On Taking Sides: Lessons of the Persian Gulf War




Rubenstein, Richard

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School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution


Immediately following the invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi troops in August 1990, many scholars and practitioners in the field of conflict resolution went on record opposing military action by United States or United Nations forces to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. At a forum sponsored by the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University and televised nationally by C-SPAN in September 1990, a number of us argued that war was unnecessary because better means of resolving current disputes between Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia were available. Negotiations dealing with the immediate issues in dispute--the Rumaillah oil field, Iraq's war debts, and so forthcould get the Iraqis out of Kuwait before they laid waste the country. Meanwhile, using facilitated problem-solving processes, the parties could begin to deal with the fundamental causes of the conflict, of which Saddam Hussein's militarism was only a symptom: problems like the needs of ethnic and religious groups for identity and autonomy, the great disparities of wealth and income among the peoples of the region, and the need of the region as a whole for independence from foreign domination and manipulation. If these problems were not dealt with locally, we warned, the Persian Gulf would remain a hotbed of conflict and a magnet for continuing foreign intervention.