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Gulf War Strategy Essay, Research Paper

Following the Vietnam war there was a national perception that the United States was no longer a major military power. In actuality, the United States had not lost power but military authority. The difference between the two is explained in the following excerpt from On Strategy II: A Critical Analysis of the Gulf War by Col. Harry G. Summers:

Simply stated, military power, based on physical factors that can be counted and computerized, is the aggregate of the size of a nation’s armed forces; the strength of its weaponry, arms, and equipment; and the sufficiency of its sustaining logistical base. Military authority, on the other hand, is based on the more intangible perceptions by other nations that such power will be used, if need be, in pursuit of national interests. While unquantifiable, it is nonetheless real.

These physical factors are the means of a Military Strategic Equation. A Military Strategic Equation is composed of the ends, ways, and means. The ends are the national policy objectives and national security objectives.

In regards to the Gulf War, the national policy objective Saddam Hussein overstepped was, he violated the freedom and democracy of the Kuwait people by invading their nation-state. Others include, preserving the independence of Saudi Arabia, a friendly relation, and to prevent Hussein’s nuclear capabilities. For the Soviet Union the decision to allay itself with the United Nation force was economic. “If Saddam Hussein, by his rash act, were permitted to throttle the world economy by driving oil prices higher, inflation would quickly rise and the world economy- not just that of the United States and Europe- would tumble into a deep recession” hurting the Soviets too, says U.S. News & World Report book Triumph Without Victory.

The United States quickly mobilized choosing Collective Military Security, and Show of Force as the prime ways to defend the National Objectives. The ways consists of different military strategies examined as possible methods of stopping Hussein. Other ways the United States explored include Flexible Response, Forward Defense and Containment.

General Norman Schwarzkopf quickly led the United Nation Coalition into the middle-East. The forces are the military resources of the Means. The US force alone included over 527,000 personnel.

Protecting and enforcing the National Security Objectives required Military Strategy. The United States used the strategy of Sequential and Cumulative. Imposing sanctions on August 6, 1990 the United States crippled Iraq. The sanctions, were then made more forceful by the naval blockades, and embargo. Disease was the direct result of starving people in Iraq. The United States knew that by controlling the level of medicine being imported, cholera, typhoid and dysentery would grow to epidemic proportions. All trade to and from Iraq, medicine and food became weapons. The next step was the declaration of Desert Storm.

The cumulative approach utilized air raids and Cruise missiles. An article in Time magazine discusses how targets are chosen for raids,

Within a week, the bombers began zeroing in on what allied commanders calculated to be Iraq’s center of gravity… the allied commanders decided that in this war the center of gravity is the Republican Guard, the well-trained, highly mobile 150,000-man force that Saddam relies on for operational flexibility near Kuwait (Fischer, Peterzell, van Voorst 36).

Iraqi air bases, communication systems, and command control centers along the Kuwait and Saudi boarder were also hit, in order to degrade Iraq’s command. Triumph Without Victory states, “On the final night of the war, two U.S. Air Force bombers dropped specially designed bombs on a command bunker near Baghdad in a deliberate attempt to kill Saddam Hussein- despite repeated denials by the White House…” (3). Many people, including Hussein, also claim that the United States was deliberating trying to kill thousands of innocent civilians by bombing residences. The United States claims the bombing of residences was down in error.

Iraq’s military Strategy was based upon the approach of demoralizing the enemy in Cumulative ways. One highly effective approach used was, playing on the media to present a twisted view of events, and also, a true account of twisted events. For example, the world watched from their televisions as civilians were burned and killed in Falluja as “…family members stood by helplessly…” (Sciolino, 255). Elaine Sciolino furthers revels in her book The Outlaw State, that the horror of war was being viewed for the first time by the masses of the world. War had not been so personal before the Gulf Crisis.

