A far more serious crisis arose in 1990 when Iraq invaded and annexed Kuwait, an oil-rich sheikdom on the Persian Gulf. Fearing that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein might next attack Saudi Arabia, a longtime ally that supplied more oil to the United States than any other country, Bush rushed troops to defend the kingdom and warned Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait or face war. His policy aroused intense debate in the United States. Critics insisted that diplomacy be given a chance to resolve the crisis. Bush spoke of defending the freedom of Saudi Arabia and restoring that of Kuwait. Antiwar activists pointed out that neither qualified as a free country— both, for example, denied women the right to vote. But the Iraqi invasion so flagrantly violated international law that Bush succeeded in building a forty-nation coalition committed to restoring Kuwait’s independence, secured the support of the United Nations, and sent half a million American troops along with a naval armada to the region.

In February 1991, the United States launched Operation Desert Storm, which quickly drove the Iraqi army from Kuwait. Tens of thousands of Iraqis and 184 Americans died in the conflict. The United Nations ordered Iraq to disarm and imposed economic sanctions that produced widespread civilian suffering for the rest of the decade. But Hussein remained in place. So did a large American military establishment in Saudi Arabia, to the outrage of Islamic fundamentalists who deemed its presence an affront to their faith.

Workers trying to deal with crowds of customers at the opening of the first McDonald’s restaurant in Beijing in 1992. By the end of the century, there were 200 McDonald’s in China and the company was serving hamburgers in more than 100 countries, one example of the globalization of the world economy during the 1990s. The company’s spread also provoked protests from those who claimed its food was unhealthy or fattening.


1. What does the image tell us about economic and cultural globalization in the 1990s?

2. Compare this image to the one on pp. 1122-1123 as a measure of American influence in China and the world.

President Bush, with Defense Secretary Dick Cheney (left) and General Colin Powell (right), chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a meeting in January 1991, shortly before the beginning of the Gulf War. Cheney and Powell would play major roles in the administration of Bush’s son, President George W. Bush.

The Gulf War was the first post-Cold War international crisis. Despite assembling a broad coalition, the United States did nearly all of the fighting itself. Relying on high-tech weaponry like cruise missiles that reached Iraq from bases and aircraft carriers hundreds of miles away the United States was able to prevail quickly and avoid the prolonged involvement and high casualties of Vietnam. The Soviet Union, in the process of disintegration, remained on the sidelines. In the war’s immediate aftermath, Bush’s public approval rating rose to an unprecedented 89 percent.

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