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SPECIAL REPORT: WITNESS TO WAR : Memoirs From the Battle Front, the Diplomatic Front and the Home Front : The Future : Kuwait 'Will Come Back, But It Needs a Lot of Time' : The war abruptly changed the lives and outlook of the region's peoples. And it filled the chief victims--the Kuwaitis--with deep fear as well as hope for the future.

March 12, 1991

THE HOME FRONT

American troops are coming home. The task of providing observers or peacekeepers along the Iraq-Kuwait border will, in all likelihood, fall to the United Nations.

Those American soldiers are returning to a changed country.

Take, for example, Lucretia Pittman, 48, a Houston homemaker. She was among the many who only recently thought President Bush too quick on the trigger. Let the Arabs solve their own problems, she used to say.

But stories about Iraqi atrocities in Kuwait gave her a new view. She saw GIs on TV being welcomed into Kuwait city as heroic liberators. And she was thrilled.

"Who else but the United States could have pulled this off?" she said. "Who else but the United States would have tried?"

The world's policeman had been exonerated on charges of excessive use of force.

There was a similar transformation in Tamra Heppert, 29, an unemployed woman in Elmwood Park, Ill., who used to argue that killing is always wrong. The Gulf War depressed her. She was in a stupor. She was barely able to do anything but watch TV.

Now the malaise is gone. She is proud. Harassed nations have a bodyguard, she said. "Maybe the United States can't police the world, but the United States and the allies as a coalition certainly can."

Not that anyone is willing to be too hasty to go to war.

Chris Tuttle, the Californian whose mother opposed the war, made it through everything alive and well.

But if his mother could fashion a new world order of her own, it would be one in which economies are not fueled by the prospect of war.

Those that are, she says, create self-fulfilling prophecies.

SAUDI ARABIA

It is natural for Saudis to view victory as a sign that God is blessing them.

This is among the most pious and conservative of the Arab nations. Victory will reinforce Saudi beliefs and might make Islam the ultimate winner in this war.

Hence, and also because the Saudis are very proud of their traditional, religion-based society, it seems unlikely that the past seven months will lead to overwhelming social change. Indeed, an argument can be made that victory over Iraq will reinforce conservatism in this culture.

When Egypt was defeated by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War, many Arabs felt it was a sign that they had not been faithful enough. Some of the roots of the revival of religious fundamentalism since then are found in that belief.

Mideast politics, where nation-state is a relatively new term, have been defined more by shifting alliances than by lasting relationships. Some of this might be altered by the outcome of the war. Saudi Arabia and Egypt, antagonists on more than one occasion in the past, were steadfast allies in their opposition to Iraq. They are likely to continue to work as powerful partners in deciding the region's future.

And the Saudi-U.S. relationship, strong in the past, appears unshakable for the foreseeable future.

Saudi Arabia is likely to abandon its old-style checkbook diplomacy. It has found that all those billions of dollars did not buy allies. Much of the Iraqi war machine arrayed against it was bought with money from Saudi Arabia. Other nations that were pro-Iraqi--Jordan and Yemen, for instance--had received large sums from the Saudis in the past.

"What has been proven is that handouts do not make friends," says a senior Saudi official with the wisdom of the chastened.

Finally, the Saudis are newly confident, strengthened by their military and diplomatic successes. This probably will translate into a new assertiveness in the affairs of the Middle East.

"Everybody who stood up for Saddam Hussein is going to go under with Saddam Hussein," Prince Bandar ibn Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, said only a few days before the fighting ended. "Either literally--or under by being not important in the equation."

ISRAEL

After the fighting stopped, an outburst of anxiety filled Israeli newspapers.

In the future, the papers said, Israel would pay for not retaliating against Iraq for its Scud attacks. Arabs only understand force, they insisted, and Arab governments would never take the country's deterrent threat seriously again.

The United States, the newspapers went on, would use its role as a new colossus to pressure Israel to settle with the Palestinians. And that meant defeat.

Most people paid little attention to such angst.

As soon as the emergency was over, all shed their gas masks with glee. And the government got back to business in record time. With the crisis petering out, political infighting began: Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Labor Party leader Shimon Peres traded barbs on who is more fit to run the country; Foreign Minister David Levy accused Shamir of humiliating him by sending Defense Minister Moshe Arens to Washington in advance of a trip Levy had scheduled; plans leaked out for new settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel earned goodwill from its restraint and sympathy for its suffering--and the political balance abroad seemed heavily in its favor.

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