In August 1990, Saddam Hussein led what was then the fourth largest army in the world, a battle-hardened group that had just fought the ten-year Iran-Iraq War, into Kuwait to seize its oil fields.
It was a clear violation of international law and national sovereignty, but as usual, Saddam had his own list of rationalizations — northern Kuwait really belonged to Iraq — plus the law that might makes right.
So what did we do? America’s interests were clearly at stake — we were much more dependent on foreign oil — but we were obviously not going to fight the whole of Saddam’s army at such a distance. Instead, President George Bush, in what was probably the brilliant diplomatic effort of the century, spent a half year assembling a coalition of 36 nations from five continents lined up against Saddam. The entire Middle East signed on — they feared Saddam’s incursions were only beginning — but countries from Europe, Africa, South America, and Asia signed on as well.