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The General Who Cried : IT DOESN'T TAKE A HERO: The Autobiography of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, With Peter Petre (Bantam Books: $25; 530 pp.)

November 01, 1992|Augustus Richard Norton | Norton is professor of political science in the Department of Social Sciences at the United States Military Academy

America's Arab friends in the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, have already begun adjusting to the new realities of Iranian power. Gratuitous predictions of looming future crises are the stuff of sound bites, not serious analyses, and future developments may move in other, more positive directions. In fact, Iran's return to being the primus inter pares in the Gulf may presage a restoration of relations between Washington and Tehran.

In some brief "Afterthoughts," Schwarzkopf aptly connects the U.S. success in the Gulf with the launching of the peace process to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. The most enduring legacy of Mssrs. Bush and Baker may well be a sturdy structure of negotiations that survives their Administration.

Spurning the step-by-step diplomatic approach exemplified by the peripatetic Henry Kissinger in the 1970s, President Bush opted for much more complex arrangements. Though Secretary of State James Baker's extraordinary negotiating skills played no small part in launching bilateral peace talks among Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinians, as well as the multilateral discussions of regional issues like water, economic development and refugees, Baker has avoided making himself the indispensable centerpiece.

Syrians and Israelis are talking, not through Baker but to each other, and that is a breakthrough of no mean significance. The multilateral talks bring together not only Arab and Israeli belligerents but also regional powers like Turkey and financial heavyweights like Japan, in an attempt to search for solutions for problems that affect all of the Middle East. In sum, there is no question that the Gulf War made possible an elaborate and far-sighted venture in peacemaking that is a fitting rejoinder to those who ask "Was it worth it?"

As we look around a world peppered by internal conflict and calls for American intervention in places like Yugoslavia, "It Doesn't Take a Hero" is especially timely reading. No one can put down this book without a daunting sense of the scope of efforts and the months required to confront a committed aggressor. In the fullness of time, we all will come to see that the Gulf War of 1991 was an anomaly, an extraordinary assemblage of military might and diplomatic finesse that will be hard to duplicate in the coming, trouble-strewn years. As one cynic noted, the Kuwaitis were lucky that they exported oil, not broccoli.

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