Cauldron of Turmoil was written as a history--that I hoped to present in an exciting narrative way--of the dramatic developments in the Persian Gulf in the 1970s and 1980s and how they made this area the highest priority for U.S. foreign policy. The combination of Iran’s Islamist revolution and the Iran-Iraq War transformed the Gulf region from a relatively quiet backwater into the world’s most tumultuous lands. It gave rise to the modern powerful movement of revolutionary Islamism. And later, it would produce the Kuwait war, American invasion of Iraq, and the September 11 attacks, among other events.
Yet America and Americans were not prepared for this new priority and challenge in a part of the world about which they knew little and understood less. Even today, two decades after this book’s publication by Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, those statements still remain largely true. Indeed, the book’s analysis and conclusions still remain accurate for the period covered. I hope you will find Cauldron of Turmoil accurate and even enjoyable as the story of this fascinating region and of the remarkable events that unfolded there.
Middle East expert Rubin (Paved with Good Intentions) covers much ground here. He traces the origins of the Khomeini and Saddam regimes and shows how the world's most radically antiAmerican states vied to auction their souls to the devil-i.e., get the Americans on their side during the Iran-Iraq war-then describes how the Saudis and Kuwaitis tried much the same approach (with greater success) during the 1990-1991 Gulf War. Rubin analyzes Saddam's reasons for invading Kuwait, including his expectation that the rest of the Arab world would rally behind him, and goes on to explain why President Bush allowed the Iraqi dictator to survive Desert Storm, concluding that this ill-considered mercy was wrong on all counts. In Rubin's view, it is still unclear whether the Gulf War was a great victory or merely a lastminute salvaging of a disaster that originated in gross incompetence by U.S. leaders. His informed discussion of American involvement in the Gulf deepens our understanding of the process by which that region has become the main focus of U.S. policy crises, a place where the reputations of presidents Carter, Reagan and Bush have been severely tested.