First Gulf War Thesis

Pages: 6 (2462 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Military

¶ … Gulf War

Although many people believe that the current problems in the Middle East can be traced to the end of World War II and the creation of Israel, much of the current conflict can be attributed to the Cold War. In fact, the United States maintained a strong military presence in the Middle East. "The continuous, albeit limited, American military presence in the Persian Gulf demonstrated to potential aggressors that in any confrontation they faced the prospect of war with a superpower."

The United States and Russia engaged in a covert struggle over much of the Middle East, and that struggle extended to Iraq, which was Russia's ally during the Cold War. As a result of the Cold War and disagreements over key issues in the Middle East, such as the conflict between Israel and Palestine and Egypt, diplomatic relations between Iraq and the United States were both strained and under-developed at the beginning of the 1980s. The United States and Iraq briefly became allies after Iraq invaded Iran and started the Iran-Iraq War. One of the stumbling blocks to a successful diplomatic relationship was Iraq's state-sponsored terrorism, but in 1983, Saddam Hussein expelled a well-known terrorist group. As a result, the Reagan administration began to try to build diplomatic relations with Iraq.

During the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq became deeply indebted to both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, but Iraq had problems paying its debts and wanted Kuwait to cancel them. Moreover, Iraq and Kuwait were involved in a dispute involving Iraq's allegations that Kuwait was exceeding OPEC oil production quotas. Iraq. Iraq ostensibly sought a diplomatic solution to its disputes with Kuwait, but the countries were unable to come to an agreement. On August 2, 1990, Iraq began an invasion of Kuwait. Kuwait was unprepared for the invasion, and Iraq quickly conquered the country. Both the UN Security Council and the Arab League sought diplomatic resolutions to the conflict, and the UN quickly instituted economic sanctions against Iraq. Iraq began denouncing Saudi Arabia, and the United States launched a campaign, Operation Desert Shield, to prevent Iraq from invading Saudi Arabia. The UN established Resolution 678, which gave Iraq a deadline of January 15, 1991, to withdraw from Kuwait. Iraq refused to withdraw from Kuwait, and coalition forces attacked.

Beginning of the war

On January 17, 1991, the coalition forces, which were predominantly composed of American troops, launched an offensive against Iraq. The coalition began by taking out Iraq's radar capabilities and communications devices, and then bombed Baghdad. The coalition forces also hit other targets in Iraq, such as government buildings, communications facilities, and media outlets. In fact, air strikes played an extremely important role in Gulf War I. "The first planes to bomb Baghdad in the early morning darkness were U.S. Air Force F-117s. The radar-evading stealth aircraft were both the embodiment of superior U.S. weapons technology, and the harbinger of a new high-tech war."

Duration of the war

Air attacks continued to play a significant role in the war. There were six weeks of bombing, which weakened Iraq. Iraq responded by shooting missiles into Israel, a tactic it continued throughout the six weeks of the war. The coalition force used air strikes to neutralize the threat of Iraq's armed forces, and did such an effective job of it that only four days of ground assaults were necessary after the air strike phase, to get Iraq to surrender.

That is not to suggest that the collation forces were not threatened by Iraq's military. On the contrary, Iraq had well-developed anti-aircraft defenses, which fared well against coalition aircraft, especially low-flying aircraft that was made to evade radar detection, since the Iraqi defense did not rely heavily on radar.

The role of the Navy

The United States Navy played a crucial role in Gulf War I. First, before Gulf War I, the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf was difficult to negotiate. The "devout Muslim populations were not likely to accept large, predominantly Christian, and non-Arab air and ground forces operating from inland bases."

