It was big news. U.S. military forces streamed into Saudi Arabia in response to a supposedly serious threat to the kingdom’s eastern region. The American troops were invited by nervous Saudi royals; it wasn’t an American invasion per se. Everything unfolded smoothly at first; still, the consequences would be severe for the United States. Pick up the latest Military Times, or any other news source, and the story will seem recent, if not worthy of any special attention or alarm. Indeed, U.S. troops are headed into Saudi Arabia right now, but that’s not the situation described above.
No, that happened in August 1990, in response to the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq—a nation, few remembered, that the U.S. had previously backed in its aggressive war with Iran (1980-88). The kingdom then served as a launch point for the U.S.-led Persian Gulf War (1991) which drove the Iraqis from tiny Kuwait. American soldiers pulled out of Saudi Arabia just over a decade later, in 2003. Now they’re rolling back in. History, as it’s said to do, seems to be repeating itself.
The Law Best Price: $2.98 Buy New $4.00 (as of 10:45 EST - Details) This time, however, the ostensible threat to Saudi Arabia comes from naughty Iran, the American national security state’s current favorite exaggerated villain. And, of course, Iran—unlike our onetime “partners” in Iraq—hasn’t invaded anybody. Thus, the U.S. troop infusion is more preemptive than reactive. It’s no matter; few Americans (or even most media/political elites) seem to notice.
Besides, what could go wrong? After all, the U.S. stations its military personnel all over the Middle East, so why not in “friendly” Saudi Arabia too? After all, Jared Kushner, the son-in-law in chief, maintains a well-known bromance with his pen pal, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), and President Trump revels in the profits from massive arms sales to the kingdom. Still, the answer to the question is a stark one: Quite a lot can go wrong, actually. It has before.
Sadly, given the apathy, short memory span and ignorance of much of the American populace, a brief (if dark) recent history lesson is in order. The year was, again, 1990. The Cold War was winding down; the U.S. confidently glowed in its new, powerful status as a unipolar hegemonic power. Except, Washington had set a few time bombs for itself—and boy would they explode.