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Shaping The Gulf: In Search of Order.

This collection of topical commentaries and primary materials on the Gulf War covers the period from mid-1990 to mid-1991 and includes voices from North America, Europe and the Arab World. The editors provide brief introductions to each of ten sections which trace the crisis from the first "Tremors in the Middle East" to "Post-War Iraq: Assessing the Damage." Relevant United Nations resolutions, plus a chronology of events and a bibliography, are included in an appendix. Unfortunately, the anthology is flawed by sloppy proofreading, important omissions, and a system of citation which makes it difficult to ascertain where and when a commentary was originally published. The book is also marred by paper and binding of such poor quality that it tends to fall apart a reader's hand.

Among the policy statements, interviews and analyses included in this volume are those of George Bush, Saddam Hussein, April Glaspie, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Peter Mansfield, Kiren Aziz Chaudhry, David Nes, Andrew I. Killgore, Erskine Childers, Anne Mosely Lesch, Israel Shahak, Yahya Sadowski, Naseer Aruri, Rashid Khalidi and Edward Said. A few titles are suggestive of the contents: "The Arab Nation and Saddam Hussein" (Mansfield); "On the Way to Market: Economic Liberalization and Iraq's Invasion of Kuwait" (Chaudhry); "The Use and Abuse of the U.N. in the Gulf Crisis" (Childers); "Israeli Strategic Aims in the Gulf" (Shahak); and "Fanning the Embers of Pan-Arabism" (Hallaj). Especially heavily represented as places of original publication are Middle East International, Middle East Report, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, The Nation, and The Village Voice. Arabic newspapers from which commentaries were selected include al-Fajr, al-Nahar and al-Quds (Jerusalem), al-dustur (Amman), and Sourakia (London).

With a new American administration in Washington and what one hopes will be a continuing and intensive effort by the United States to facilitate a comprehensive solution to Middle Eastern disputes, commentaries by Zbigniew Brzezinski and Edward Said merit special mention.

National Security Advisor in the Carter administration and an individual likely to have input into policy formulation during the Clinton presidency, Brzezinski argued in April 1991 that the United States has an obligation to labor energetically for a new and better Middle East. The risk that the pulverization of Iraq "may come to be seen as having precipitated a geopolitical disaster and moral disgrace" is at least as true today as it was in the spring of 1991. Brzezinski astutely warns that Iran will be the major beneficiary of the American destruction of Iraq, and that by fragmenting Iraq the United States risks "Lebanonizing" the entire Fertile Crescent and saddling itself with fearsome geostrategic difficulties (p. 537). He worries that the intensity of the air assault on Iraq will be taken in the Middle East as evidence that "Americans view Arab lives as worthless," and he deplores the metastasis of "just war" rhetoric before and during the conflict (pp. 538-39). Brzezinski advocates implementation of a Marshall Plan for the Middle East, a "redistribution of regional wealth," and "serious movement towards Arab-Israeli peace" (pp. 538-40). In "Brzezinski's opinion, no Arab-Israeli peace will be possible without "some form of statehood for Palestinians" (p. 540).

In a searing condemnation of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, penned in August 1990, Edward Said demonstrates the error of the continuing American conviction that Palestinians overwhelmingly supported Saddam Hussein during the build-up to the Gulf War. He denounces Hussein's "reckless" attempt to "obliterate" Kuwait as engendering an anger among some Palestinians equal or more intense that they felt in 1967 or 1982. "To the ... outraged Kuwaitis," Said writes, "every rational Arab extends a hand of deep sympathy and friendship." He points out that Kuwait was a "relatively democratic state," and that the flourishing Palestinian community there had long been of great importance to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (p. 329). Especially upsetting to Said is the fact that the Iraqi leader single-handedly delivered an enormous blow to the intifada. "Palestinians have paid an unacceptably high price for his folly," Said observes, "as too have other Arabs" (p.332). Said's judgments in 1990 may be reflected in the pragmatism of the Palestinian team in the current Arab-Israeli peace negotiations, and in the way most Palestinians have distanced themselves from Baghdad.

Omitted entirely from this volume is any representation of the views of such conservative American intellectual opponents of the Gulf War as Philip Nicolaides, Joseph Sobran, Jon Basil Utley, Philip Collier, Sheldon Richman, Patrick Buchanan, Henry Regnery, Williamson Evers, Robert Sirico, Murray Rothbard, Robert Hessen and William Niskanen. Grouped together under the mantle of the Committee to Avert a Mideast Holocaust, these and other conservatives argued forcefully that an American war against Iraq was inimical to long-term American national interests in the Middle East, and that despite his conquest of Kuwait, Hussein would be unable to rewrite market forces to effect any major increase in the price of oil. Such conservatives continue to advocate a policy of American non-intervention abroad in the post-Cold War world, and oppose any New World Order based on American military force. Noteworthy also is the fact that many of these conservatives believe that Palestinian national self-determination is essential to any Arab-Israeli peace.

Despite its limitations, this book will be of interest to anyone seeking a sampling of debate on contemporary Gulf affairs. It is a useful complement to the volume edited by Ibrahim Ibrahim which Georgetown University's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies published in late 1992, The Gulf Crisis: Background and Consequences.
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Author:Sullivan, Antony T.
Publication:Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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