John Diamond: The Gulf Gap

Roundup: Talking About History

[John Diamond is the author of "The CIA and the Culture of Failure: U.S. Intelligence From the End of the Cold War to the Invasion of Iraq."]

Twenty years ago this week, despite fears of "another Vietnam," the House and Senate voted to authorize the use of force against Iraqi troops occupying Kuwait.

After days of impassioned debate, the House supported President George H.W. Bush's policy by a comfortable margin. The Senate's 52-47 vote was the closest margin for war by a chamber of Congress in U.S. history.

The anniversary of the Persian Gulf War, a watershed event in modern American history, has gone almost entirely unnoticed. This oversight is perplexing given the presence of about 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq today and the countless connections between the swift liberation of Kuwait in 1991 and the protracted occupation of Iraq, now winding down after eight painful years.

The relationship between the two conflicts, however, is not as simple as it may appear.

Many, including some of the architects of the Iraq war, saw the 2003 invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein as the long-overdue completion of a mission left unfinished in 1991. This interpretation not only overlooks the clearly stated goals of the Persian Gulf War but also the almost diametrically opposed principles underlying the two conflicts...

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