Today in Middle Eastern history: Operation Desert Storm begins (1991)

Although he was America’s good close pal when he was heroically gassing tens of thousands of Iranians throughout much of the 1980s, Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait put him on Washington’s naughty list for several reasons. Chief among them was, of course, the threat he posed to Saudi Arabia and therefore a large portion of the world’s oil supply. There was also the fact of the invasion itself, which did violate the Norms of the liberal international order or whatever. And we shouldn’t forget the human rights abuses, even though many of those, like the infamous “Iraqi soldiers pulled Kuwaiti babies out of incubators and left them to die” horror story, were invented by PR firms hired by Kuwaiti royals. Really, though, it was the oil and the chance to take the US military out of the garage and show it off to the neighbors by beating up a smaller, weaker country that prompted the Bush I administration’s mission to Do Something about Saddam’s Aggression. And for the rest of the world, well, the oil thing was reason enough to Care.

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