The invasion of Kuwait by Iraq caused the Gulf War, which attracted the participation of US and Iraq as the principal participants. The other key participants in the war who were the members of the coalition were together with Kuwait, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, France, Italy, Canada, Egypt, Syria, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Oman as well as Qatar. The United States lobbied for support from other countries in attacking and driving out the Iraq forces from Kuwait. The Iraq government did not succeed in imposing political rule in the Arab world, as was the long-term intention of invading Kuwait. The United States government did not as well succeed in toppling the dictatorial government of Iraq as led by Saddam Hussein. However, America was able to create a paradigm shift in the Middle East political dispensation as will be seen in the persuasive discussion presented in this paper.
(Keywords: Coalition forces, Gulf War, principal participants, political objectives, New World Order)
The 1991 Gulf War
The historical Persian Gulf War of 1991, which saw the dismissal of the Saddam Hussein forces from Kuwait, has been labeled as among the most successful historical campaigns to involve the US military personnel in collaboration with other forces. The entire process received considerable funding from the Saudi Arabian government and saw thousands of lives, majorly of the Iraq nationals, being lost. The US forces were particularly praised for the success because of adoption and the use of advanced technology and weaponry, although the country’s intelligence would be blamed for having not predicted the war. Nevertheless, amidst the varying opinions on the success or otherwise of the Gulf war, one could be concerned about how the war satisfied the political agendas of the participating countries. This paper, therefore, presents a qualitative essay on the extent to which the 1991 Gulf War served the political objectives of the participants.
The Genesis of the War and the American Perspective
It is worth noting that the war did not succeed in serving the political interest of the principal participants led by the United States and Iraq. The war had been preceded by the Iran-Iraq war that had lasted for nine years between 1980 and 1988. Saddam’s dictatorial regime had faulted the Iranian Islamic theocracy of the time and decided to invade the country. The ruling regimes of the two warring countries had resumed power in 1979, but a long-standing dispute over land demarcation led to the conflict. Over the years, Iraq had received considerable support from the Arab world, the Western Europe countries, the Soviet Union as well as the United States. The support accorded to Iraq by the other countries was considered important because, at that time, Iraq was arguably the weaker party to the conflict. Nevertheless, after the conflict was over, both of the competing countries built memorial monuments in honor of the thousands of lives lost and the perceived victory against their rivals.
However, the US intelligence led by CIA analyzed the situation in the warring countries and were concerned about the likelihood of Iraq to advance new attacks in the future. The recommendations that were to be criticized later showed that Iraq could not advance attacks at least for three years because the combats had been constrained. The estimate was to be faulted as it had underestimated the Iraq military adventurism. In the least expectation, Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, which was by then considered richer because of its possession of huge oil reserves. By the time, the Persian Gulf region had been conferred great attention because of the oil exploits that had significantly influenced the globe.
Background of the War
The Main Allies in the War
The invasion of Iraq by the US-led allies was because of the failed diplomatic efforts to have Iraq forces depart from Kuwait, where the Saddam Hussein led dictatorship had invaded, with the objective of controlling the oil-rich country. The allies participating in the war and who were members of the coalition were together with the United States as the leader, Kuwait, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, France, Italy, Canada, Egypt, Syria, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Oman as well as Qatar. Iraq faced the opposing pressure from the allied countries alone, without any support from another country.
In fact, Iraq faced opposition from all other Gulf Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia, which not only facilitated the war through funding but also through military operations. Besides, the other Gulf Arab member states such as the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Iran, Bahrain, and Qatar were all opposed to the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. Therefore, the opposition by the Gulf countries towards the invasion led to their participation in the war by supporting the US and the western allies. Among the other European countries that participated in the combat was the UK, which contributed the largest contingent from the region. The air base in Saudi Arabia was the United Kingdom operating base, which facilitated the participation of the combat missions. France also contributed largely to the war. In some instances of independent coordination, the French troops worked closely with the US combat teams during the war. Operation Daguet was the official name of the French contribution to the Gulf War. Besides working close to the Americans, the French army operated closely with the Saudi troops, largely because they also participated in the combats. Besides contributing relatively large numbers of troops, the Saudi Arabian government committed a lot to the war in the form of finances.
The United Nations
After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the United Nations and the democratic countries led by the western powers like the US condemned the invasion into Kuwait. In particular, the United Nations raised the voice and requested Saddam Hussein to retreat and call off the Iraq forces from Kuwait. In this case, the security council of the United Nations authorized the use of military power by the US and the allies in flushing the Iraq forces out of Kuwait after Saddam’s forces failed to retreat from Kuwait. However, critics would later raise the concern that the UN was influenced by the United States in the decision, a situation that overlooked a peaceful settlement to the preference of the military campaign.