However, they were content to have U.S. military support in the water, which gave the U.S. Navy an important role in the area:

The U.S. Navy's performance during the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988 strengthened these relations. The carrier and battleship task forces that operated in the North Arabian Sea and the cruisers, destroyers, and mine countermeasures ships of Joint Task Force Middle East in the gulf were largely responsible for maintaining the flow of oil from the producing countries of the region. The fleet also prevented Iran's military power from advancing across the gulf. These positive actions helped dissipate the memory of Washington's lack of resolve during the Tehran hostage crisis and the Lebanese civil war in the early 1980s, when significant doubt had developed about American staying power. The local Arab states would not forget this American constancy when Iraq threatened regional stability in 1990.

In fact, while the U.S. Navy's presence did not prevent Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, it would be wrong to suggest that it had no impact on Iraq and Hussein. The strong U.S. Navy presence in the Persian Gulf certainly helped prevent Iraq from invading Saudi Arabia, which it was poised to do after the invasion of Kuwait. However, "within days of the invasion of Kuwait, carrier aircraft were in range to help defend the Arabian Peninsula."

While the naval response was not as quick as it could have been, it was effective and kept the seas friendly territory for the coalition forces. As a result, the coalition victory in the Gulf War I was decisive:

With Americans in the lead, coalition forces restored Kuwait to its government and people and severely limited Saddam Hussein's ability to threaten regional peace. The Navy and the other joint and combined forces reduced the Iraqi Air Force by more than half, eliminated the Iraqi navy as a fighting force, destroyed 4,200 tanks, armored personnel carriers, and artillery pieces, and killed, wounded, or captured perhaps 100,000 Iraqi troops.

Conversely, NAVCENT [the coalition forces] did not suffer the sinking of a single ship and only lost a half-dozen aircraft. Six naval air crewmen were killed in action. The Iraqis shot down seven Marine aircraft and killed or wounded 110 Marines.

In addition, the Navy's air offensive was crucial to success in Gulf War I. First, the Navy used the Tomahawk land attack missile, which was crucial to that war's success. While the Iraqis were able to shoot down some of the Tomahawk missiles, the majority of them were successful in destroying their targets. The Navy was also instrumental in developing strategy that helped guarantee coalition success, by suggesting that they had to neutralize "Iraq's radar-directed, surface-to-air missile system."

The Navy also used general-purpose bombs to destroy targets. "Navy and Marine aircraft also dropped leaflets as part of a sophisticated psychological warfare effort. Enemy morale and military effectiveness suffered badly from this constant attention. By the last days of the war, carrier aircraft and both ship-based and shore-based Marine aircraft were launching numerous strikes against the Iraqi army as it fled from Kuwait City along the 'highway of death.'"

Despite the large-scale bombing and air campaign, there were few civilian casualties during the war. Part of this was strategic, because "naval leaders understood how bombing inaccuracy might enrage the enemy population and generate domestic and international opposition to the UN mission."

Furthermore, while Navy pilots engaged, they "did not score additional fixed-wing kills during the war."

That does not indicate a weakness on the part of the Navy fighters, but actually reflects good strategy. The commanders in charge of Gulf War I were not confident that the Navy's equipment could accurately differentiate between friendly and enemy aircraft, and so they chose not to engage the Navy pilots in the same way as the Air Force. As a result, the Navy pilots were not engaged in the same type of dog fights as the Air Force pilots.

Perhaps the most important part of the Navy's military presence in the Persian Gulf during Gulf War I was its ability to intimidate the enemy. Had the Iraqis decided to attack the coalition forces in the Gulf, they may have been able to score early victories that would have changed the outcome of the war. In fact:

U.S. naval leaders have concluded that a determined air assault on the fleet would probably have damaged or even sunk some coalition ships, especially in the early stages of Desert Shield when coalition air defenses in the gulf were not robust. By the start of Desert Storm, however, SAM-armed U.S. Aegis/NTU cruisers; British, Australian, Canadian, and Dutch warships; and Navy, Marine, Air Force, British, and Canadian early warning and patrol planes, backed up by fighters, saturated the northern gulf. The Iraqi air force had to test the defensive perimeter in the gulf only once to discover that the coalition's seaborne defenses were as impervious as those on land. The shoot down of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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