Desert Storm Essays


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Was Desert Storm a successful military and political operation?

In August 1990 Iraq invaded and annexed Kuwait, which it had long claimed as Iraqi territory. The UN Security Council immediately called for Iraq to withdraw and subsequently placed an embargo on most trade with Iraq.  When that failed to achieve an Iraqi withdrawal, on 17 January1991, a U.S.-led military coalition that included Britain, Egypt, France, Saudi Arabia and other nations began a massive air war to destroy Iraq's forces.  Iraq responded with a call for terrorist attacks against the coalition and launched missiles at Israel (in an unsuccessful attempt to widen the war and break up the coalition) and at Saudi Arabia.  On 24 February the main coalition forces invaded Kuwait and Southern Iraq after Iraq again ignored an ultimatum to withdraw from Kuwait.  The allies, in an operation called Desert Storm, quickly encircled and defeated the Iraqi army and liberated Kuwait.
Kuwait and Iraq suffered enormous property damage, and the war led to unrest among Kurds and Shiites in Iraq.  Eventually, Iraq agreed to coalition peace terms but subsequently sought to frustrate the terms, particularly weapons inspection.  In 1993 the U.S., France and Britain launched several air strikes and a cruise missile strike at Iraq in response to a series of provocation, including an Iraqi plan to assassinate former U.S. President Bush. An Iraqi troop buildup near Kuwait in 1994 again led the U.S. to send forces to Kuwait and nearby areas.
532,000 forces served in Operation Desert Storm.  The United States suffered 148 battle deaths, 145 non battle deaths and 467 wounded.

  • 25 June 1961, Iraq lodged a claim for Kuwait, and on 1 July British troops arrived to prevent an Iraqi takeover.
  • 2 August 1990, soon after midnight Iraqi army invaded after talks broke down on oil production (Iraq wanted to sell more, and Kuwait to sell less) and debt repayment.  Kuwait was taken by surprise despite warnings and put up little resistance; within an hour the country was overrun and quickly annexed as the 19th province of Iraq.  (The UN ordered economic sanctions almost immediately.)
  • 6 August 1990, President Bush began Operation Desert Sand to protect Saudi Arabia (soon over 230,000 troops).  The UN set a deadline of 15 January 1991 for Iraq to leave Kuwait.
  • 16 January 1991, with congressional approval, the assault (at first only an air attack) against Iraq began with about 30 countries participating.
  • 22 February 1991, ultimatum given to Iraq to leave Kuwait by noon on 23 February or face the consequences.
  • 24 February 1991, the ground war began but with only slight Iraqi resistance.
  • 26 February 1991, allies entered Kuwait City.  The Iraqi army set fire to over 500 oil wells and also pumped oil into the Persian Gulf causing environmental damage.
  • 3 March 1991, Iraq agreed to abide by the previous UN resolutions.
  • 4 March 1991, POWs released.
  • 3 April 1991, cease-fire agreed and signed 6 April.
  • 2 August 1992, Iraq again laid claim to Kuwait.

WWW sites
Some key figures include:   George Bush, Norman Schwarzkopf (1934-) and Saddam Hussein.
The Desert Storm site, created by a student, provides information on all aspects of the war, including POWs, weaponry and soldiers.  Frontline: The Gulf War is an excellent resource that includes an oral history, war stories, voices of the war.  The Gulf War Veteran Resource Page provides a variety of services to veterans of the conflict, including information on Gulf War Syndrome  (See also, GulfLink, the official page of the Department of Defense Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, which contains news, medical information and reports on continuing suspicions about Iraqi biological weapons).
Some other sites include:  the site, The Unfinished War:  A Decade since Desert Storm, has a set of excellent articles on various aspects of the war, including its legacies; the "History Guy's" website on the Persian Gulf War has links to further sources; Gulf War Photographs are official photographs; Hoskinson's Gulf War Photo Gallery is good and includes a personal diary. There is an essay suggesting that miscalculations and mistakes led to Saddam maintaining his regime.  Finally, the wikipedia site for the Gulf War has good references and a set of additional online links.

