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About this book

In August 1990, Saddam Hussein's Iraqi forces boldly invaded and occupied neighboring Kuwait. It was a move that shocked the world and threatened the interests of those countries, such as the USA and the nations of Europe, dependent on oil from the Middle East. The ensuing Gulf War signaled, for many, a new dawn in warfare: one based upon lethal technology, low casualties, and quick decisive victory.

Incorporating the latest scholarship, William Thomas Allison provides a concise overview of the origins, key events and legacy of the first Gulf War, as well as the major issues and debates. Allison also examines the relevance of this war to other twentieth-century conflicts and the ongoing situation in the region.

Table of Contents

1. Inventing the Middle East and Iraq

Abstract
In the twentieth century, few regions of the world rivaled the Middle East in volatility and complexity. The intense diversity of culture, religion, geopolitics, and economics in the region made long-term stability difficult, as forces for progress routinely clashed with those resistant to change while those who craved power struggled to take it from those who ruled. The imperial designs of Western powers, the existence since 1947 of Israel as a Jewish state in a sea of Arab countries, the strategic interests (crude oil) of the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War and Arab nationalism compounded these tensions, and continue to do so in the early twenty-first century. Many hoped the end of the Cold War would bring opportunities finally to establish lasting peace in this volatile region. The predominant faith of the Middle East, Islam, in reality served only as a superficial unifier for the region; even the teachings of Muhammad provided inadequate common ground to resolve troubled relations between secular and non-secular states, state borders that defied traditional tribal and ethnic areas, and historical tensions between Sunni and Shia Muslims.
William Thomas Allison

2. Republican Iraq and the Rise of Saddam Hussein

Abstract
Like the United States, Iraq, too, had difficulty navigating the treacherous waters between Arab nationalism and Western interests. Al-Said and King Faisal II feared Nasser’s growing influence in the Middle East and desired to remain on friendly terms with the West, especially with the United States. For al-Said, little could be worse for Iraq than a Pan-Arab union ruled by the messianic Nasser. Even Arab nationalists in Iraq abhorred such a possibility. In early 1958, Nasser established the United Arab Republic (UAR), consisting of Egypt and Syria. In response, al-Said convinced Jordan to join Iraq in a union governed by a single constitution, with al-Said, not surprisingly, as prime minister. Al-Said hoped this new entity, called the Arab Union, would deter further expansion by Nasser.1
William Thomas Allison

3. The Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait

Abstract
Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait with brutal swiftness on August 2, 1990. Within days, the last pockets of Kuwaiti resistance collapsed, paving the way for an Iraqi looting spree the likes of which the world had not seen in decades. Saddam’s great gamble appeared to work, for the moment. Hindsight, through which armchair generals and weekend diplomats view the past with great clarity, hints that the world community, especially the United States, should have recognized Saddam’s true intent. Conditions at the time, however, offered no such clarity. Confusion, misperception, and very simply distraction muddied worldwide response to the events leading to the invasion. Once undertaken, the invasion startled the world community into quick condemnation and, indeed, action, as Saddam’s plans after taking Kuwait appeared no less clear. With Saudi Arabia threatened, the United States led the world community to first protect the House of Saud, while working to get Saddam to leave Kuwait, by force if necessary.
William Thomas Allison

4. Building DESERT SHIELD

Abstract
From the first day of the crisis in August 1990 through the end of the conflict in March 1991, the United States worked to build and then maintain a broad coalition of diverse nations to initially condemn the Iraqi invasion, and after that to coerce Iraq into withdrawing from Kuwait through sanctions, and later to both participate in and contribute troops, material, and money to DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM. In the early days of the crisis, President Bush determined to use international pressure, especially through the UN Security Council rather than unilateral American action, to restore Kuwait. For Bush, the world emerging from the Cold War, one that appeared to leave the United States as the lone superpower, presented a historic opportunity for the United States to lead the international community. While a superpower could exercise power unilaterally, Bush understood the importance of international consensus and of pursuing American aims through multilateralism, in this case through the UN. Moreover, Bush appreciated the need to enhance the legitimacy of the UN in the world community. Successfully forcing Saddam to abandon Kuwait either peacefully or by use of force through American leadership in the UN, Bush hoped, would achieve both purposes.1
William Thomas Allison

5. Moving to the Offensive

Abstract
Bush and his military advisors realized that the longer Saddam held out, the more time Iraqi forces had to reinforce themselves along the Iraqi and Kuwaiti borders with Saudi Arabia and to build defenses along obvious amphibious assault areas along the Kuwaiti coast. Indeed, while the United States and other Coalition partners had over 220,000 troops in the region by the end of October 1990, Saddam had increased the size of Iraqi forces to nearly 400,000 in southern Iraq and Kuwait.1
William Thomas Allison

6. Instant Thunder

Abstract
On January 17, 1991, at approximately 0300 hours local time, American and Coalition air forces attacked Iraqi forces in Kuwait and southern Iraq as well as strategic targets in the heart of Baghdad. CNN, the world’s first twenty-four-hour news channel, had its top anchor Bernard Shaw and veteran correspondent Peter Arnett in Baghdad reporting live as the city’s air raid sirens blared in the night to be followed by heavy explosions and the distinct ack-ack bursts of Iraqi anti-aircraft fire or AAA. Shaw and Arnett stayed on the air for almost sixteen hours either on the phone or through their fuzzy satellite connection, bringing television audiences around the world the dramatic sights and sounds of the opening salvos of DESERT STORM. In Washington, DC, at just after 1900 hours local time on January 16, White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater appeared before White House press corps to announce, “The liberation of Kuwait has begun.”1
William Thomas Allison

7. The Ground War

Abstract
At 0400 hours local time in the Persian Gulf on February 24, Schwarzkopf ordered his main ground forces into Kuwait and southern Iraq in accordance with deadlines set by President Bush. Battlefield preparation had been progressing for several days, as the air campaign transitioned from focusing on command-and-control targets in Iraq to concentrating more on fielded forces in southern Iraq and Kuwait. Heavy bombing by B-52s had given way to pinpoint strikes, known as “tank plinking,” by A-10s and other attack aircraft against individual tanks, pieces of artillery, and other heavy vehicles in place inside bunkers and other locations. Estimates placed Iraqi forces depleted by bombing and desertion at 220,000 troops, along with the loss of 1,700 tanks and 1,000 artillery pieces. The Coalition had over 575,000 troops in the KTO, complemented by over 3,700 tanks and 1,500 artillery pieces. Despite prevailing confidence among CENTCOM and field commanders, they expected significant casualties on both sides. The devastating combination of Coalition firepower and entrenched Iraqi defenses, which included oil pits, minefields, and ambush alleys, presented one of the most lethal battlefield environments in history.
William Thomas Allison

8. Aftermath and Legacies

Abstract
In response to a May 1991 Gallup Poll question on whether liberating Kuwait “was worth a war,” 72 percent (down from a high of 80 percent the week of February 28–March 3, 1991) of Americans polled said “yes.”1 To many observers, the Persian Gulf War had been a stunning exhibition of modern combat arms, with low casualties and the political objective achieved in a shockingly short period, considering the size of the forces and the scale of the territory involved. Modern military technology impressed analysts and captured the public’s imagination, leading some to claim that a historic “revolution in military affairs,” or RMA, was underway.2
William Thomas Allison
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