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Mylroie Talks

By Beth L. Pinkster

"It won't be obselete until at least January 15," Laurie Mylroie, a research fellow at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, says of her recent book Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf.

Mylroie, who spent the early weeks of the Gulf crisis formulating chapters two through seven of the book, notes that special edition books like Saddam Hussein normally have a very short shelf-life.

However, the intent of the book is not to sensationalize, but is rather what Mylroie calls "a unique effort to educate the American public about a country they know little about."

At the beginning of the crisis, she jokes, "Americans didn't know if we were about to fight Iran or Iraq. They didn't know the difference."

That is why the New York Times approached her with the project to "design a readable book on the history of Iraq," something which Mylroie does not think exists among current scholarship. The book also "explains about the region, and about Saddam and his motives for taking Kuwait."

Mylroie claims that the book is objective, but she doesn't necessarily agree with her co-author's conclusion in Saddam Hussein that the crisis is all about securing cheap American oil.

"When the price of oil quadrupled in 1974, we didn't go to war," she asserts. She also refutes the thesis offered in the book that Saddam invaded Kuwait to gain greater access to the Persian Gulf. If that was his motive, she argues, he would have just taken Northern Kuwait. That would have created a different scenario.

"If Saddam had just taken northern Kuwait," Mylroie projects, "nobody would have done anything."

Mylroie concludes herself at the end of Chapter 7 that Saddam is like a bicycle rider: if he doesn't remain in constant motion, he falls. Saddam's progression, according to Mylroie's historical account of his life, has always been to rule thorugh violence.

She believes that Saddam took Kuwait to keep his regime moving in the only way that he knows how. The reason the world got involved "has to do with Saddam's defiance of international norms and his weapons of mass destruction."

"In the best case scenario, they could have a nuclear bomb in ten years," Mylroie warns.

Although the book's chronology ends in October, Mylroie thinks that the book still has bearing on the ongoing crisis, especially as we head into direct negotiations with Saddam.

"Saddam is an ultimate brinksman. He will push Bush as far as he can, and it's not clear whether he will give in," Mylroie says.

On the other hand, Mylroie faults the Bush administration as an "inarticulate administration which lives in terms of soundbites."

Although the United Nations set a deadline for military confrontation on January 15, Mylroie says, "I don't see how the U.S. can go to war with American support the way it is right now."

No matter what happens, Mylroie will be watching. She is waiting for the crisis to abate before completing her latest project--a book on security in the gulf.

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