Gulf War Prelim question

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Gulf War Prelim question

Sources A, B and D all support the hypothesis, that the Persian Gulf War represented a US rather than collective action. They show a US which initiated the action, and bullied others into supporting it, an action, moreover, which was carried out in support of US interests.

Sources C and E, however, challenge the hypothesis. These sources show that there was willing support from other UN members, indeed that others were even more enthusiastic than the US in sending UN forces to the Gulf.

Sources A and C contradict one another. While source A says that the US forced the Security Council and the UN to vote for the war, sources C and E give the impression of willing assent by other UN and security council members.

That source A portrays the US in this way is not surprising given that it comes from a left wing internet news magazine – one would expect such a source to be hostile towards the US. However, while the source is some ways inaccurate, in other ways it is reliable.

There is no doubt that the Gulf War was the result of forceful US policy; the US was the prime mover behind the UN action. It provided the bulk of the men and equipment, as well as its military direction. Moreover, as other sources show, it was the US which exercised the diplomatic muscle to get the mission sent, and it was not averse to applying the kind of pressure source A suggests.

However, source A is some ways unfair. Source C, coming from a respected newspaper, the Guardian, is probably a more reliable source of information than a left wing website, and when source C indicates that there was French, German, British and Arab support for the UN action, it is more credible than A. The fact is the US did not have to bribe and threaten every security council member; Britain and France were willing partners in the UN action, even France, which has long pursued an independent foreign policy agenda. Source E further shows that Britain, rather than being pushed, was even more enthusiastic than the US in terms of the US of military action. The fact is, many states supported UN action. 33 members contributed and many of the Arab states mentioned in source C were also enthusiastic backers of the action because they were as fearful of Saddam Hussein as the Kuwaitis were. Saudi Arabia even went as far as to allow ‘sacrosanct’ Saudi soil to be used as base for operations, and they certainly did not need to be bribed with their own oil. True, many of these Arab states were US allies, but even Syria supported the action, and Syria and the US have strained relations at the best of times.

Source B echoes A in portraying the war as a US rather than UN action, but this time outlining US motives. It is not surprising that the Iraqi Foreign Minister would portray it in this way. The source is self-serving and Aziz clearly wishes to justify Iraqi [and his own] actions be not recognizing that this was in many senses a legitimate international action, rather than a US one. Again, this contradicts sources C and E. What the source doesn’t acknowledge is the fact that the action was triggered by an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and that If the US did seek to destroy Iraqi military power, it only did so after this invasion: it is pure speculation that there would be American aggression whether we go to Kuwait or not. Aziz does not acknowledge that the Kuwaitis and many other Arab states [source C] were as opposed to this invasion as the US was.
Source B is also being economical with the truth when he says that the US sought to destroy Iraqi military power and put his hand on oil reserves. There is no doubt that the US did seek to safeguard Kuwaiti oil supplies, but then so did many others, and others including the Kuwaitis and other Arab oil producers, were equally alarmed at Iraq threats [source C]. He’s also wrong because the US did not topple the Iraqi regime, and did not gain control of Iraqi oil production. Despite clearly having the ability to do both, the US and its UN allies willingly withdrew once Kuwait had been liberated.
Source D also supports the hypothesis and in many ways it is a more convincing source than either A or B. When the Secretary General of the UN himself declares that this was not a UN war, one is inclined to believe him. Presumably he would have wanted to portray this as a UN success story, but he seems brutally frank in admitting that it was not. Similarly, when George Bush himself indicates that the US would have pursued the war anyway, this is in many ways self-incriminating and is consistent with source A, if not B. And the fact is, contextually, this is borne out. The US was the prime mover behind the action, and the fact the British were perhaps more enthusiastic is not entirely relevant since the UK was the US’s closest ally, as were the vast majority of the countries who contributed. It is also a fact that UN forces came under the command of the US, and the US provided the vast majority of fighting forces. Perez de Cuellar was right, though this might not strictly speaking have been a US action, neither was it quite a UN one either.
Source C challenges the hypothesis, and as has already been shown above, there is a good deal of truth in what it says. There was a good deal of international support for the action, but it is also clear that US the action was also very much in line with US self-interest. While it may be true to point out that the US only had differences with Iraq’s brutal dictator, this is not the whole truth – there are plenty of other brutal dictators whom the US happily tolerated, but because they did not threaten US oil supplies, as source B implies, there was no US sponsorship of a UN mission.
Source E also challenges the hypothesis, by indicating that there was not only support from the British and French, but that if anyone was pushing for a military solution it was the British. In this sense, E is consistent with C, and contradicts A, B and D. Indeed, there is a direct contradiction between E and D. Whereas E says that Bush was all for a diplomatic solution, source D says that the US would have gone to war even if it had failed to win UN blessing. Source D would seem the more convincing of the two since, unless the Los Angeles Times has misrepresented Bush [and there seems no obvious reason why such a newspaper would do this] the US president is admitting himself that this was the US’ attitude.

Perhaps the reason why Gorbachev put it this way was because he was keen to



But source A is in some ways reliable.

And in some ways it is not.

X ref A and C and C is preferred.
A is flawed.
Contradiction A and E – and which is better, source of information and context.

B agenda.

Contradiction B and C/E.

Flaws in B

Flaws in B

Source D is credible/ reliable.

Source C is reliable

But not entirely.

Source E contradiction A, B and D and why D is preferred.

Level 6

Sources A and B are not entirely convincing as reliable sources of information, but they do contain some truth and source D is a very convincing support source indicating the dominance of the US behind the UN action. However, the challenge sources also contain convincing evidence that other states were willing if not enthusiastic supporters of the action [A and E]. This was , after all, the first real challenge for the UN after the end of the Cold War and many members saw this as the first opportunity to do what it was supposed to do without the constraints of Cold War politics. This explains why 33 members actively joined – including many in the Middle East -and many others gave political backing. Yet, it cannot be denied that the US played a crucial role in the action, perhaps reflecting the reality of the post Cold War balance of power. Thus the hypothesis should be modified to this was a US driven and dominated US mission, but it was also a mission where US interests coincided with the interests of other members.

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