The Primary Participants and their Rationale to Participate in the War
Although the military campaign saw the collaboration of different countries, the United States, and Iraq led to the Gulf War. Therefore, the principal participants as regarded in this argumentative essay were the United States and the allied coalition on one side while Saddam Hussein representing Iraq took the other side. The rationale for the United States to participate in this war was anchored on political objectives as illustrated by the commitment to have Iraq withdraw unconditionally from Kuwait. Secondly, the US was committed to overseeing the restoration of Kuwait government, the security as well as the stability of the Persian Gulf region and Saudi Arabia. Finally, the commitment of US to have the US civilians protected during the war could be interpreted as a political objective.
On the other hand, Iraq had various objectives in the war too. By controlling the oil-rich Economy of Kuwait, Iraq wanted to take a global status in influencing the oil market. Politically, Iraq wanted to establish and maintain a military supremacy in the region.
- The United States
In spite of the collaborative efforts of the many countries that participated in the combat mission in Kuwait, the United States held a strategic role in the entire campaign. As such, the war in the Persian Gulf could have been seen as a direct conflict between the US President Bush and the Iraq President Saddam Hussein. First, the US was wholly determined to realize victory over Saddam. Therefore, America could have used any means to realize the victory. Therefore, the US succeeded in waging a great war through both aerial and ground attacks that made the Iraq retreat from Kuwait with total humiliation for the side of Saddam Hussein. However, as could be argued later, President Bush did not realize the ultimate price that he sought through the assaults and that was to have Saddam toppled from power. In fact, Saddam’s regime was to remain in power for at least a decade after the 1991 combat war in the Persian Gulf. Indeed, the great rivalry between the two countries made the US invade Iraq in 2003, a war that saw the realization of that long-term desire of having Saddam’s dictatorial regime brought to an end. As would be argued later, the United States was not entirely justified to embrace the use of military power against Iraq in Kuwait unless the confirmation of potential threat against the US and the civilian. Therefore, the devastation that resulted from the Gulf War in the destruction of property, the economies, and the loss of life could have been prevented if the United States settled for diplomatic strategies of solving the looming conflict.
From the collaborated efforts in the campaign against Iraq, President Bush expressed his intention in calling for the “New World Order” by which he implied that the entire world should collaborate to ensure that the sovereignty of any country is safeguarded against the malicious interest of other government regimes. From the policy, the President intended to have the collaborative efforts by all governments to oversee that the larger economies do not unfairly target the smaller economies. However, US was not concerned with weakening the governance of Iraq to the point of making it susceptible to its longtime rival Iran but rather to control Iraq’s invasive power.
The Iraq’s attack on Kuwait in 1990 was least expected and caught the world by surprise because it was only a few months after the Iraq-Iran war. The attack was ideally the main reason for the invasion of the Persian Gulf by the coalition forces in the effort of saving Kuwait from the threat posed by the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein. However, the motives behind Kuwait invasion by Iraq have never had a substantive explanation except the claim that Kuwait was a part of Iraq. While some people argue that Iraq wanted to control the rich economy of Kuwait and the region by managing the oil returns, others have different opinions that Saddam could have foreseen the irritation that could be caused to the US. Besides, through the insurgency in Kuwait, Iraq’s government could have realized more revenues to offset the financial crisis that the country was in after the Iraq-Iran war. Iraq could also have had the long-term motive of commanding influence in the larger Arab world and as such saw the opportunity to invade Kuwait as strategic in the realization of such a long-term motive. Therefore, although the Iraq economy was weakened by the previous military expeditions against Iran, the Saddam led government was interested in pursuing both the short-term and long-term missions through the unexpected invasion of Kuwait. Besides, even as the threats to have the Iraq forces move from Kuwait, Saddam kept increasing his military presence in the land, which was perceived as a strategy to target and weaken the coalition forces and intimidate the US and the other Western allies.
