Persian Gulf War
For n?arly fifty y?ars aft?r S?cond World War, th? world was simpl?. In th? bipolar syst?m, on? was align?d with th? Unit?d Stat?s or with th? Sovi?t Union. With th? ?nd of th? Cold War, this world was gon?. Th? post-Cold War ?ra b?cam? mor? compl?x as th? world ?nt?r?d a transition stag? b?tw??n a bipolar world and an all?g?dly unipolar on?. (Mayn?s, 2000) In this post-Cold War world, th? stumbling for a coh?r?nt int?rnational policy, and som? would say th? justification for such a policy, mad? for an uncl?ar cours?. Th?n, as if to t?st th? n?w int?rnational wat?rs, Saddam Huss?in dir?ct?d Iraqi troops to invad? Kuwait.
Although th?r? had b??n minor skirmish?s involving th? Unit?d Stat?s, Iraq’s 1990 invasion was th? first substantial chall?ng? to Am?rica’s post-Cold War pr?pond?ranc? (Palm?r, 1992). Th? Am?rican r?spons? was also s??n as th? mom?nt of crisis in which th? Unit?d Stat?s would functionally d?clar? wh?th?r it had unipolar pr?t?nsions or would b?com? an activ? participant in multipolar coll?ctiv? s?curity, a mom?nt with broad implications for Am?rican for?ign policy (Mayn?s, 2000).
Th? Am?rican r?spons? was not a unilat?ral ?viction of Iraqi forc?s from Kuwait. Inst?ad, an int?rnational coalition was ass?mbl?d, s?v?ral U.N. r?solutions w?r? pass?d, and th?n, aft?r attaining U.N. authorization, Am?rican-l?d forc?s from 28 nations wag?d air- and land-bas?d war. This pap?r looks d??ply into roots of Gulf War, ?xamin?s how it happ?n?d, ?mphasizing th? rol? of th? Unit?d Stat?s during conflict, and brings som? conclusions and insights.
Roots of Conflict Th? Arab Gulf r?gion has ?xp?ri?nc?d significant chang?s ov?r th? last 30 y?ars. Th?s? chang?s w?r? truly historic and instrum?ntal in cr?ating th? curr?nt opportuniti?s and chall?ng?s, including th? pr?s?nt malais? facing th? various Gulf countri?s. Th? starting point for most of th? cont?mporary issu?s in th? Gulf is th? 1971 British withdrawal and th? British colonial l?gacy in th? Gulf. For n?arly 150 y?ars, Britain was th? sol? pow?r in th? ar?a. It unilat?rally and syst?matically alt?r?d th? political and g?ographic r?aliti?s in th? r?gion. It chang?d rul?s, cr?at?d n?w stat?s, impos?d artificial bord?rs and basically pr?s?rv?d th? backwardn?ss and traditionality of th? ?xisting tribal ord?r.
Many of th?s? r?aliti?s, cr?at?d by th? colonial pow?r, continu? to ?xist and d?cisiv?ly influ?nc? and shap? cont?mporary d?v?lopm?nts. (Litwak, 1993) Wh?n Britain d?cid?d to r?mov? its dir?ct military pr?s?nc? in th? ar?a, it l?ft b?hind a pow?r vacuum and a numb?r of vuln?rabl? n?wly ind?p?nd?nt small stat?s that also happ?n?d to b? oil rich. (Jabb?r, 1989) Gulf s?curity b?cam? an instant political probl?m, which has n?v?r b??n s?ttl?d. Th? Shah of Iran, aid?d and promot?d by th? Unit?d Stat?s, att?mpt?d to ass?rt his domination throughout much of th? 1970s. (Palm?r, 1992: 87-92)
This was naturally r?s?nt?d and chall?ng?d by many Arabs, particularly by Iraq which ?m?rg?d by th? lat? 1980s as th? dominant r?gional pow?r with ?nhanc?d capabiliti?s and a d?sir? to influ?nc? ?v?nts in th? Gulf including oil pric? and production. Th? 1973 oil pric? incr?as? imm?diat?ly transform?d th? Gulf into on? of th? most s?nsitiv? r?gions in th? world. Th? Gulf and particularly Gulf oil b?cam? th? c?nt?r of global int?r?st. (Palm?r, 1992) Mor? oil is to b? found in th? r?gion than anywh?r? ?ls? in th? world, and whil? oil r?s?rv?s ?v?rywh?r? ar? d?cr?asing, Gulf oil r?s?rv?s, on th? oth?r hand, incr?as? daily.
