IN THE CURRENT showdown in Iraq, the United States has spent
almost as much energy - and arguably more clout - dealing with its
friends as it has with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. But just how
much Washington has to show for its efforts has become one of the
most controversial aspects of the Persian Gulf crisis.
Kuwait finally agreed Monday to let a few thousand U.S.
soldiers deploy in the sheikdom. But the four-day delay after the
Pentagon announced the deployment was a far cry from the appeals
six years ago to dispatch hundreds of thousands of troops and
anything else the Americans were prepared to provide to confront
Although President Bill Clinton's administration has secured
broad support within the United States for its get-tough policy,
the embarrassing episode in Kuwait is a microcosm of U.S. problems
in dealing with key parties in the former 38-member coalition that
fought the 1991 Persian Gulf War. It also reflects fundamental
differences between "Operation Desert Storm" and this year's sequel
launched with "Operation Desert Strike."
For some allies, not enough is at stake this time. For others,
the incentives have shifted over the last six years - sometimes in
"The old coalition doesn't exist anymore," said James A.
Placke, a former U.S. diplomat in Iraq now with Cambridge Energy
Research Associates. "But it's somewhat misleading to look at it
that way. In each adventure with Saddam, the national interests of
each state and the circumstances of the crisis have varied, so it's
not surprising that you can't marshal the same team each time."
The gulf states still view Hussein as a menace. Yet for many of
the emirates, the direct dangers are not high enough nor is the
proposed U.S. response large enough to make the price of open
endorsement of Clinton's efforts worth the risks, analysts said.
"Neither Kuwaiti nor Saudi Arabian oil was threatened this time,'
said Judith Kipper, co-director of the Middle East program at the
Center for Strategic and International Studies.
` Get It Over With'
After limited U.S. action, Saddam and the problem he represents
also are still around. The core issue is unresolved. Meanwhile, the
suffering of the Iraqi people grows - a plight now bound to worsen
with postponement of a United Nations deal allowing Iraq to sell
oil so that it can purchase humanitarian supplies.
As frustration deepens over the U.S. inability to rid Iraq of
Saddam, Persian Gulf regimes are ready for something decisive. Yet
current American tactics just seem to be more of the same, with no
end in sight, analysts said.
"I'm hearing a lot of people say that U.S. policy is not
working, and if we can't get rid of him then we should adopt a
different strategy," said Richard Murphy, a former ambassador to
Saudi Arabia who is now at the Council on Foreign Relations and in
Geoffrey Kemp, a former administration National Security
Council staff member under Ronald Reagan, observed that, "In
private, the gulf states wish we'd send B-52s for a week and get it
over with. …