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Bush School Capstone Team Travels to Kuwait

March 28, 2016

Students from the Bush School in Kuwait

Bush School students in Kuwait

Several students from the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University, recently returned from a research trip to Kuwait City that included meetings with several prominent Kuwaiti officials and an appearance on a national Kuwaiti television show. The trip was part of a semester-long capstone research project guided by Dr. Robert Holzweiss, deputy director of the George Bush Library. The capstone project supports the US Embassy in Kuwait’s ongoing work to develop the “25 Years of Friendship” campaign, which highlights US-Kuwaiti relations leading up to the war that liberated Kuwait from the Iraqi army in February 1991.

“The US Embassy asked us at the George Bush Library to collaborate with them on a project to research the US-Kuwaiti relationship during the Bush Administration with particular emphasis on the period of the First Gulf War and then bring that relationship across the next twenty-five years,” said Holzweiss. “It landed on me, fortuitously; and I brought the idea to Dr. Gause. He and Dean Crocker enthusiastically received it, and it morphed from a Bush Library reference project to a Bush Library/Bush School project with the students driving it.”

In preparing the report, the capstone team drew from archival sources at the George Bush Presidential Library; secondary source material; and interviews with prominent American officials, who shared first-hand accounts of their experience before, during, and after the Gulf War. The team’s final report and a forthcoming website cover the US–Kuwait alliance and the intense diplomacy that took place around that time.

During their research, the team was able to interview several high-profile members of President George H. W. Bush’s administration, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, who served as US secretary of defense; Fred McClure, who advised President Bush on legislative affairs during the Gulf War; Ambassador Barbara Bodine, who was the deputy chief of mission during the liberation of Kuwait; and Ambassador Nathan Howell, who served as ambassador to Kuwait during the Gulf War. In addition to providing background through interviews, Ambassador Howell also provided an early manuscript of a book he is writing on the Gulf War. Other individuals interviewed by Bush School students included Richard Haass, current president of the Council on Foreign Relations; Ambassador Edward “Skip” Gnehm, who served as ambassador to Kuwait from 1991 to 1994; and Ryan Crocker, dean of the Bush School and ambassador to Kuwait following Ambassador Gnehm until 1997.

While in Kuwait, students were able to attend policy-oriented discussions at the US Embassy related to political affairs, the Kuwaiti economy, and military affairs—each discussion involving a Q&A with the students on the findings in their report. Students also attended the US Embassy’s 25th Anniversary of the Gulf War celebration aboard the USS Arlington, where they were able to interact with several US and Kuwaiti military leaders stationed in the region. During their stay, students were also invited to an extended dinner with the Kuwaiti Minister of Information.

“For this trip, we wanted a deep cultural experience and meaningful interactions with decision makers—those were our two criteria,” said Holzweiss. “We landed on Sunday morning very early; and from that point forward until Wednesday afternoon, we interacted with no Americans—it was exclusively Kuwaitis.”

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