Engulfed

Philip Robins

In his long-awaited book Kuwait: Vanguard of the Gulf,[*] Peter Mansfield may unwittingly have written an obituary for the Amirate, so suddenly and unexpectedly overrun by Iraq on 2 August. Like most obituaries, it concentrates on the positive aspects of this small and vulnerable city state. As with most obituaries, the shortcomings of the Principality are largely placed on one side in favour of an intensely personal and very English reminiscence of ‘this remarkable little state’. In producing his gentle view of what one Kuwaiti has called the Athenian style of democracy in the Amirate, he presents a broad perspective which is shared by many. It is the perspective of the Sunni community in Kuwait, of the Gulf Arabs in general, and of numerous governments in the region and around the world. It is no coincidence that all three of these constituencies have enjoyed the benefits of the existence of Kuwait virtually cost-free.

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[*] Hutchinson, 139 pp., £14.99, 9 August, 0 09 173604 8.

[†] Republic of Fear: Saddam’s Iraq by Samir al-Khalil. Radius, 310 pp., £7.99, 16 August, 0 09 174683 3.