It was 1 August 1990. Saddam Hussein had been rattling his sword for six months, threatening to burn Israel and take over Kuwait. But the Soviet Union was falling, consuming the attention of Washington, a town that is really only able to focus on one crisis at a time. The intelligence community was particularly focused on the failing communist empire due to opacity of the Soviet system and the enormous potential consequences of a miscalculation during the transition.
But it suddenly looked like Saddam was serious, and when Iraq began to move forces toward the Kuwaiti border, General Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, held a meeting of the Joint Chiefs and other senior officers at the round table in his office. They were in a tough spot, considering the few options available if the worst occurred.