Furth?rmor?, mor? countri?s ar? using oil today than ?v?r b?for? and all of th?m ar? b?coming mor? and mor? d?p?nd?nt on Gulf oil. Oil, and ?sp?cially Gulf oil, r?main th? motivating forc? of industrial soci?ty and th? lif?blood of th? civilization that it h?lp?d cr?at?. It is still th? basis for th? world’s bigg?st busin?ss, on? that ?mbodi?s th? ?xtr?m?s of risk and r?ward, as w?ll as th? int?rplay and conflict b?tw??n ?ntr?pr?n?urship and corporat? ?nt?rpris?, and b?tw??n privat? busin?ss and th? nation-stat?. It also r?mains an ?ss?ntial ?l?m?nt in national pow?r, a major factor in world ?conomi?s, a critical focus for war and conflict and a d?cisiv? forc? in int?rnational affairs. (Atkinson, 1993) It is th?s? oil facts that hav? mad? th? Gulf an int?rnationally significant plac? sinc? 1973. Th?y will also mak? it ?v?n mor? significant in th? y?ars ah?ad. Th? Arab Gulf, compos?d of ?ight stat?s that vary in siz? and importanc?, is charact?riz?d ?ss?ntially as a conflict-ori?nt?d r?gion. Th? stat?s of th? r?gion hav? n?arly always b??n in stat? of conflict with ?ach oth?r.
Throughout th?ir mod?rn history, th?s? stat?s hav? b??n ?ngag?d in all sorts of conflicts which hav? tak?n many diff?r?nt forms: tribal wars, bord?r wars, oil wars and ?v?n political and id?ological wars. Intra- and int?r-stat? conflicts r?occur in th? r?gion on almost r?gular int?rvals. (Litwak, 1993) Of cours?, th? discov?ry of oil in larg? quantity and th? sudd?n int?rnational importanc? of Gulf oil has mad? th? r?gion ?v?n mor? volatil? and conflict-ori?nt?d. Oil has mad? th? n?wly ind?p?nd?nt small stat?s sup?r-afflu?nt and financially s?cur?, but it has also mad? th?m politically and militarily vuln?rabl? and susc?ptibl? to all sons of ?xt?rnal ?nvi?s, involv?m?nts and ?v?n invasions. H?nc?, wh?n it com?s to th? Gulf r?gion, conflict is th? rul? wh?r?as p?ac?ful co?xist?nc? and coop?ration is th? rar? ?xc?ption, as it was in 1990.
Th? Rol? of Unit?d Stat?s During Th? War Th? Unit?d Stat?s was th? first country to r?act to th? Iraqi invasion with concr?t? actions. Within hours of th? Iraqi assault, th? Unit?d Stat?s froz? all Iraqi and Kuwaiti ass?ts in th? Unit?d Stat?s and prohibit?d all trad? with Iraq. Th? Unit?d Stat?s also ask?d North Atlantic Tr?aty Organization (NATO) stat?s to consid?r similar actions. In addition, th? Unit?d Stat?s quickly off?r?d to d?ploy a squadron of F-15 fight?rs to Saudi Arabia if th? kingdom wish?d to bolst?r its d?f?ns?s. (Cord?sman and Wagn?r, 1996) From th? U.S. p?rsp?ctiv?, th?r? w?r? many r?asons for inaction. Kuwait was a small country that was far away. It had an autocratic gov?rnm?nt. It had b??n invad?d by a pow?rful military forc?. Th? Unit?d Stat?s had f?w id?ntifiabl? int?r?sts th?r? asid? from oil.
Th? Unit?d Stat?s was r?ducing th? siz? of its arm?d forc?s. Arab r?solv? to oppos? Iraq was unc?rtain at b?st. Mor? important, f?w Am?ricans look?d favorably on n?w for?ign military action. To succ?ssfully pros?cut? th? P?rsian Gulf War, th? Unit?d Stat?s n??d?d to build a coalition. Th? cor? of th? Coalition was th? thirty-fiv? stat?s from within and b?yond th? Middl? ?ast that contribut?d ov?r a quart?r million troops, almost 4,000 tanks, mor? than 2,100 aircraft, and at l?ast 219 ships to th? military ?ffort against Iraq. (H?ad and Tilford, 1996: 38) A f?w stat?s provid?d larg? numb?rs of troops, tanks, plan?s, and ships to th? anti-Iraq ?ffort. Oth?rs provid?d only tok?n forc?s. R?gardl?ss of th? siz? of th? arm?d forc?s that th?y contribut?d to th? anti-Iraq coalition, th?s? stat?s ar? usually consid?r?d th? allianc? that won th? P?rsian Gulf War.
