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The American and European scholarly contribution to understanding the Kuwait war tended to be limited to military analysis, polemical arguments, and abstract interpretations; and these have mostly petered out as interest in the war has declined. Accordingly, the important task of interpreting that conflict has been left largely to Israelis, who have done an outstanding job fulfilling it.

In the present study, a mostly Israeli cast of authors looks at the Iraqi decision to go to war and the consequences of that decision. Baram draws on his unique knowledge of Iraqi politics to take on that most difficult of tasks, probing Saddam Husayn's mind. Mark A. Heller explains why the Iraqi army regularly performs poorly. Ofra Bengio looks at the balance of power within Iraq's ethnic communities. Patrick Clawson points out the subtle economic impact of the sanctions against Iraq, while Robert J. Lieber argues that Saddam Husayn's adventurism could easily have deeply harmed the world economy.

A host of authors-including Rubin, Shaul Bakhash, Joseph Nevo, David Kushner, and the late Avner Yaniv-then look at Iraq's foreign relations through the 1990-91 crisis and war. But perhaps most interesting is the chapter by Joseph Kostiner on the much-neglected Kuwaiti angle. He establishes the basic percepts of that country's foreign policy-essentially, neutralism and good Arab citizenship-and then shows how these guidelines were maintained throughout the crisis leading up to August 2, 1990. He finds the thesis that Kuwaitis provoked Iraq to war not at all convincing.