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Military Planning of the 1991 Gulf War – Essay

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Introduction

The 1991 Gulf War is considered one of the most well-known conflicts of the 20th century. This conflict became so well known because of Saddam’s spontaneous aggression against Kuwait and the flawless military operations organized by the U.S. The Gulf War is also quite interesting because each side pursued goals and objectives. Moreover, the personal interests of leaders influenced some of these objectives. It is also important to mention three main participants in this conflict: An international coalition led by U.S., GCC states, and Saudi Arabia. This conflict can also be considered global because international organizations were interested in solving it. It is important to analyze this conflict in the context of the global political situation that was during the 20th century because this situation has directly contributed to the development and outburst of this conflict. Therefore all planning of different sides in relation to this conflict was influenced by numerous factors, which as a result, directly contributed to the rapid resolution of this conflict and showed the whole world that the U.S. has the most powerful and advanced army.

Background

Before analyzing the conflict, it is vital to describe the whole geopolitical situation of the 20th century. The only two superpower states in the 20th century were USA and USSR. Both these states were in constant covert conflict with each other, though this conflict wasn’t manifested in military conflicts. However, both USA and USSR used other states to increase their geopolitical influence in different regions. Therefore, the whole world was divided into capitalistic and socialist countries. It was irrational for the USA and the USSR to become involved in direct conflict. Hence, they were involved in proxy conflicts, and both states used financial and other resources to gain political influence. Therefore, in some countries, governments supported the USA, like it was in Turkey, which allowed deploying nuclear missiles on its territory, or in Cuba, when Fidel Castro allowed the Soviets to deploy nuclear missiles on Cuba. One way or another, every military conflict and every country in the world was influenced both by USSR and the U.S., and the Middle East Region was no exception.

Prior to the 1991 Gulf War, there was an intense conflict between Iraq and Iran, known as the Iran-Iraq War. Before this war, there was an Iranian revolution, which led to the establishment a new anti-USA religious regime there. The USA controlled the government overthrown by Islamic revolutionists. Therefore the USA was quite unpleased with the situation that happened in Iran. Moreover, many people from the U.S. embassy in Iran suffered injuries during the revolution and were evacuated. Therefore, the USA had a strong anti-Iranian position and had to support Iraq by providing them with weapons and financial help. It is interesting that USSR also provided both military and financial help to Iraq; moreover, they considered Saddam Hussein a valuable ally and did everything to help him win this war.

Moreover, Iraq and the USSR signed a treaty in 1972, according to which the USSR government pledged to support Iraq and improve cooperation between both countries. The primary reason the USSR supported Iraq was that the USSR was afraid that the Iranian revolution might contribute to instability in Muslim regions bordering the USSR. Therefore, they used Saddam because they believed that this violent dictator could oppose radical Islam and the threat posed by Iran.

The Iraq-Iran war was too exhausting for Iraq. Therefore, Iraq has lost billions of dollars and had huge debts. During the Iraq-Iran war, Kuwait was an ally of Iraq and helped this country with huge sums of money. As a result, after the end of the war, Iraq owed Kuwait about 14 billion dollars.[1] In addition, Iraq owed $28 billion dollars to Saudi Arabia.[2] While the war was over, Saudi Arabia became too alienated from Iraq and didn’t provide further support to this country because Saudis were afraid of Iranian revenge. When GCC was created, Iraq wasn’t accepted into this organization. Moreover, Saudi Arabia asked the U.S. for a long deployment of U.S. airborne warning and control system aircraft.[3] The U.S. relationship with Iraq was quite tense, and the Iraq-Iran war was the only conflict where the U.S. supported Iraq. However, there is also some evidence claiming that the U.S. supported Iran to maximize the potential damage that both these states could cause to each other.[4] Therefore invasion Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait was just a matter of time. Saddam was like a hunted animal because a huge part of his country’s infrastructure was destroyed during the Iraq-Iran war. Moreover, such a long and unsuccessful war demoralized his people and soldiers. Saddam believed that the only way to hold power in his hands was to invade Kuwait and later attack Saudi Arabia because these countries had huge oil and gas resources. Moreover, there would be no need to repay the debt if Saddam controlled these countries. Finally, Saddam was a megalomaniac and believed he was like a Saladin. He became literary obsessed with the idea of conquering countries of the whole Gulf Region and becoming the most powerful dictator in the world.

