Tough and Tender: New World Order Masculinity and the Gulf War
On the morning after the Gulf War1 cease-fire on March 1, 1991, while the remnants of still-burning Iraqi vehicles and corpses littered the deadly highway out of Kuwait, U.S. president Bush, in what he called a "spontaneous burst of pride," announced: "By God, we've kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all." 2 Bush hardly needed to utter the words; from the beginning of the American military mobilization Vietnam became such a common historical referent in official and popular discourse about the Gulf War that it often seemed as if the Vietnam War was being refought in the desert sands near the Gulf. 3 By referring to the defeat of Iraq and the defeat of the "Vietnam syndrome" in the same breath, Bush revealed that the popular historical legacy of the Vietnam War had also been targeted for a supposedly surgical strike. For decades Bush and many other American national security elites had wanted to put an end to the reluctance on the part of many Americans to support U.S. military interventions in the Third World and refurbish their pride in American military prowess. In Bush's clinical argot, this reluctance was an obstacle and a deficiency on the part of the American population, a syndrome to be kicked as one would drugs or alcohol. Through the successful military campaign to drive Iraq from Kuwait, Bush believed he had also driven this malaise from the American body politic.
The desire to overcome the temporary inhibitions against overt U.S. military interventions (the Vietnam syndrome) had been nurtured during the 1980s largely as a result of the Reagan administration's overt militarization