Explaining U.S. Behavior in the Gulf Crisis
The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the U.S. reaction to it have provided another occasion to "confirm" various theoretical propositions about U.S. policy. Few people take at face value the official explanation that international principles and the UN Charter were the driving forces behind the intervention of the United States. But just about every other school of thought about U.S. foreign policy found "evidence" in this crisis for its own hypotheses. The only exception is the proposition that U.S. policy was motivated by the advocacy of democracy: The nature of the Kuwaiti government before the invasion and after liberation, and the absence of democracy in many states that joined the U.S.-led coalition, rule out this proposition as a serious explanation. Clearly, it is not possible that all these theories hold.
In this chapter, I consider the conventional interpretations of the decisions of the United States following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and leading up to the military attack on Iraqi forces. I suggest that a good case can be made for each interpretation, but in the end none stands up to the facts. Instead, I argue that the early U.S. decision to deploy forces in the Gulf was almost automatic; no matter who sat in the White House, or who had access to it, the decision would have been the same. Second, I argue that the decision to escalate the U.S. deployment in October 1990, which made war inevitable if Iraq did not withdraw, was ultimately caused by the inherent tension between the domestic and international context of U.S. policy in the Middle East, which was exacerbated by the major Israeli-Palestinian crisis during that month.