On this day in 1990 Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait, which he promptly declared Iraq’s 19th province. It was largely a bid for Kuwait’s oil, billed as an attempt to prevent Kuwait from stealing Iraq’s own oil through “slant drilling.” The Nation’s editorial about the invasion, “Blood, Oil and Politics,” looked at the bigger geopolitical picture. (A few months later, when the United States went to war against Iraq to beat back the invasion, Andrew Kopkind wrote in The Nation about “The Wider War.”)
At bottom, the larger war of which the current conflict on the shores of the Persian Gulf is a part has been going on for years, in episodes of heat and cold. It’s the new war of resources that replaced the old superpower cold war as the pre-eminent international conflict long before the Berlin wall came down. The industrialized “West” has long relied on the extraction of cheap resources from the rest of the world for its increasingly lavish lives and booming economies. To keep the prices low, political control was necessary, and when direct imperialism was no longer a viable option, suitable methods of indirect domination were applied….
Unfortunately for the United States and its co-capitalists, the larger war is unwinnable, even though Baghdad may yet get bombed, the pipelines could be perforated and oil kingpin Saddam Hussein might end up in a U.S. court on trial for petroleum crimes. The people who have the resources have learned that it is possible to manipulate their sale in such a way as to improve their own lives and economies. It’s not easy. Until now, the buyers have always had more guns than the sellers, and there are always people eager to be bought off. But the postcolonial system is inherently unstable, as was its predecessor, and in this day and age a new order is bidding to bury it.
To mark The Nation’s 150th anniversary, every morning this year The Almanac will highlight something that happened that day in history and how The Nation covered it. Get The Almanac every day (or every week) by signing up to the e-mail newsletter.