Planning of Iraq in the Gulf War

The planning by Saddam Hussein was quite primitive and based on his ideas that Iraq’s army was the strongest in the region. After the Iraq-Iran war, Saddam believed that the USA wouldn’t use military forces in the Gulf region because they hadn’t done this before and supported allied countries only indirectly. Saddam believed that the USA would be afraid of huge potential military losses, so chances for getting the international community involved in the conflict were minimal.[5]

Now it is important to analyze why Saddam used military force instead of choosing a peaceful way of development for his country. As was already mentioned, Iraq suffered huge losses during the Iraq-Iran war, and the whole reconstruction of Iraq would cost about $230 billion dollars.[6] Therefore, Iraq needed about two decades to fully restore the economy. However, Iraq had huge military forces mobilized during the Iran-Iraq war. Finally, it seemed that Iran wasn’t hurrying to take all actions to finish the war officially by releasing war prisoners and demobilizing the army. Therefore, Saddam spent billions of dollars to keep such a huge army. Eventually, he started to think that it could be better to use military forces to capture Kuwait, which had almost no military forces and couldn’t provide strong resistance to Saddam. Thus, Saddam considered a military invasion of Kuwait to increase personal rating among Iraqi citizens, who were unpleased by the Iran-Iraq conflict. Citizens of Iraq would sooner or later realize that their country was devastated by the war. Bullying Gulf States by threatening them and using aggressive politics was part of Saddam’s strategy.[7] Moreover, they would understand that their leader is guilty of making the country poor and exhausted. Thus, Saddam had no other option but to make radical decisions and use the resources available to them then.

Before using military force, Saddam was trying to convince Gulf countries to reduce their quotas for oil, allowing them to increase their own production, which would result in stable oil prices. However, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait reduced doing so; therefore, Saddam’s plan to create this stable source of income failed. Due to aggressive foreign policy, Iraq had no allies at all. Therefore, the only way to acquire new resources and increase income was to invade neighboring countries.

Therefore, Saddam planned to invade Kuwait by overthrowing the government and suppressing civil opposition. This step would eradicate the debt owed by Iraq to Kuwait and provide extra resources for conquering Saudi Arabia. The plan’s main goal was to establish control over the whole Gulf region, so Iraq could become a monopoly in selling gas and oil resources. Saddam’s plan would likely work. However, he couldn’t even think that the international community would provide military support to Saudi Arabia or Kuwait.

However, in the beginning, Saddam needed a certain reason for attacking Kuwait. It is no surprise that the reason that he fused to attack Kuwait was related to “stealing” Kuwait of Iraq’s oil in the bordering regions. Iraq demanded to compensate about $2.4 billion dollars for the “stolen” oil, and [8] Of course, Kuwait couldn’t agree to satisfy these demands because Saddam would ask for more and wouldn’t stop. As a result, on July 21, 30.000 Iraqi troops began movement to the border regions of Iraq and Kuwait. Some evidence shows that Saddam believed that in the case if the USA became involved in the conflict, he would be able to mobilize about 1 million soldiers within a short period.[9]

Of course, Saddam assumed that there was a certain possibility that the USA would form an international coalition and tried to stop him right after he invaded Kuwait. Still, he couldn’t imagine the USA would do it within a month. Thus, the first big miscalculation leading Saddam’s army to defeat was his belief that the small army would be able to face the U.S. army. He believed that Iraqi troops had enough experience to resist the U.S. army effectively, as it was in Vietnam.[10] Saddam planned to organize a strong defense in case the USA decided to help Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. It is a well-known fact that defending forces have three times fewer causalities than attacking forces. In addition, Saddam believed that U.S. citizens would oppose the decision to send troops to the Middle East and create an anti-war movement like it was during the Vietnam War.[11] The second big Saddam miscalculated was that the Gulf countries’ coalition would be quite fragile. He tried to define the conflict as an Arab-Israeli issue to split the coalition.[12] In fact, Saddam’s aggression was so unacceptable that the strongest countries in the region formed a powerful coalition to resist his aggression. They couldn’t allow Saddam to change the balance of power in the region in such a barbarian way.