Th? Unit?d Stat?s sp?arh?ad?d th? cr?ation and maint?nanc? of this div?rs? and ill-d?fin?d Coalition. This was an impr?ssiv? achi?v?m?nt. In many r?sp?cts, cr?ating and maintaining th? Coalition was as stunning a succ?ss as Op?rations D?s?rt Shi?ld and D?s?rt Storm. Giv?n how critical th? Coalition was to Op?rations D?s?rt Shi?ld and D?s?rt Storm, it is ?xtr?m?ly important that w? und?rstand how and why this most unusual allianc? cam? about, and how and why it stay?d tog?th?r. (Cord?sman and Wagn?r, 1996)
Ind??d, ?v?n in th? Unit?d Stat?s, ?xist?nc? of a broad, multifac?t?d Coalition h?lp?d l?gitimiz? first th? U.S. military buildup in Saudi Arabia and th?n th? us? of arm?d forc? to ?xp?l Iraq from Kuwait. Although it may b? argu?d accurat?ly that U.S. forc?s by th?ms?lv?s could hav? both d?t?rr?d and d?f?at?d Iraq, th?r?by obviating th? n??d for a Coalition, it is not c?rtain that in th? abs?nc? of a larg? anti-Iraqi Coalition th? Unit?d Stat?s could hav? d?ploy?d so sizabl? a forc? to th? Middl? ?ast.
Th? ?xist?nc? of a sizabl? Coalition p?rmitt?d th? U.S. gov?rnm?nt to argu? that it was acting in conc?rt with int?rnational public opinion in th? Unit?d Stat?s and in th? U.S. Congr?ss to support a larg? military d?ploym?nt and th? ?v?ntual us? of military forc?. (Atkinson, 1993) S?cond, and mor? obviously, th? m?mb?rs of th? Coalition provid?d th? arm?d forc?s that d?t?rr?d furth?r Iraqi aggr?ssion and ?v?ntually ?xp?ll?d Iraq from Kuwait. Had no Coalition b??n form?d, d?t?rr?nc? would hav? b??n mor? unc?rtain and th? ?xpulsion of Iraq from Kuwait would hav? b??n r?nd?r?d virtually impossibl?. Th? c?ntral rol?s that th? Unit?d Stat?s play?d in th? allianc? is obvious, sinc? pr?pond?ranc? of military might in th? allianc? was provid?d by th? Unit?d Stat?s. Th? c?ntrality of U.S. arm?d forc?s to th? d?t?rr?nc? of possibl? Iraqi aggr?ssion against Saudi Arabia and th? ?xpulsion of Iraq from Kuwait is und?niabl?. (H?ad and Tilford, 1996: 41)
Third, th? Coalition was also important b?caus? s?v?ral of its m?mb?rs h?lp?d pay for th? costs of d?ploying military forc?s to th? Gulf and fighting th? war against Iraq. S?v?ral Coalition m?mb?rs also h?lp?d d?fray th? financial loss?s of Middl? ?ast?rn stat?s that participat?d in th? ?conomic ?mbargo against Iraq. N?v?rth?l?ss, mainly U.S. financial support contribut?d to th? ?v?ntual succ?ss?s of D?s?rt Shi?ld and D?s?rt Storm. (H?ad and Tilford, 1996: 42) In th? Gulf War, U.S. ?njoy?d a s?v?ral-ord?rs-of-magnitud? improv?m?nt in a?rial bombardm?nt, compar?d to our pr?vious ?xp?ri?nc?s.
Th? combination of st?alth and pr?cision-guid?d munitions (PGM) may provid? a vast improv?m?nt in accuracy and capabiliti?s. But th?r? is mor? to it than that. Th? simplistic imag? of a bomb going down an air v?nt, as r?play?d on CNN many tim?s, is not an accurat? r?fl?ction of th? r?ality of a?rial bombardm?nt in th? Gulf. It b?li?s th? tru? accuracy and fr?qu?ncy of us? of PGMs. Th? gr?at bulk of ordnanc? us?d-roughly 95 p?rc?nt — consist?d of “dumb” bombs, not “smart” on?s. (H?ad and Tilford, 1996) A Gov?rnm?nt Accounting Offic? (GAO) ass?ssm?nt (1996) of th? ?ff?ctiv?n?ss of th? Gulf War air campaign sugg?sts that although th? r?sults w?r? a gr?at improv?m?nt ov?r pr?vious air campaigns, th?y w?r? nowh?r? n?arly as good as claim?d. High t?chnology c?rtainly did play a rol? in th? Gulf War, but it had as much to do with communications, surv?illanc?, navigation, and th? us? of spac?-bas?d ass?ts as with PGMs.
Th? rol? of th? Global Positioning Syst?m (GPS), s?cur? sat?llit? communications, night-vision d?vic?s, and massiv? a?rial r?fu?ling and tank?r op?rations was routin?ly mor? important than that of smart bombs, antiradiation missil?s, cruis? missil?s, and Patriot missil? d?f?ns?s against Scud missil?s. Things that didn’t go “bang” w?r? th? mor? important t?chnological accomplishm?nts. But our l?ad in th?s? ar?as of military t?chnology is dissipating rapidly. On? can buy GPS r?c?iv?rs comm?rcially; contract with privat? compani?s to g?t ov?rh?ad spac? imag?ry; and us? not?book comput?rs, c?llular phon?s, and dir?ct-broadcast sat?llit? capability to run a war from virtually anywh?r?. (Cord?sman and Wagn?r, 1996)
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