Foreign Policy Briefing No. 2

The Rise of the Middle Eastern Bogeyman: Toward Post-Cold-War Interventionism

By Leon T. Hadar
September 5, 1990

Executive Summary

The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait has triggered a high-risk American military intervention in the Persian Gulf to defend Saudi Arabia and the other oil-rich Arab states. The invasion could not have come at a better time for members of America’s national security community, who are searching for new enemies to justify continuing our military involvement abroad and perpetuating America’s high defense costs in a post-cold-war era. Exploiting the Persian Gulf turmoil, supporters of the B-2 Stealth bomber, for example, have already won a narrow victory on the Senate floor; funding for that embattled plane has been kept alive.[1]

The crisis is also playing directly into the hands of the Israeli and Arab lobbies, who, despite their differences over the direction of American policy in the Middle East, would both like to draw Washington into a costly and destructive involvement. The Iraqi invasion “shores up Israel tremendously,” suggested Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), one of its congressional supporters,[2] and the assumption that the United States should defend Saudi Arabia from the Iraqis has been accepted as a new bipartisan doctrine without serious debate.

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Leon T. Hadar teaches political science at American University and is writing a book on U.S. policy on the Middle East for the Cato Institute.