Saddam planned to invade Kuwait within a short period of time by using complex military operations. He used ground, sea, and air forces and attacked Kuwait during night and day. The whole operation took only two days, and Saddam managed to capture Kuwait City. He used a huge amount of ground force focused on suppressing the army of Kuwait, defending the borders, and preparing for invasion. In addition, he wanted to capture Kuwait’s government to take full control over Kuwait, so he used Special Forces who landed in Kuwait City from the air and the sea. Obviously, the whole military plan was rather simple and focused on isolating capital from other Kuwait territories. Unfortunately, Saddam, Kuwait’s leader, managed to escape. The local population perceived Saddam’s aggression quite negatively. As it was already mentioned, Kuwait was a neutral country and didn’t use aggression or any violent methods against its own neighbors. Thus, Kuwait had almost no means of protection. In two days, the remaining military forces of Kuwait had to flee to Saudi Arabia and find protection there.

Moreover, a lot of military equipment was also transported to Saudi Arabia, including aircraft and armored vehicles. Later this equipment was used by the coalition, which managed to make Saddam leave the occupied territories of Kuwait. Therefore, Saddam’s plan was quite primitive; later, he wanted to attack Saudi Arabia. However, his plan failed due to the international community’s fast reaction and the coalition’s rapid formation. Thus, he had to use the strategy of deterrence.

Planning of International coalition led by the U.S. in the Gulf War

As was already mentioned, this operation was perfectly planned by the U.S. and should be considered one of the most effective operations in the 20th century. The operation was thoughtfully planned. Therefore, the causalities of the U.S.-led coalition were minimal. On the contrary, Saddam’s army had heavy losses due to the effective implementation of air strikes supported by ground military operations. General Chuck Horner commanded air operation, while General John Yeosock commanded ground operation. [13]At the beginning of the conflict, Saddam thought that the U.S. wouldn’t be able to defend Kuwait due to its inability to respond quickly and effectively to his aggression and the low support level of operation among U.S. citizens. However, the political and economic interests of the U.S. were too important for the economic development and prestige of this country.

Except for using military operations to restore the balance of power in the region, the U.S. was influenced by economic factors. In 1980 the U.S. was negatively influenced by economic problems, and conflict in the Gulf would foster these problems by creating a world oil crisis.[14] As a result, oil crises could negatively influence the military power of the U.S. and the international community and decrease operational readiness on land, at sea, and in the air. By that time, the U.S. was dominating the world and wanted to maintain a leadership position in the future.

It is also possible that George W. Bush wanted to protect his interests during this conflict. Numerous pieces of evidence show that George W. Bush had tight business relations with Saudi Arabia. Moreover, he and many other U.S. officials had a direct connection to oil exploration and production companies. George W. Bush was a senior executive in Arbusto Energy from 1978-1984; from 1986-1990, he was a senior executive of the Harken oil company.[15] Therefore, George W. Bush wasn’t interested in losing his income because of the war between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. When the conflict began, it was obvious that eventually, Saddam would attack Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Countries; thus, the only way to stop his further intervention was to create a strong military defense in Saudi Arabia and stop his aggression.

Four days after Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait, George W. Bush announced, “We seek the immediate, unconditional, and complete withdrawal of all Iraqi forces from Kuwait.”[16] Such a determination to liberate Kuwait will make the U.S. indicate that the U.S. will be involved in the conflict sooner or later. Moreover, Bush has made several statements that it is important to maintain the world in existing geopolitical borders because it will contribute to stability and peace after the Cold War period.

