Non-Conventional-Weapons Proliferation in the Middle East: Tackling the Spread of Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Capabilities

By Efraim Karsh; Martin S. Navias et al. | Go to book overview

3
Non-Conventional Weaponry and Ballistic Missiles during the 1991 Gulf War

MARTIN NAVIAS

SINCE the end of the 1991 Gulf War it has often been argued that neither ballistic missiles nor non-conventional weaponry had any effect on the outcome of Operation Desert Storm. Ballistic missiles proved militarily insignificant, chemical weapons were not employed, and Iraq's nuclear programme, though far more advanced and extensive than previously imagined, was not at the stage where it could produce an employable nuclear bomb. In the final analysis, what determined the result of the conflict was the qualitative conventional superiority of allied forces. That the result came so quickly and relatively painlessly was a reflection of the professionalism of allied troops, the standard of their technology, and the general incompetence of the Iraqis.

Yet, to deny the import of missiles and non-conventional weapons on the war's outcome is not the same as stating that these weapons did not have some important specific effects on the character of the confrontation. Indeed, it can be argued that the very existence of non-conventional weaponry had an impact upon the causes of the conflict, the conduct of the conflict, the conditions upon which the conflict was terminated, and the perception of that conflict in the Middle East and elsewhere. The same can certainly be said of ballistic missiles, which, unlike chemical weapons, were actually employed. It is argued here that none of these weapons was entirely inconsequential, even though they could not save Saddam from his folly. Equally as significant, these weapons may not necessarily be viewed by all as having played an inconsequential or irrelevant role, or a role that could not be suited to their various purposes. This is important, because the perception of the role of missiles and non-conventional weaponry

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