Inside the Danger Zone: The U.S. Military in the Persian Gulf 1987-1988
By Harold Lee Wise

(272 pages, photos, maps)

Reviewer:  Bernie Ditter
Overall Rating: Four Stars: Highly recommended. An excellent book.

For anyone wanting to add to their understanding of how the U.S. became so involved in the middle east at this point in time (1987-1988) this book is a primer. While the Israeli situation, the overthrow of the Shah, the hostage crisis, the Iraq/Iran war and the Russian/Afghanistan war were all major elements, at the heart was the tanker wars.

With reckless abandon the Iranians were inflicting great damage to the fleet of tankers moving oil out of the gulf to the rest of the world. Kuwait was caught between a rock and a hard place being besieged by both Iraq and Iran. The U.S. had no dog in the fight as the tankers were flying foreign flags and were not the responsibility of the U.S. military. Theirs was to stand idly by and watch ships being boarded and crews killed.

Looking to strike a deal to protect their tankers Kuwait entered into an arcane agreement with the U.S. to re-flag its tankers under the stars and stripes. I will not go into detail here but the arrangement provided for free fuel for the fleet providing protection and insured a virtual absence of Russian presence in the gulf. The final outcome was the extension of protection to all countries having vessels in the gulf and the virtual secession of hostilities on the part of Iran. This alliance between the U.S. and the other countries involved became the basis for the coalition the first President Bush formed during the first Iraq war.

The individual battles that made up the tanker wars underscore the advanced technology of the U.S. military and also the confusion that that technology sometimes brings with it. In retrospect every battle is replete with a series of surprises and to ever engage the enemy and feel secure in the thought that everything has been thought out is nonsense. If it could go wrong it did while at the same time if it could be right it was.

A tribute to the research conducted by the author are the jacket notes by senior officers who were in command on the scene and acknowledged that, by reading this book, they were learning more about what they had personally been involved in. This is a book that all history buffs will find enlightening.

As a reviewer I find it difficult to compress into a few paragraphs the impact of this book and to comment upon all of the information contained in this book is beyond my writing ability. My advice. . .buy it, read it and give it to a friend.


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