East International, 29 May 1992, p. 22.

16. Stansfield Turner, "Hang Tough on Iraqi Embargo," The Christian Science Monitor, 30 August 1990, p. 18. He wrote, "Thus our only choice for the near future is to see what the political and economic isolation of Iraq can do."

17. According to Elie Kedourie, only after Sharif Hussein of Mecca in 1920 proclaimed himself King of Arabs can we speak of Arab political culture ("Democracy and Arab Political Culture," Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1992, p. 26). The Pan-Arab idea retains considerable emotional strength among the elite. See As'ad Abukhalil, "A New Arab Ideology? The Rejuvenation of Arab Nationalism," Middle East Journal, 46 (Winter 1992), 22-36.

18. Dr. Abbas Kelidar at a symposium at London University, March 1969.

19. See Ferdinand Schevill, History of the Balkans (rpt.; New York: Dorset Press, 1991), pp. 393-96. The Bosnians, who converted to Islam, acted as overseers for their Ottoman rulers, subjugating the Serbian serfs who remained Christian.

20. "So alien was the idea of the territorial nation-state that Arabic had no word for Arabia, while Turkey, until modern times, lacked a word for Turkey." Bernard Lewis, The Middle East and the West (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1964), pp. 72-73.

21. A good recent examination of Saudi foreign policy is Adeed Dawisha, "Saudi Arabia" in Security in the Middle East, ed. Samuel F. Wells, Jr., and Mark A. Bruzonsky (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1987), pp. 89-100.

22. A figure frequently quoted is about $10 billion since 1967, not counting philanthropic grants to Palestinian institutions such as Bir Zeit University and Mokassed Hospital. Some recent references are Richard C. Hottelet, "Palestinian Prospects Never Dimmer," The Christian Science Monitor, 19 February 1991, p. 19; and Paul Adams, "Cuts in Gulf Funding Pinch Palestinian Economy," The Christian Science Monitor, 6 September 1990, p. 3.

23. A typical story to this effect is by Shafiga Daulet, "Why Are You Doing This to Us?" The Christian Science Monitor, 10 January 1992, p. 19.

24. The historical record of sanctions is examined and their effectiveness disputed in Robert A. Doughty and Harold E. Raugh, Jr., "Embargoes in Historical Perspectives," Parameters, 21 (Spring 1991), 21-30.

25. See Alfred B. Prados, "Jordan: Persian Gulf Crisis and U.S. Aid," Congressional Research Service Report, Library of Congress, 11 January 1991.

26. Elaine Sciolino, "Iraq: Prospects for Assimilation," presentation at Persian Gulf Conference of Middle East Institute, Washington, D.C., 13 June 1991. See also Raymond A. Schroth, "UN Sanctions in Iraq--Deadly Weapon--Wrong Target," Commonweal, 11 September 1992, pp. 4-6.

27. Michael K. Duffey, "The Just War Teaching from Tonkin Gulf to Persian Gulf," America, 2 February 1991, pp. 83-89; Drew Christiansen, S.J., "The Ethics of U.S. Strategies in the Persian Gulf," America, 8 December 1991, pp. 450-52, 460, 462. Ron Scherer, "Church Leaders Urge Cease Fire--Delegates at World Council of Churches Conference Lambaste US-Led Gulf War Effort," The Christian Science Monitor, 20 February 1991, p. 6.

28. William Shannon, "Christian Conscience and Modern Warfare," America, 15 February 1992, pp. 108-12. Martin van Creveld, in his article, "The Persian Gulf Crisis of 1990-1991 and the Future of Morally Constrained War," Parameters, 22 (Summer 1992), 21-40, makes the key point that a moral stance which equates all wars as equally abhorrent has the effect of removing all civilized restraints on conduct of war. All too soon forgotten has been Saddam Hussein's use of force to "abolish a sovereign state" and his threat to use poisoned gas, taking civilians hostage, deliberate destruction of Kuwait's economic infrastructure, and using his own civilians as hostage by placing military targets in civilian neighborhoods. With further regard to the moral aspects of war, there was some indignation that Iraqi casualties were so high, while coalition forces were so low. The Bush Administration was criticized for thinking only about American costs. Keith Berner, "Morality and Bush Foreign Policy," The Christian Science Monitor, 17 April 1991, p. 18. This concept inspires images of American soldiers being ordered to commit seppuku (suicide) in order to even the casualty score and assuage the tender consciences of the morally correct.

29. US Congress, Hearings before the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, 102d Cong., 2d sess., 19 March 1992, S. Hrg. 102-652, p. 3.

30. Daulet, "Why Are You Doing This to Us?" p. 19.

31. Observing the ferocity with which Mortimer Zuckerman has gone after the "Iraq-gate" story, it appears that the intention is to somehow pin the blame for Iraqi power on American largesse. See "The Cloud Over Desert Storm," U.S. News and World Report, 31 August - 7 September 1992, p. 106. The Administration "tilt" toward Iraq was a plausible response to the Iranian threat to the Gulf and its oil. I remember at the time many of the Middle East observers were expecting Iranian moves toward Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia had already begun a process of accommodation to Iran, i.e. setting oil prices to comply with Iranian interests. See also Albert Wohlstetter and Fred Hoffman, "The Bitter End: The Case for Re-Intervention in Iraq," New Republic, April 1992, pp. 20-24. For the best rebuttal of the not-enough argument see William L. Dowdy, Second Guessing the End of Desert Storm, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pa., February 1992.

