by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
Aug. 13, 2015
GULF WAR'S LESSONS ARE LOST ON GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Twenty-five years ago this month, Saddam Hussein sent the Iraqi army into Kuwait in an attempt to annex their much smaller neighbor.
It was the first big test of the post-Cold War world, and aside from the triumphant TV images of a quick and overwhelming U.S. military victory, what became known as the Gulf War is dimly remembered today.
Ambassador Joseph Wilson hasn't forgotten, though. He was in charge of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad during the Gulf War and, in a piece he wrote for The Boston Globe this week, he sought to retrieve what happened from the memory hole.
"President George H.W, Bush termed the approach to international crisis management and resolution in this first conflict after the end of the Cold War the 'New World Order,' in which our national interests and goals would be best achieved in concert with our allies and broad international approval," Wilson wrote. "That approach required the painstaking diplomacy of Secretary of State James Baker and the State Department, including our embassy in Baghdad, to forge an international consensus and real coalition of like-minded nations."
Wilson said President Bush, Baker, and National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft reached out "across the globe, securing military and financial commitments from friends and like-minded governments, while at the United Nations, Ambassador Tom Pickering led efforts to define the specific goals of the international community.
"The results constituted an unprecedented display of global cooperation: 32 nations contributed troops; 90 percent of the costs of the war were borne by other nations; and 12 resolutions were passed by the UN Security Council providing the international legal framework for our actions."
You can disagree with whether the U.S. needed to go to war with Iraq over Kuwait - and I fall in the camp that believe diplomacy was never fully given a chance to avoid war - but you can't deny that Bush at least made an effort to go through the United Nations and make the effort to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait an international one.
Wilson compared that to President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003.
"In 2003, our actions were largely unilateral. Support was purchased, coerced, co-opted, or suborned. The United States could not even be bothered to go to the United Nations for the requisite resolution for the use of force. The massive costs were - and are - still being borne by the American taxpayer.
"We emerged from the Gulf War in 1991 with the political and moral authority, and the unity of purpose, to broker major progress on some of the most difficult issues in the region.
"But now we are so conflicted that we find the most significant nuclear arms agreement in years that would prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon under a fierce attack, lacking in facts but not funds from a right-wing casino magnate and his far right proxies."
With the 17 Republican candidates for president thumping their chests and trying to outdo each other on who can be tougher against Iran, the Islamic State, and al-Qaeda, Wilson wants us to remember the first Gulf War "when realists and pragmatists held the ideologues at bay.
"We are still paying the price financially and strategically for the dire consequences of the neocon debacle in the Iraq War in which the lessons of the Gulf War were studiously ignored. We should remember now, as we consider the agreement with Iran, that when we have operated on the basis of international consensus, law, and convention, the United States has only enhanced its national security, strategic position, and prestige."
But the realists and pragmatists are in short supply in today's Republican Party. They were ignored by the second Bush Administration in 2002 and 2003 and, as a result, our nation will be paying a dear price for that act for generations to come.
If the same hubris and ignorance that fueled the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan scuttles the nuclear agreement with Iran, the price may be higher.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A .from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and is an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.