Military Persuasion in War and Policy: The Power of Soft

By Stephen J. Cimbala | Go to book overview

5

Military Persuasion and Desert Storm

Military persuasion is a product of cultural and social forces as well as stemming from sources that are strictly political or military. The United States has a less than enviable track record of deterrence and intelligence failure in dealing with non-Western cultures: for example, Pearl Harbor; Chinese military intervention in the Korean War; the Arab- Israeli “October War” of 1973; the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-1980; and, most dreadfully, the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001. One would suppose, therefore, that conflicts in the Middle East or elsewhere in the Third World involving the United States and a non-Western opponent would be fertile ground for case study in the insufficiently adroit conduct of military persuasion. 1

So it proved to be in the Persian Gulf, to an extent, in August 1990. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait came as a surprise to U.S. policy makers despite intelligence warnings and previous diplomatic coercion of Kuwait by Iraq. Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein proposed to play at military persuasion while the United States gathered allies and planned for a counteroffensive if necessary to expel Iraq from Kuwait. The United States had to conduct its military planning and its diplomacy with the option to counter Saddam Hussein's version of military persuasion: Sit on Kuwait and threaten to raise the ante if anyone dares to try to expel Iraqi military power from the desert sheikdom. U.S. leaders wanted Iraq out of Kuwait, but they also wanted to avoid a wider war in the Middle East that might turn into an Arab-Israeli war.

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