32. Though the post-Orientalists do not want to advance the cause of Israel, of course, they could scarcely contain their glee over Bush's discomfiture as his post-Gulf War popularity waned. See stories in such publications as Middle East International (seemingly dedicated to the view that if Her Majesty is not the preeminent power in the Middle East then it is encumbent upon it to undermine the Americans), e.g. "The Albatross Around Bush's Neck," 12 June 1992, and "Bush's Desert Storm Laurels Slip," 7 August 1992.

33. See A. J. Barker, The Bastard War: Mesopotamian Campaign 1914-1918 (New York: Dial Press, 1967).

34. Twenty-three different opposition groups gathered in Beirut in March 1991. Laurie Mylroie, The Future of Iraq, Washington Institute Policy Paper Number 24, 1991, p. 33.

35. Robert Olsen, "The Creation of a Kurdish State," Journal of South Asian and Middle East Studies, 15 (Summer 1992), 1-25.

36. Shireen T. Hunter, "Will Azerbaijan's New Rulers Safeguard Western Interests?" Middle East International, 24 July 1992, pp. 19-20.

37. Just one of many editorials coming out of Iran expressing this concern was contained in Iranian daily ABRAR broadcast on 2 November 1992. "Iran in no way will give in to disintegration of regional countries and changes in borders, because any alteration of borders will provide a prelude for break-out of a war and a general crisis." Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Near East South Asia 92-213, 3 November 1992, p. 39.

38. Thomas Stauffer, "A Possible Iran-Iraq Axis," The Christian Science Monitor, 23 August 1990, p. 18. Bahman Baktiari, "War's Havoc in Iran and Saudi Arabia," The Christian Science Monitor, 17 December 1990, p. 19.

39. See Godfrey Jansen, "A Year After Desert Storm: Differing Views of the War," Middle East International, 24 January 1992, pp. 15-16.

40. One in particular occurred at the Southeast Regional Middle East and Islamic Studies Seminar, Savannah, Ga., 13 April 1991, in a presentation by Dr. Ali Altaie titled, "The Gulf Crisis: What the Iraqis Say." On Middle Eastern predilection for conspiracy theories, see Daniel Pipes, "Dealing with Middle Eastern Conspiracy Theories," Orbis, 36 (Winter 1992), 42.

41. An allusion to Oliver Stone's 1992 cinema JFK, portraying the view that John F. Kennedy's assassination by Lee Harvey Oswald was the result of an elaborate conspiracy.

42. There have been a number of people who have indeed recognized not only the misjudgments of the Middle East scholars and journalists, but the defense analysts as well. See Mr. Krauthammer's response to a question on this subject in the Conference Proceedings of the SOREF Symposium "American Strategy after the Gulf War," Washington Institute for Near East Policy, April 1991, p. 79. See also Jacob Weisberg, "Gulfballs: How the Experts Blew It Big Time," The New Republic, 25 March 1991, pp. 17-19.

43. One example is Robin Wright, who, after being wrong on nearly every prediction earlier, returns to the fray to write "that Kuwaiti sovereignty may be restored and Saudi security ensured, but the long-term cost-benefit ratio on a host of other fronts is almost certainly not in favor of U.S. interests" ("Unexplored Realities of the Persian Gulf Crisis," Middle East Journal, 45 [Winter 1991], 29). Denigration of the allied military achievements is part of the revisionists' litany. For example see Martin Walker, "Dateline Washington: Victory and Delusion," Foreign Policy, No. 83 (Summer 1991), 161. "It [Iraq] presumed to deploy a makeshift, obsolete version of a Soviet field army."

44. For an example of talking heads during the Gulf crisis, see David Segal, "Shrink Rap," The New Republic, 25 March 1991, p. 18, profiling the remarkable career of Judith Kipper.

45. Dr. Edward R. Said wrote that the mainstream scholars "affiliated themselves with the Administration" ("The Intellectuals and the War," Middle East Report, 21 [July-August 1991], 16). Having examined almost all national Middle Eastern periodicals published within the past two years, I can find very little support for his contention. In fact, it was the exact opposite with few exceptions. One such exception was Fouad Ajami, whom Dr. Said characterizes as a "mediocre scholar" in the same article.

46. Bernard Lewis also makes the point that the polarizing effect of the Arab-Israeli issue creates an unhealthy environment for scholarship. Moreover, he decries foreign grants to universities and a mind-set within universities that only people "sympathetic" to their area of studies should teach it (The American Scholar, 48 [Summer 1979], 365-81).


Colonel Norvell B. DeAtkine, USA Ret., is director of Middle East studies at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He also is an adjunct professor of Middle East studies and terrorism at Methodist College in Fayetteville. He is a 1959 graduate of the US Military Academy and earned a master's degree in Middle East studies at the American University in Beirut. He is also a graduate of the Army War College. His service included tours in Vietnam, Korea, and Germany. Colonel DeAtkine served eight years as an attaché and security assistance officer in Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt, and he was stationed in the United Arab Emirates with the British Trucial Oman Scouts. In 1970 he was confined for two weeks in the US Embassy in Amman, Jordan, during a PLO uprising; in 1981, as the Chief of Land Forces Section, Office of Military Cooperation, in Egypt, he was on the reviewing stand with Anwar Sadat when Sadat was assassinated.


Reviewed 28 May 1998. Please send comments or corrections to usarmy.carlisle.awc.mbx.parameters@mail.mil.