I can barely identify a single aspect of Con Coughlin’s piece at The National, reflecting on Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait 30 years ago, with which I agree:
One of the more memorable features of the global reaction to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait 30 years ago, in August 1990, was the almost universal condemnation that followed.
In a response that would be almost unimaginable today, countries with diametrically opposed outlooks and political systems came together to form a truly multinational coalition – one that would eventually succeed in achieving its ultimate objective of liberating Kuwait from Saddam’s brutal occupation.
That’s true as far as it goes but I think you should look a little more deeply. Our notional European allies, China, and the Arab countries of the Middle East will all come together when what we’re doing furthers their own national interests. When what we’re doing doesn’t, they won’t.
Let’s start with the Arab countries. In their entire history as a people the Arabs have only been united in goals for about 500 years and that was a millennium ago. Over that millennium they’ve been occupied by the Turks, the Russians, the French, the Brits, the Germans, and, most recently, the United States. The reason? When they’re not ruled by someone else, they’re at each others’ throats.
Saddam was a threat to all of his neighbors and they knew it. Of course they’d join an effort against him after he invaded Kuwait. Similarly, Kuwait was a major source of oil for European countries and they were concerned about an increasingly powerful Saddam Hussein disrupting that. Most did not join us in our invasion of Iraq because they were more worried about instability in the Middle East than they were about Saddam Hussein. In other words they didn’t see it as in their interests.