Still more:


Recommended Books
The Persian Gulf War has already has generated an enormous literature:  Encyclopedia of the Persian Gulf War (1998); Mohammad-Mahmoud Mohamedou, Iraq and the Second Gulf War:  State-Building and Regime Security (1998); H. Rahman, The Making of the Gulf War:  Origins of Kuwait's Long-Standing Territorial Dispute with Iraq (1997); Andrew Bennett, Joseph Lepgold and Danny Unger, eds., Friends in Need:  Burden-Sharing in the Persian Gulf War (1997); Paul Leslie, ed., The Gulf War as Popular Entertainment:  An Analysis of the Military-Industrial Media Complex (1997); Majid Khadduri and Edmund Ghareeb, War in the Gulf, 1990-91:  The Iraq-Kuwait Conflict and Its Implications (1997); Richard Swain, Lucky War:  Third Army in Desert Storm (1997); Howard Teicher and Gayle Radley Teicher, Twin Pillars to Desert Storm:  America's Flawed Vision in the Middle East from Nixon to Bush (1993); Michael Mazarr, Don Snider and James Blackwell, Jr., Desert Storm:  The Gulf War and What We Learned (1992); Joseph Nye and Roger Smith, eds., After the Storm: Lessons from the Gulf War (1992). with the valuable essay by Fouad Ajami, "Shooting an Elephant: The Expedition and Its Aftermath"; Dilip Hiro, Desert Shield to Desert Storm:  The Second Gulf War (1992); Deborah Amos, Lines in the Sand:  Desert Storm and the Remaking of the Arab World (1992).

Related Events
Saddam Hussein
Iran-Iraq War

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On August 2nd, 1990 the first Iraqi tanks crossed into Kuwait, as part of an invasion that marked the start of a six-month conflict between the United States and Iraq. These tanks were ordered to invade Kuwait by Saddam Hussein, the ruthless dictator of Iraq. The Iraqi troops looted Kuwaiti businesses and brutalized Kuwaiti civilians. Saudi Arabia began to fear that they may be invaded as well, and on August 7th they formally asked President Bush for US assistance. (World Book, vol. 4 e. 1) The US pledged to defend the Saudis, and to remove the Iraqis from Kuwait. Great masses of troops from many different nations were deployed in the Persian Gulf area. At 4:30 PM EST on January 16, 1991, the first aircraft with orders to attack Iraqi targets were launched from Saudi Arabia, marking the beginning of Operation Desert Storm. (Quinson, 17)

Dictators like Mr. Hussein cannot be allowed to take advantage of smaller countries like bullies after lunch money. There has to be someone to stop them, or they will gain more and more power and land, just as Adolph Hitler tried to do in World War II. That someone, in the case of Mr. Hussein, was the United States, along with a multinational coalition. The US had just cause in entering a war against Iraq because of Iraq's invasion of the small and defenseless nation of Kuwait. Actions such as that must be repulsed. Iraq had no just cause in invading Kuwait; their reasons were either obscure or for their benefit. The US had to help Kuwait regain their nation.

In protecting the Saudis from invasion and removing the Iraqis from Kuwait the US had the right intention. The real reason the US decided to fight the Iraqis was to restore Kuwait's government and to defend Saudi Arabia. (Abraham 31-34, 36) There was no underlying reason, such as to receive better prices on oil or to make the Kuwaitis indebted to the US so as to receive favors. Throughout the war, the US made clear their purpose and intent in fighting the Iraqis, and not once did they stray from it.

Legitimate authority was established when the Congress voted to follow United Nations resolution 678, section two of which "Authorizes Member States co-operating with the Government of Kuwait, unless Iraq on or before 15 January 1991 fully implements, as set forth in paragraph 1 above, the foregoing resolutions, to use all necessary means to uphold and implement resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area." (Richelson, 24,26) The vote to follow the resolution was as good as a declaration of war, as far as legitimate authority is concerned, and is in some ways better. The adoption of the resolution only authorized the use of force to remove Iraq from Kuwait. This limited the ability of our military to completely destroy Iraq's military or to drive Hussein from power. (World Book) Our authority to remove Iraq from Kuwait was clearly legitimate.

The Gulf War was fought with proportionality clearly in the leadership's mind. President Bush planned to get Iraq's troops out of Kuwait and then stop. (Abraham 97) He had no intention of carrying the war further. Although Bush would have dearly liked to have marched US troops toward Baghdad to destroy Hussein's government, he did not, because of the risk of heavy casualties, and because it went against the proportionality idea.



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