The Gulf War: Lessons for the Future
Douglas V. Johnson II
The collapse of the bipolar competition of the last forty-five years released long pent-up hostilities, and in place of the anticipated global peace, we now have global war. Despite the sharp reduction in a single-power threat and the obvious consequence of reduced defense requirements, the growth in number of murderous squabbles may require adaptation to pacification or peacekeeping requirements of nearly equal dimensions. To use the Gulf War as a lens through which to view these phenomena, we must first review the war's broadest outlines.
On August 2, 1990, after considerable mutual provocation, Iraq's armed forces overran Kuwait in an operation lasting little more than a day. Provocations aside, Iraq's action brought forth immediate international condemnation. While that may have been expected, the collective military response that followed was remarkable. Following a rapid buildup of American military power augmented by international contingents of widely varying combat value, the coalition forces smashed Iraq's armed forces in Kuwait and southern Iraq and dealt devastating blows to Iraq's military infrastructure. The coalition next reestablished legitimate government in Kuwait, tended briefly to refugees in the theater of operations, and then evacuated southern Iraq. What was not done was as remarkable as what was. Iraq was not occupied, nor was its government replaced. Iraqi sovereignty was left essentially intact, although it was found expedient to restrict it above the 36th parallel to provide protection to the Kurds. Although U.S. leadership was crucial in forming and sustaining the coalition, the United States at all times acted under the covering of the United Nations. From a domestic perspective,