My latest reading of Monica Crowley’s Nixon in Winter was about Nixon’s discussions regarding the Gulf War in the 1990’s. I have two items.
1. Why did Iraq invade Kuwait? I appreciated Monica’s background information on page 218:
“The foundation for the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was laid during Iraq’s eight-year war with Iran. By the war’s end, in 1988, Iraq owed more than fifty billion dollars to other Arab states and Western banks. Kuwait had lent Hussein fifteen billion dollars, and most of the borrowed money was spent on augmenting Iraq’s military machine. Hussein had demanded that Kuwait write off its massive war loan to Iraq and help increase the world price of oil by not pumping in excess of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) quotas. This excess, coupled with a general international oil glut, had lowered world prices and had, according to Hussein, caused Iraq to lose fourteen billion dollars in oil revenues. He went searching inside the Kuwaiti border for oil, claiming that the reserves belonged to Iraq.”
A lot of the information that Monica presents here overlaps with what conservative Charley Reese said in a November 18, 1990 column, even though Monica and Reese probably had different viewpoints about the Gulf War (my hunch is that Monica supported it, whereas I know that Reese was against it). Both talk about Kuwait releasing oil into the market in a manner that would reduce the price of oil, thereby hindering Iraq from getting the oil revenue that it needed to recoup from its 1980’s war with Iran. And both mention the idea that Kuwait took oil reserves that belonged to Iraq. Monica appears to be skeptical that this was the case, but Reese out-and-out states that “the Kuwaitis had advanced the border farther north and begun to take Iraqi oil.” Reese argues that Kuwait was acting so boldly because it realized that it would be backed up by the United States, as part of a strategy to destabilize Iraq’s government.
Reese’s column was in my local newspaper when I was a kid. I remember that November 18, 1990 column as the first time that I encountered a different perspective on the Gulf War. Granted, I was already aware that there were people who were against Operation Desert Shield. They claimed that the war was about oil, and they expressed apprehensions about another Vietnam. But Reese was the first person I read who explained Saddam Hussein’s side of the story in terms of his invasion of Kuwait.
2. A question that I have asked a couple of times on this blog is whether or not Nixon would have supported the Iraq War under President George W. Bush (see here and here). My impression from reading Monica’s account of her discussions with Nixon about the first Gulf War is that Nixon indeed would have supported the Iraq War. Monica doesn’t address this topic, of course, since this book was published in 1998, before George W. Bush was even President. But she states that Nixon wanted for President George H.W. Bush to remove Saddam Hussein from power, and that Nixon called upon Bush to do so. She also narrates that Nixon thought that Bush I and his Secretary of State, James Baker, were not acting quickly or decisively, but were spending too much time relying on diplomacy.