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The 20th century will be remembered as one of the centuries in human history that experienced a lot of wars and war rumors. The late 1960s and early 1970s experienced the cold war between the United States and the USSR, with each fighting for the position of Super Power across the globe. The Middle East crisis also begun its preparations as Israel worked on forming their own nation in the midst of Arab nations. However, one of the notable wars that will remain in the memory of many people for a long time is the Gulf War; the war between the United States of America and Iraq, that resulted from an attempt by Iraq to annex Kuwait. There are different scholars that have researched on the Middle East crisis and specifically the Gulf War. Among these is the book ‘The Political psychology of the Gulf War: leaders, publics, and the process of conflict’ by Stanley Allen Renshon.
This book is divided into various sections that touch on issues that surround Washington-Middle East dilemma. There are five specific parts that addresses different issues that have been identified as the cause of the Gulf War conflict. The first part of this book addresses the Origins of the Gulf War, the second part focuses on Leaders, Leadership, and Decision Making, the third part touches on the Conflict Process, the fourth part on Mass Publics and finally the fifth part addresses The Consequences of the Conflict. The contents of this book are contributions that were made by different scholars and researchers on the crisis that has existed in the Middle East for long time now. There are two dimensions or rather approaches that are embraced by the author. First, there is an analysis of the causes of the Gulf War, how it unfolds and its consequences on the Middle East societies and across the globe and secondly, the book examines the psychological aspects of conflict, leadership and its decision-making processes, and its consequences in regard to war (Renshon, 1993, p. xviii).
There are different causes of the Gulf War that have been mentioned in this book. To begin with, historical disagreements that have existed between the Arab community and the Western world continue to be a big hindrance to peace in this region. The author focuses on Israel’s relation with the Arabs while at the same time revealing that with the Western world determined to shield Israel in the Middle East, war is inevitable as both Israel and the Arabs have always perceived themselves as people of the promise with their religions, i.e. Islam and Judaism claiming that the Middle East belong to the Arabs and the Israelites respectively. Similarly, the contributors to this book examine the place of oil in the lives of the Arabs community and its attraction of attention from different parts of the world (p.15). This is particularly so when the outside world has always sought to create an alliance that would enable them to tap into the richness that exists in the Middle East in terms of oil. On the contrary, this resource has been a source of conflicts both between the Middle East and the Western World and among countries in this region (Renshon, 1993, p.123).
There are also psychological issues that have been created in the minds of both people in the Middle East and those that emanate from boundaries that are beyond the Middle East. One of them is culture and history. Despite the fact that the Arabs in the Middle East and its surrounding areas have slightly different cultures, there are myths among them that have been passed from one generation to the other both among those who are formally educated and those that are not that have affected their psychological perspectives of Middle East. One of these myths is the ownership of the Middle East. The Arabs believes that the Middle East belongs to them and as a result, there should be no other communities in these regions. On the other hand, the Israeli community also believes that a large portion of the Middle East is an inheritance to them from God. With such believes in their minds, their psychological perspectives are twisted in such a way that animosity among them cannot be in any way be avoided since each perceives the other as an intruder that must be eliminated (Renshon, 1993).
The author also focuses on the consequences of the Gulf War, and the leadership and leadership decisions that have been made in regard to the Middle East. It must be realized that whereas Saddam Hussein’s army was devastated completely, the consequences of this war affected other nations that were not directly involved in it. For example, a nation such as Israel was greatly affected with its people living in constant fear of an Iraqi attack. This would later on result in a negative perception by the Israelis of Iraq and the surrounding Arab nations, thus increasing the tension in this region (Renshon, 1993, p.231). On the other hand, the rest of the world was greatly affected as prices of oil skyrocketed in just a few days, prior, during and even after the war, thus affecting the world economy.
The leadership and leadership decisions in reference to the Middle East and specifically the Gulf War reveals a leadership that is led more by fear and baseless arguments as has been exposed in this book rather than by facts. The action against Kuwait by Iraq was uncalled for since the Arab nations as were accused by Saddam Hussein were not working against Iraq. Instead, their prices of oil were controlled by market factors rather than relying on physical forces that could affect this price (Renshon, 1993, p.123). On the contrary, the Bush administration believed that by intervening in Iraq-Kuwait’s situation, they would be able to secure a channel of accessing the oilfields of Kuwait at a subsidized price. Therefore, to justify their intention, this administration used a lot of propaganda to justify its interventions rather than relying on international organs such as the United Nations (p.160).
The book ‘The Political psychology of the Gulf War: leaders, publics, and the process of conflict’ by Stanley Allen Renshon therefore is an excellent manual to the study of the Middle East crisis as it pertains to the Gulf War and further crisis that have risen thereafter. The readers of this book are able therefore to obtain an unbiased view of issues that have created a catastrophe that would be difficult to deal with; not just in the past but also in the future. However, an understanding of different issues that have been the center of animosity in this region, both factual and mythical can be a first step in obtaining a rightful solution and a creation of a lasting peace process that would finally result in calmness in the region. On the other hand, the information herein can serve as means of deterring future crisis if it is studied in details and put into action. Thus the book remains as one of the most excellent materials that have covered the Gulf War and the Middle East crisis in general.
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