Case #1245.0

Prelude to War: US Policy Toward Iraq 1988-1990

Publication Date: January 01, 1999
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This case tells the story of American policy toward Iraq up to the moment of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Based on declassified government documents as well as repeated in-depth interviews with top policymakers at the White House, the State Department, the Defense Department, and the CIA, the case is a portrait of a relatively "typical" bilateral policy, with limited objectives and limited prospects, buffeted by bureaucratic pressures and external events. Unlike case studies of major crises, this case offers a more representative study of the real dilemmas in day-to-day policymaking at the subcabinet level of the government, spotlighted by the fact that this narrative ends with the outbreak of a war.

Learning Objective:
A host of issues are illuminated, from how the US tries to assess the conduct of other governments to a fundamental but difficult choice: In dealing with potential adversaries, when should we choose engagement and when should we choose confrontation? And do these choices matter?

Other Details

Case Author:
Zachary Karabell
Faculty Lead:
Philip Zelikow
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United States, Middle East, Iraq