Unanswered Questions

Brad Plumer reminds that one consequence of Saddam Hussein's death is that we won't get a chance to find out his take on the origins of the Gulf War. There are persistent and plausible indications that America's ambassador to Iraq before the war, April Glaspie, told Saddam that "We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait," which Saddam understood as an implicit green light to deal with the Kuwait situation however he saw fit, including via invasion. US officials, naturally, deny that this is what happened, since if it is it was a pretty embarrassing screw-up. Still, it's normally the case that if you take a good hard look at a war you're going to find that it wouldn't have happened absent some screw-ups. The Truman administration, famously, did something similar, appearing to leave South Korea outside the realm of American defense commitments and then going to war to preserve South Korean independence.