Wednesday, April 23, 2014

THE IRAQI TILT (1982-1990)

Excellent discussion in Wk 1 in my Spring 2014 UMUC class on the 1991 Gulf War. Arguments for and against the Iraqi Tilt - the US support of Saddam Hussein against Iran during the Iran-Iraq War - have been laid out well.
The mandate in this class is to understand history from the perspective of policy analysis. Would events have occurred differently had a certain policy not been followed? Would Saddam Hussein been enboldened to invade Kuwait in 1990, if he had not previously received the green light to carry on his invasion of Iran? Clearly, he mis-read the situation entirely, as Clovis Maksoud points out. He also knew that that a similar Iraqi incursion into Kuwait in 1960, had been met with disapproval from the West. The UK sent troops to the border of Kuwait and Iraq to prevent a border war. On the other hand, the West mis-read Hussein, by providing him funds that he used to build up his military, but expecting at the same time that he would 'stay in his box'.  The West' policy was that of 'the enemies (Iraq) of my enemies (Iran) are my friends."
The question before the class in terms of policy analysis is: should  potential long term consequences of supporting a dictator be evaluated? Or should short term goals (defeating Iran) remain paramount? One student pointed out the ethical dimensions of foreign policy.  As a democracy and signatory to various human rights treaties, should the US adhere to human rights norms in choosing allies...or is that simply not a realistic strategy?
In 1987, the neoconservative Daniel Pipes correctly saw how the Iraqi Tilt might backfire:
"A more serious argument against a tilt toward Iraq is the danger that a victorious Baghdad would itself turn against pro-American states in the region — mainly Israel, but also Kuwait and other weak states in the Persian Gulf region. "
Hindsight is not 20/20 always...since Daniel Pipes clearly saw the danger involved in the Iraqi Tilt while it was in effect.

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