The Gulf Crisis also brought home the issue of genocide. Hussein was killing innocent Kurds as we watched. Michael R. Gordon, and General Bernard E. Trainor, explored genocide in their book, The Generals’ War, stating, “Like the Kurds to the north, the Shiites had suffered decades of oppression at the hands of Baghdad” because “The Baghdad regime viewed the Shiites… as a potential internal threat to be closely monitored by the secret police” (434). This is another example of cumulative strategy. The genocide was seen as a powerful show of strength to the Kuwait nation, as they feared for their own lives.

Sensationalism of the genocide and horrors of war failed Hussein as a Military Strategy, as it reinforced efforts to end the Gulf Crisis. Scud missile strikes were, however, a great propaganda tool, and so were threats of chemical weaponry. The most feared weapon was biological arms. U.S. News and World Report’s Nicholas Horrock classified biological warfare as the poor man’s nukes, stating,

…biologicals are cheaper and easier to make than nuclear or chemical weapons, and they can be equally as devastating. The U.S. Office of Technology Assessment once estimated that a small private plans, with 220 pounds of anthrax spores flying over Washington on a clear, windless night, could trail an invisible, odorless mist that would kill between 1 million and 3 million people (36).

Hussein also, wanted to create a long lasting effect on the Arab nations by bombing Israel in an effort of provoking Israel to counter-attack. If Israel counter-attacked, then the balance of power in the ever feuding Middle East would shift and alienate the other Arab nations.

The Military Strategic Concept used by the United States during the Gulf Crisis is Collective Military Security Strategy. Iraq’s: First Strike. Iraq’s first strike by the overwhelming and “…relentless and undisguised onslaught of military power” utilized through the element of surprise and great forces. The attack upon Kuwait has been described as an attack on everything at once from nowhere. Air raids bombed both civilian and military airports, Iraq had quickly eliminated its enemy by removing all hope of counter-attack.

The United States and The United Nations created a joint Coalition of forces to combat Iraq in a large scale worldwide effort of combined military forces to end the fighting. With the end of the Cold War even the Soviet Union was on our side of the UN Security Council’s Resolution Number 678.

Under Collective Military Strategy, the specific strategies used by the coalition forces were Containment and Flexible Response. The purpose of Desert Shield was containment, to deter Iraq and prevent full scale war. The United Nations demanded the immediate withdrawal of Iraq’s soldiers from Kuwait. The United States presented a strong naval presence in the gulf, and had the ground forces to support such a demand.

Flexible Response is a strategy founded upon the principle of sequentially increasing military presence to a heightened level in response to an environment. In the Gulf Crisis, this was demonstrated by the change from Desert Shield to Desert Storm. In a pre-determined and orderly fashion, the presence of troops was increased as Iraq’s aggression level rose. Again, the United States naval presence in conjunction with the ground troops presented a visible representation of the threat of increased violence.

The Persian Gulf Crisis brought back the image of America as a strong military authority protecting the National Security Objectives in the world. Even now in 1998, the United States is still the military power keeping watch over Iraq and its submission to UN investigations. The United States is still using the strategy of containment, with the ability to quickly increase the forces through flexible response.

Fishcer, Dean, et al. “Fighting a Battle by the Book” Time 25 Feb. 1991: 34+.

Hadar, Leon T. “America’s Moment in the Middle East” Current History Jan. 1996: 1-5.

Horrock, Nicholas. “Germ Warfare” U.S. News and World Report 12 May, 1997: 36.

Klare, Michael T. “Fueling the Fire: How We Armed the Middle East” U.S. News and World Report Jan. 1991: 19-26.

Newman, Richard J. “Getting Ready for the Wrong War?” U.S. News and World Report 12 May 1997: 30.

Sciolino, Elaine. The Outlaw State. New York: Random House, 1994.

Struck, Doug and Ruby, Robert. “The Persain Gulf: The Other Side of Victory” Baltimore Sun 28 July, 1991: 1A.

Summers, Col. Harry G. On Strategy II: A Critical Analysis of the Gulf War. New York: Dell, 1992.

U.S. News and World Report. Triumph Without Victory. New York: Random House, 1992.


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