It was big news. U.S. military forces streamed into Saudi Arabia in response to a supposedly serious threat to the kingdom’s eastern region. The American troops were invited by nervous Saudi royals; it wasn’t an American invasion per se. Everything unfolded smoothly at first; still, the consequences would be severe for the United States. Pick up the latest Military Times, or any other news source, and the story will seem recent, if not worthy of any special attention or alarm. Indeed, U.S. troops are headed into Saudi Arabia right now, but that’s not the situation described above.
No, that happened in August 1990, in response to the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq—a nation, few remembered, that the U.S. had previously backed in its aggressive war with Iran (1980-88). The kingdom then served as a launch point for the U.S.-led Persian Gulf War (1991) which drove the Iraqis from tiny Kuwait. American soldiers pulled out of Saudi Arabia just over a decade later, in 2003. Now they’re rolling back in. History, as it’s said to do, seems to be repeating itself.