One of the most interesting topics in this course in my opinion was Iraq’s history, mostly their past 40 years. Iraq is a country that every American knows about and it tends to be a very controversial subject. While reading about Iraq, it occurred to me almost immediately that I knew basically nothing about the country or its recent history. I had learned about the 2003 Iraq war as well as the Persian Gulf war in 1991-1992, but from an International Studies/American perspective. I knew nothing of the Iraq-Iran war and only some vague notions about nuclear inspections and sanctions in Iraq in the 1990s. I was surprised to learn of the extent of the Iraq-Iran war and how devastating it was and its many long term effects on the region. It was also interesting to learn about the hardships Iraq suffered as the consequences of the Iran-Iraq war and the Persian Gulf war.
Reading about the lead-up to the Persian Gulf war really put into perspective the causes of Iraq’s initial invasion of Kuwait. I had never really stopped to consider why exactly Iraq initially invaded Kuwait beyond the usual answers of “oil” or “because Saddam Hussein is bad”. But to learn of the devastation that Iraq suffered from such a long war with a peer adversary, especially to their economy through the destruction of oil fields and the huge amount of money being borrowed and spent on weapons. The other huge effect of that war was its effect on the Iraqi psyche. Iraq and its regime had taken a huge hit, as they had just fought a long and costly war and gained nothing. The economic and morale reasons make it easier to understand why Iraq invaded Kuwait. Another reason to consider that is similar is regime security. It was fascinating to read about Saddam Hussein’s paranoia, especially in the post-Persian Gulf war period.
The strange handling of the sanctions and nuclear inspections of the period between the Persian Gulf war and the 2003 Iraq war was also fascinating to read about. Saddam Hussein’s paranoia surrounding the fall of eastern European dictators and the feel that the world is against Iraq leading to his strange actions of trying to make the West think he possessed WMD even though he didn’t was something that I had never read about or considered before. But overall, reading about Iraq’s past 40 years made me feel bad for the people living there. They had to live through multiple wars, economic hardships, and under an authoritarian dictator. Hopefully the situation there improves in the coming years, and their democracy endures.