The Other Gulf War: The British Invasion of Iraq in 1941; Strategic Insights: v.1, issue 10 (December 2002)
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In May 1941, in the midst of a World War, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered his reluctant Commander in the Middle East to march on Baghdad to effect a regime change. The British Prime Minister's arguments reflected many of those same concerns expressed today by members of the George W. Bush administration: British intervention would pre-empt Axis support for Rachid Ali, a violently anti-British Arab nationalist whose government threatened Britain's strategic position in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. It would strike a blow at a terrorist challenge orchestrated by a charismatic Islamic cleric. British intervention also would protect oil reserves vital to the British war effort. So, what did Britain gain from its preventive war policies in the Middle East? The short answer is that it solidified their position in the Middle East by pre-empting Axis intervention, and bought time to bring a major ally on line, to reverse the tide of war in the Mediterranean theater that in the spring of 1941 was running strongly in the Axis favor, and ultimately emerge among the victors of World War II. This document describes that the challenge for the United States will be to discover a strategy to translate a victory against Saddam Hussein into a war termination scenario that will stabilize a region historically inclined toward effervescence, and so avoid the requirement for a repeat intervention in a few years' time.
This article appeared in Strategic Insights (December 2002), v.1 no.10
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