At the beginning of the conflict, the Bush administration planned to use a coalition approach. However, some countries like Syria and Egypt, which Bush planned to use as allied forces, were ruled by dictators. Therefore, he couldn’t declare that the main aim of the whole operation was to remove Saddam from ruling his state.[17] In addition, there was information that Saddam would launch biological and chemical armed missiles at Tel-Aviv if coalition forces advanced to Baghdad. [18]Hence, the coalition was focused on stopping the intervention and making Iraqi military forces return to their country.  

Initially, the plan of the military operation was developed by General Schwarzkopf and approved by Powell. According to this plan, the U.S. government was planning not only to make Saddam retreat but to wipe out as many of his forces as possible.[19] According to the first plan developed by Schwarzkopf, U.S. military forces were planning to attack Iraqi forces with a frontal attack; however, this plan was rejected. The next version of the plan was focused on creating a flanking attack by doubling the number of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia to destroy the Republican Guard forces of Iraq. According to the plan, two Marine Divisions were supposed to launch a holding attack against Kuwait to bring Republican Guard forces into Southern Iraq, where the VII Corps of heavy divisions would envelop them.[20] Schwarzkopf has even told another general, “We need to destroy – not attack, not damage, not surround – I want you to destroy the Republican Guard.”[21] The air campaign was also designed to destroy the Iraqi command and control system and disrupt their logistics. When the ground campaign began, Powell described the plan very simply; he said, “First, we are going to cut it off, and then we are going to kill it.”[22] Therefore, the main plan was to weaken Saddam’s power as a dictator by destroying his elite forces. The administration of Bush planned to overthrow Saddam sooner or later; to do that, they had to decrease the military power of Iraq. As mentioned above, it was impossible to do that during the Gulf War because dictators ruled some of the coalition countries, and too radical and hostile actions against Saddam would negatively influence relations with them.

It is important to note that the U.S. planned to use air force in this conflict to minimize losses and to horrify Saddam’s army. Therefore, there were 36 Fighter Wings used in the conflict.[23] In the first days of the conflict, the whole infrastructure of the Iraqi army was destroyed. Moreover, the army itself was highly demoralized. Therefore, it was easy for U.S. ground forces to advance and suppress the Iraqi army. In addition, air forces have destroyed numerous chemical and biological research facilities in Iraq. [24]General Schwarzkopf was quite careful and did everything to minimize military losses. This led to the slow advancement of U.S. troops, and as a result, the vast majority of the Republican Guard fled to the territory of Iraq.[25] Thus, it can be claimed that the U.S., with the help of a coalition, has managed to achieve only a tactical victory. Strategically, the U.S. has failed to achieve all its goals, which resulted in the U.S. invasion of Iraq in the future.

Planning of GCC countries in the Gulf War

While discussing the planning of GCC countries, it is important to mention that these countries were directly interested in supporting the U.S. army and the international coalition. Saddam posed a threat to all GCC countries, especially Saudi Arabia, which is a strong ally of the U.S. According to the plan by General Schwarzkopf, the military forces of GCC countries acted like a supportive force, focused on fostering the attack on the U.S. and the international coalition. According to the plan, GCC military forces would join international coalition forces after air operation and after heavy VII Corps of heavy divisions enveloped Iraqi. [26]

Though the U.S. developed the whole military operation, GCC countries played a huge role. During the first stage of operation, better known as Desert Shield, the U.S. began deployment of military forces in Saudi Arabia on August 7, 1990.[27] Moreover, it was planned that the Saudi general would command the GCC coalition. Therefore, there was a system of dualistic commandments for all forces opposing Iraq. It is also important to note that different countries of the GCC pursued their objectives. The information clearly shows that Egypt and Syria were not interested in invading Iraq, though they agreed to participate in the liberation of Kuwait.[28] It is important to note that some Kuwait forces that have fled to Saudi Arabia have also taken an active part in the liberation of Kuwait. Though it is impossible to underestimate the contribution of GCC countries in the victory, U.S. forces played a major role in the coalition by planning everything and implementing this plan efficiently.

