Since certain occasions give us a chance to evaluate and learn lessons, the death of American President George H. W. Bush is worth being remembered. History is made by men, and Bush is one of its important makers although his presidency did not exceed four years (1989 – 1993). During his term, there were important developments as the Soviet Union collapsed and the US announced its victory in the Cold War that lasted for around half a century. This was followed by other major developments in the world, including in our region, which continue to this day.
Then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein wrongly read history but Bush read it right. There is no doubt that the Saudi-American alliance played an important role in ending the dreams of Saddam who was obsessed with power and who suffered from megalomania.
This operation stopped history’s wrong move. Most of the Kuwaiti people were outside their country, and the government was legitimate only on paper. Saddam was the ruler of Kuwait in reality. Perhaps if there was another president in Washington, Kuwait would have remained an Iraqi governorate like Saddam wanted it and Saddam would have been a sword directed at Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.
When we recall history today, we do so not to elevate Bush’s stance or boast about the Saudi role or to even harm the Iraqis’ history during Saddam’s era. We recall it to take lessons from it and to understand the world as it is away from romanticism and the lies of conspiracy theories
Bush’s brave choice
There is no doubt that King Fahd and President Bush are two historical figures who decided to take risks. If the Americans had backed down under domestic and foreign pressure, and if the Saudis abstained from getting involved in the adventure of a war with unknown consequences, and if the war had taken other paths like what happened later on in the failed wars, the price would have been high on the Kuwaitis and the Saudis. There were no inevitabilities but different possibilities especially with the repercussions of the Communist Autumn in the world and that destroyed republics from East Germany to South Yemen and Somalia and other countries in East Europe and Central Asia. There was also the possibility that a country may disappear from the map or an entire political regime may change.
Late President Bush had several options to choose from to deal with the issue of occupied Kuwait. The most significant options were two. King Fahd wanted to confront Saddam and expel him even if through complete force. Meanwhile, Saddam’s allies were warning Bush of the eruption of Arab streets and of chaos and of the possibility of targeting American interests. At the same time, they pledged that Saddam will give him what Kuwait’s government gave him. What Washington expected served its oil, military and political interests.
Warnings from within the US were the loudest as American public opinion was still experiencing the phobia of the failed Vietnam War and the conflicts it caused in American society. Despite this, Bush leaned toward the Saudi opinion. Then-Saudi ambassador to the US Bandar bin Sultan was an important player in convincing him to engage in the war to liberate Kuwait and not just protect the Saudi kingdom from Saddam’s armies.
It’s rare for history to be gracious with such figures capable of taking fateful decisions. If Bush hadn’t taken his decision to liberate Kuwait, Kuwait may not have been present around us today. This is just a truth.
When we recall history today, we do so not to elevate Bush’s stance or boast about the Saudi role or to even harm the Iraqis’ history during Saddam’s era. We recall it to take lessons from it and to understand the world as it is away from romanticism and the lies of conspiracy theories. The US is a superpower that is important for us in the Gulf and it’s more important for West Europe. It is not shameful if we talk about alliances with it and mutual victories. If it hadn’t been for America, France would not have restored its status as a free republic. If it hadn’t been for the US, the Soviets would have occupied all of Germany and North Korea would have seized its neighbor, South Korea. Do not let the propaganda of the leftists, Islamists and fools who lecture politics in our region guide you to understand politics and international relations as there are facts, and there are opinions.
We recall Bush’s status for the occasion of his death, and for his role in the 1990s because it’s also our history that we live today, and we do so out of loyalty and appreciation as we gratefully acknowledge this without any arrogance or inferiority complexes.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.