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The persian gulf wars—the first fought between Iraq and Iran between 1980 and 1988, the second fought between a U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi occupying forces in Kuwait in 1991, and the third fought between the United States and the Iraqi Army in Iraq itself and later against insurgents from 2003 to the present—are no exception to the tragic rules of environment and war.

Success in war is highly dependent on very immediate, short-term considerations. A slight change in tactics or position on either side can have serious consequences for the ultimate outcome of a conflict. Success in environmental policy, in contrast, must develop over the long term. War is fought in highly unstable situations where there is often a lack of clear government. Without a government, ...

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