Since coalition troops cleared Kuwait of Iraqi occupation in February, the government of Kuwait has been a disappointment to its people and its friends. Whatever services operate were restored by U.S. personnel. Kuwaiti authorities have lagged in reconstruction, even in the preliminaries. And there is no excuse: For seven months in exile, Kuwait's rulers had little to do but plan for the return.
If Kuwait has heroes, they are the people who stayed put when Iraq's tanks rumbled in, who endured the atrocities and provided the resistance that helped achieve the restoration. These ordinary and professional Kuwaitis, generally not members of the elite, can harness their energies for a speedy revival. But the regime under the emir, Sheik Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, has been inept and paralyzed, preoccupied with maintaining the ruling family and holding down the others. It is squandering the goodwill of its countrymen, which naturally accrued from a shared menace.
Democracy was never an issue of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait or a condition for throwing Iraq out. Respect for national sovereignty and borders was enough. Not to have defended Kuwait would have been to legitimize any conquest by any bully. But common sense dictates that the al-Sabahs should have returned with an inclusive attitude toward their compatriots and an intention to broaden participation in the national interest.