Conclusion

The Gulf War is one of the most important modern conflicts because numerous forces took part in it, and all of them were united because of Saddam’s aggression against peaceful Kuwait. The U.S. played a major role in the coalition by providing effective planning and technologically advanced military forces to oppose Saddam’s aggression. Therefore, this conflict was resolved quite quickly, and a balance of powers in the region was established.

Being ruled by Saddam, Iraq was quite aggressive in international relations. Saddam’s objectives and ambitions influenced Iraq’s objectives as a country. Due to his aggressive nature, he took an active part in the Iraq-Iran war, which led his country to huge financial losses. Saddam had put himself into a corner, and after the Iraq-Iran war, he had to begin another war to acquire more resources and distract Iraqis from internal problems. Therefore, his main task was to capture Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to make most of his debts disappear. Being a dictator, he has overestimated his abilities and underestimated the abilities of the U.S. by considering that the U.S. won’t intervene in the conflict. Unfortunately for Saddam, the U.S. was highly interested in establishing a balance of power in the region, avoiding the oil crisis, and increase own prestige. Therefore, the U.S. has made everything to achieve different goals by helping Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and GCC countries. However, the U.S. failed to achieve strategic goals because most Iraqi Republican Forces fled to Iraq. As a result, Saddam managed to stay in power. Therefore, it led to another war and caused huge regional instability. Until now, Iraq has been influenced by numerous conflicts and terrorist attacks.

As for GCC countries, they had no choice but to accept the help of the international community, and the U.S. Saddam’s army was one of the most powerful in the region due to the Iran-Iraq war. Moreover, everyone knew that sooner or later, Saddam would try to take control over different GCC states. Even Syria and Egypt, ruled by dictators, realized that Saddam posed a huge threat to their international security. Moreover, Saudi Arabia, a strong ally of the U.S., has headed a GCC coalition. Thus, international relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have become even stronger than before, and President George W. Bush managed to protect his interests as well as the interests of the U.S.

The Gulf War provides numerous lessons for contemporary commanders. The first main lesson is that technological advantage plays a major role in modern conflicts. In contrast, Iraq’s army used old technologies and grounds force, and the U.S., together with the international coalition, predominantly used air forces as well as the most advanced technologies. Secondly, the military operation by U.S. and coalition serves as a lesson because it was thoughtfully planned and consisted of two main parts, Desert Shield and Desert Strom operations. Hence, military planning should be complex and unique for every military conflict.

Moreover, modern military commanders should understand that every conflict in today’s world should be considered global because of globalization. Therefore, it is important to consider the interests of different countries and understand which countries can be used as allies and which will act like enemies. Saddam didn’t understand that the U.S. would support Kuwait in defending its interests. It can be claimed that direct military aggression is very unacceptable in the modern world.

Bibliography

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Brands, Hal. 2011. “Inside the Iraqi State Records: Saddam Hussein,‘Irangate’, and the United States.” The Journal of Strategic Studies no. 34 (1):95-118.

Chilcoat, R. A. (1999). The revolution in military education. NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV WASHINGTON DC INST FOR NATIONAL STRATEGIC STUDIES.

Cigar, Norman. 1992. “Iraq’s strategic mindset and the gulf war: Blueprint for defeat.” The Journal of Strategic Studies no. 15 (1):1-29.

Divine, R. A. (2000). The Persian Gulf War Revisited: Tactical Victory, Strategic Failure. Diplomatic History, 24(1), 129-138.

Fitzgerald, Peter. “The Invasion of Kuwait.” The Invasion of Kuwait. Accessed February 26, 2016. http://www.thefinertimes.com/War-in-The-Middle-East/the-invasion-of-kuwait.html.

Inman, B. R., Nye Jr, J. S., Perry, W. J., & Smith, R. K. (1992). Lessons from the Gulf War. Washington Quarterly, 15(1), 57-74.

