Desert Shield to Desert Storm: The Second Gulf War, by Dilip Hiro
One of the more intriguing aspects of this book is the fact that the actual military conflict in Desert Storm takes up a surprisingly little amount of the contents of this boo. The Second Gulf War was admittedly a short war as far as wars go at between a month and a month-and-a-half or so of actual military conflict, and the author spends a great deal of time talking about the prelude to the war as well as the crisis itself, but only a little bit of time on the actual fighting in the Second Gulf War, which, as must be admitted, was a rather one-sided affair. And for all of the criticism of linking the Middle East crisis with the Kuwaiti crisis, this book does precisely that in exploring how it was that Saddam sought to divide his opponents in the coalition by playing to Arab hostility for Israel, which forced the United States to push for neutrality in the Gulf War by Israel while also seeking to provide for its safety and security by dealing with the Scuds. The result is a taut and intriguing picture of the contradictions and tensions inherent in the approach of both Saddam as well as the coalition and the importance of conspiracy and the lack of decisiveness that seems to be heavy in the warfare of the late 20th and early 21st century.
This book is about 450 pages long and is divided into three parts. The book begins with illustrations, abbreviations, maps, a preface, and an introduction. After that, the first two chapters talk about the historical background of the problems between Iraq and Kuwait (I), with a look at the question as to whether they are neighbors or part of one family (1), as well as the prelude to the crisis (2). This leads to the largest section of the book, which discusses the crisis involving the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (II), with a lok at Saddam’s blitzkrieg and Bush’s line in the sand (3), the issue of diplomacy, build-ups, and hostages (4), Bush dealing with the American domestic front (5), the influence of a violent riot in Jerusalem (6) on the politics of the Middle East, the transition between desert shield and desert storm (7), and the countdown to war (8). The book then ends with a discussion of the military solution of the Gulf War (III), namely the air campaign (9), the ground war (10), the aftermath (11), and some conclusions by the author (12). This is followed by an epilogue, notes, four appendices that show a chronology (i), Armed forces of the various combatants (ii), and UN resolutions about Iraq (iii) and the Palestinian issue (iv), as well as a bibliography and index.
In many cases, what a writer gets out of a subject is what he puts into the subject, and this particular book is written by someone who clearly has an interest in the Cold War, which was in its waning stages in this book, as well as in the Middle East. These interests shine as the author talks about the effects of rioting and its quelling on the Temple Mount (where, it appears as usual, that the Palestinians were in the wrong for attacking peaceful Israelis and then whining when they got their deserved punishment) as well as the changing role of the Soviet Union and the nonaligned nations in seeking to carve a way in what was becoming a unipolar world. Also of interest is the author’s knowledge of late Ottoman politics and the way that the British Empire dealt with the states of the Persian Gulf area. The relationship between Iraq and Kuwait has long been a fraught one and this book does a good job in explaining why, something that will likely be of great interest for many readers, who may not know much about the historical context of the border disputes between Kuwait and Iraq.