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Published by: Harvard Kennedy School
Published in: 1999

Abstract

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. 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?

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Abstract

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. 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?

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