Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Assessing the Impact of the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War

Assessing the Impact of the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War

6.2 -20th Century Global Conflicts and their Consequences
6.3 -New Conceptualizations of Global Economy, Society, and Culture

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to,
Evaluate the extent to which the Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991 achieved its aims
Connect the Persian Gulf War to growing Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East
Utilize historical thinking skills by analyzing author’s purpose, point of view, intended audience, and historical context in a primary source document.

Put students in groups of four with their desks pushed together into a square. Give each group one large sheet of paper, such as butcher paper. Each student in the group should also receive a marker. It works best if each student utilizes a different color.
They will first read the following source. It is the “World Islamic Front Statement urging Jihad against Jews and Crusaders” by Osama bin Laden et. al. written in 1998.

Purposely try not to tell the students anything about the reading ahead of time because some may not catch who the author is because the spelling is unconventional, therefore creating an “aha” moment for several students. Tell them to apply the usual primary source analysis skills, with which AP students will be very familiar by this point in world history. The skills are: Author’s Point of View, Author’s Purpose, Historical Context, Intended Audience. These are useful skills for all high school students, so it can be appropriate for students in a regular world history classroom as well.

Upon the conclusion of reading, students will be asked to set up their Big Papers. Try to discourage any discussion of the document as students prepare. The paper should be big enough to span all four student desks so that each student has a corner. Each corner will be a topic upon which each student will eventually write a response. For A.P. World History, a teacher may be trying to reinforce primary source analysis skills, so he or she may choose that the four corners be: Author’s Purpose, Author’s Point of View, Historical Context, and Intended Audience.

Each of the four students will be responsible for a topic or question and will write it in his or her respective corner. The center of the paper should remain blank for the initial set up. Tell students that all communication from this point forward should remain silent, in writing only. The Big Paper/Silent Conversation strategy is useful for all students in that it builds writing skills, while also encouraging participation from everyone, including those who are apprehensive about participating in verbal class discussions.

Have all student groups rotate their papers once clock-wise and give them two minutes to respond in writing to the prompt written in the corner on their desk. After two minutes, they should all rotate the paper again clockwise so that each student has a new prompt. They should now write for two minutes on both the prompt and also in response to the previous student’s comments. They will rotate two more times following the same procedure until the students’ original corner is returned and they can now write and summarize the reflections of all four group members. After each student has written in each corner, the final silent task with the paper will be to head to the center of the paper where, based on teacher discretion, any number of prompts can be written. One idea is that each student can list three main takeaways from the document.

End the silent portion of the discussion now by allowing each group to speak to one another in order to seek clarification, share similarities and differences, and any other insights from the activity. This can take around 3-5 minutes.
Conclude with an all-class debriefing. Each group can be asked to share one particular corner, and another group or two depending on class size can be asked to debrief the center of the paper. The teacher guides this discussion so that several voices and viewpoints can be heard.

Modification for regular classes: While the primary source analysis skills are useful for all students, a teacher may prefer to focus on content, in that case the four corners could be open-ended questions focused on the text itself. Here are some possibilities:
What are the authors angry about in this document?
Who are they referring to as Crusaders? Why are they using that term?
Why are they also angry with Jewish people, and how do they connect them to Americans?
What are the authors suggesting as a solution to their grievances?

Students could be asked to interview an adult who participated in the Persian Gulf War, or someone who remembers it. Ask them what they remember about the war, and perhaps show them the brief clip of George H.W. Bush’s address to Congress. Ask this individual how life for an American has changed, and also remained the same since 1991. (Addresses A.P. historical thinking skill: Continuity and Change over Time.)
Major events from the 1970s to the 2000s could be traced through the lives of individual people involved in the Persian Gulf War and its aftermath. Such a list of individuals could include: George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. Events could include: the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, the Iran/Iraq War, the Collapse of the Soviet Union, the Persian Gulf War, 9/11, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Students would look for evidence of their assigned individual’s point of view of each of these events and analyze how these views shaped the individual and his subsequent actions.

“George H.W. Bush – Address on the End of the Gulf War.” YouTube. YouTube, 23 June 2015. Web. 15 May 2017

World Islamic Front Statement Urging Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders. Web. 15 May 2017.

Greenblatt, Alan. “Twenty Years Later, First Iraq War Still Resonates.” NPR. NPR, 24 Feb. 2011. Web. 15 May 2017

Additional Source:
For background information on the Persian Gulf War, please see the following lecture by Hal Brands on March 26th, 2017. (This lecture was sponsored by the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Butcher History Institute entitled, “Why Does America go to War?”)

  • Leonore Heino
  • Centennial High School
Related History Institute
Grade Level
  • High School: 9, 10, 11, 12
Time Frame
  • 1-2 Class Periods

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