Policy Analysis No. 154

Extricating America from Its Middle Eastern Entanglement

By Leon T. Hadar
June 12, 1991

Executive Summary

The successful outcome of a war tends to create unrealistic expectations. World War I was supposed to have been the war to end all wars. World War II was expected to usher in a new era of permanent peace. There was in the United States, in the days following the military victory in the Persian Gulf, a sense of omnipotence similar to the euphoria that dominated Israel after the Six-Day war in 1967, a feeling that everything was possible in arranging the political cards of the Middle East; that after Saddam Hussein, an Iraqi Thomas Jefferson would come to power in Baghdad and a window of opportunity would be opened for democracy, stability, and peace in the Middle East.

As the decadent Kuwaiti emir returned to his liberated city-state, American policy experts and pundits discussed plans for establishing a constitutional monarchy in Kuwait and a democracy in Iraq, and for launching a Marshall Plan for economic development in the region to close the gap between the “have” and the “have not” states.[1] Others called for structuring a NATO-type security arrangement in the gulf and in the entire Middle East and for using American leadership to bring peace between Israelis and Arabs.[2]

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Leon T. Hadar, a former bureau chief for the Jerusalem Post, is an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute.