Gulf War Scorecard High Marks for US Foreign Policy and Armed Forces; Low Marks for Some Military Policies

By Pat M. Holt. Pat M. Holt, former chief of of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, writes on foreign affairs from Washington. | The Christian Science Monitor, March 7, 1991 | Go to article overview

Gulf War Scorecard High Marks for US Foreign Policy and Armed Forces; Low Marks for Some Military Policies


Pat M. Holt. Pat M. Holt, former chief of of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, writes on foreign affairs from Washington., The Christian Science Monitor


IT will take diplomatic and military historians years to piece together the full story of the Persian Gulf war, but we can already make some preliminary assessments.

To begin with, give George Bush an "A" for foreign policy. It was right that he opposed the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and did something about it.

Give the United Nations Security Council an "A" as well, for behaving like the framers of the Charter intended it to. The credit for making this possible goes to Mikhail Gorbachev. The Kuwait crisis marked the first time the Soviet Union was cooperative instead of obstructive in the Council.

Give Mr. Bush another "A" for the diplomacy which built the allied coalition in the Gulf war and held it together. The staunch international support underlined the basic rightness of the American and UN position and has done much to shore up the international political position of the US. This is all the more remarkable when one considers that it brought together military forces from such disparate countries as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, France, and Great Britain, and political support from the Soviet Union, China, and even Iran. This task was made easier by the foolishness of Saddam Hussein, but give Bush full marks for taking advantage of Iraqi mistakes.

Bush does not get full marks - maybe a "C" - for the parallel diplomacy of trying to settle the matter without a war. In fact, his diplomacy on this track was so obtuse that it raises the question of whether he ever really wanted to settle it without a war.

One of the principles of diplomacy is to leave as many options open as possible. Yet the record of American diplomacy in the Persian Gulf from August 1990 to February 1991 was one of steadily narrowing choices until finally there was only one left. At the same time, although there were frequent expressions of hope from the White House that Saddam would come to his senses, little was said to encourage him to do so. The president scoffed at the notion of saving face for Saddam and used other intemperate language ("kick ass") unbecoming a president of the United States. In the end, when Iraq began to make some concessions, they were rejected out of hand instead of seized as the basis for negotiations. What a contrast with the way Kennedy handled the missile crisis. …

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