James W. Pardew, Jr., “The Iraqi Army’s Defeat in Kuwait,” Parameters 21, no. 4(winter 1991-92): 21

Karsh, Efraim, and Inari Rautsi. 1991. “Why Saddam Hussein Invaded Kuwait.” Survival no. 33 (1):18-30.

Le Carre, J. (2003). The United States of America has gone mad. The Times, 15, 2003.

Meilinger, P. S. (1995). 10 Propositions Regarding Air Power. AIR UNIV MAXWELL AFB AL SCHOOL OF ADVANCED AIRPOWER STUDIES.

O’Neill, B. E., & Kass, I. (1992). The Persian gulf war: A political‐military assessment. Comparative Strategy, 11(2), 213-240.

RECORD, J. (2003). The Bush Doctrine and War with Iraq.


[1] Fitzgerald, Peter. “The Invasion of Kuwait.” The Invasion of Kuwait. Accessed February 26, 2016. http://www.thefinertimes.com/War-in-The-Middle-East/the-invasion-of-kuwait.html.

[2] Birdsall, Nancy, and Arvind Subramanian. 2004. “Saving Iraq from its oil.” FOREIGN AFFAIRS-NEW YORK- no. 83:77-89, 6.

[3] Ibid, 6.

[4] Brands, Hal. 2011. “Inside the Iraqi State Records: Saddam Hussein,‘Irangate’, and the United States.” The Journal of Strategic Studies no. 34 (1):95-118, 99

[5] Cigar, Norman. 1992. “Iraq’s strategic mindset and the gulf war: Blueprint for defeat.” The Journal of Strategic Studies no. 15 (1):1-29, 4

[6] Karsh, Efraim, and Inari Rautsi. 1991. “Why Saddam Hussein Invaded Kuwait.” Survival no. 33 (1):18-30, 1.

[7] Ibid, 2.

[8] Ibid, 4

[9] Cigar, Norman. 1992. “Iraq’s strategic mindset and the gulf war: Blueprint for defeat.” The Journal of Strategic Studies no. 15 (1):1-29, 15

[10] James W. Pardew, Jr., “The Iraqi Army’s Defeat in Kuwait,” Parameters 21, no. 4(winter 1991-92), 18

[11] Ibid, 18

[12] Ibid, 18

[13] Carpenter, P. M. (1995). Joint Operations in the Gulf War. An Allison Analysis. AIR UNIV MAXWELL AFB AL SCHOOL OF ADVANCED AIRPOWER STUDIES, 1

[14] O’Neill, B. E., & Kass, I. (1992). The Persian gulf war: A political‐military assessment. Comparative Strategy, 11(2), 213-240, 3

[15] Le Carre, J. (2003). The United States of America has gone mad. The Times, 15, 2003, 2

[16] Divine, R. A. (2000). The Persian Gulf War Revisited: Tactical Victory, Strategic Failure. Diplomatic History, 24(1), 129-138, 131

[17] Ibid, 131

[18] RECORD, J. (2003). The Bush Doctrine and War with Iraq, 11

[19] Ibid, 132

[20] Ibid, 132

[21] Ibid, 132

[22] Ibid, 132

[23] Inman, B. R., Nye Jr, J. S., Perry, W. J., & Smith, R. K. (1992). Lessons from the Gulf War. Washington Quarterly, 15(1), 57-74, 69.

[24] Meilinger, P. S. (1995). 10 Propositions Regarding Air Power. AIR UNIV MAXWELL AFB AL SCHOOL OF ADVANCED AIRPOWER STUDIES, 22

[25] Divine, R. A. (2000). The Persian Gulf War Revisited: Tactical Victory, Strategic Failure. Diplomatic History, 24(1), 129-138, 132.

[26] Ibid, 132.

[27] O’Neill, B. E., & Kass, I. (1992). The Persian gulf war: A political‐military assessment. Comparative Strategy, 11(2), 213-240, 221

[28] Ibid, 225

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