Why the US goal to remove Saddam from Power was not realized
The United Nations and the United States could not overlook the invasion of Iraq and the potential destabilization of the global economy because of the oil production from the region. Therefore, the Security Council called Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait in August of the same year, which was followed by a global ban on trade relations with Iraq. The US President declared that the invasion could not be cordoned and the intentions to use force to stop the invasion were supported by Saudi Arabia, Japan, and other allies. In fact, these countries funded the expensive military action. Therefore, in 1991, the coalition forces started the campaign to have Iraq withdraw from the Persian Gulf, and different names identified the operations. The UN Security Council, being influenced by the United States, authorized the use of force against Iraq after the calls to Saddam to retreat were futile. Indeed, Iraq continued to build up its strength by sending more troops to Kuwait. However, Iraq retaliated by shooting missiles to Israel and shooting down the low flying planes from US and UK. The fight intensified as the US-led coalition concentrated on attacking Iraq from home ground and in Kuwait and the campaign lasted for forty-two days.
However, it is worth noting that the US had subjective political goals among which were toppling the Saddam led dictatorial regime in the country. Nevertheless, the political objective was not to be realized because the war only lasted for a short while. Also, after the Iraq forces had retreated, the operation was called off. As such, the political objective was not at least realized by the end of the war, and Saddam continued the regime for the following decade. However, the US invaded Iraq in 2003 and subsequently made true the desire to force Saddam from power. Nevertheless, the US realized great success in its political ambition of becoming a global leader in fostering peace and cooperation among the other countries as explained by the New World Order. Although the war between the two Gulf War principals was not ideally meant to foster the New World Order, the US created the ideology as a political goal and which could have been termed as a success. As such, the US government realized a bit of the political ambitions through the Gulf war of 1991, although this took place in later years after toppling Saddam Hussein from power in the 2003 Iraq invasion.
The importance of the war for the international system, the UN, and the US grand strategy
While the combat campaigns were jointly coordinated, the US had at least four outlined interests during the invasion. The US was concerned about driving out of the Iraq forces from Kuwait, the restoration of stabilization of the Kuwait government, the promotion security and stability in the Persian Gulf, and the protection of the American civilians. The coordinated efforts and the unanimous approval of the combat mission in Kuwait explain the primary reason the Gulf War of 1991 has been considered a success. Besides, the US was highly credited for the use of advanced technology, especially in military operations that aided the success of the Gulf War. The Saudi Arabia led the other US allies in funding the operations that saw the flushing out of the Iraq Troops from Kuwait. Other successes were attributed to the role played by the intelligence units in the entire operation.
The Gulf war could have been interpreted as a prism of diplomacy and policy that was supported by a myriad of political objectives by the lead countries and the UN. The United States and Iraq had their motives into the war guided by the objectives set before, during, and after the war. In the case of the US, the objectives of participating in the war were partly explained by such features as the “Carter Doctrine” and the new world order among others. The 1979 Carter doctrine was concerned with ensuring that the global market received adequate oil supplies and at fair prices. Moreover, the Carter Doctrine was intended to maintain and enhance the regional stability and sustainability, guarantee Israel survival, and to ensure that the Arab-Israel peace deal was affirmed. Finally, the Carter Doctrine had the objective of ensuring the harmonious relationships between the US and the USSR.
The Consequences of the Outcome towards US foreign policy
Apart from the supply of oil in the Gulf region, the American foreign policy was primarily anchored on the countering and containing the threats of continuing political and military influence from the Soviet Union. However, after the cold war the policy shifted to Iran and Iraq, as the potential threats in the region. Therefore, the US adopted the “dual containment” aimed at weakening the countries economically, politically, and militarily. However, The US did not succeed because there was no international support. Therefore, the US changed the foreign policy of confrontation to conciliation although it maintained a large military presence in the Gulf area.
The overall performance of the 1991 Gulf War could be construed from the perspectives of the individual participating countries and the systems at the place. As per the state participation, US was at the center of the war and had to take the higher blame or praise for the outcome of the war. The invasion of Iraq to Kuwait raised the concerns of the international community to restore Kuwait’s sovereignty by flushing out the invading forces from Iraq. Other System concerns included the safeguarding the interests of the Persian Gulf, and Saudi Arabia. Finally, the international community wanted to alter the perceived Iraq’s hegemony in the Middle East region. The intended outcomes were to restore the Kuwait government in power and have Saddam Hussein removed from power in Iraq. Besides, the US-led coalition was aimed at weakening the Iraq army sufficiently to have the dictatorial regime toppled in the subsequent years.
From this perspective, the American foreign policy participating forces focused on ensuring that the rule of law took dominance. Moreover, the collaborating forces struggled to ensure that they triumphed over the forces of Saddam Hussein. Therefore, the Gulf war could have been perceived as a tool for policy paradigm shift in the United States foreign policy dispensation. If the UN did not intervene in such intrusion of state sovereignty, then the new world order could not be realized. Therefore, the 1991 Gulf War could have been looked at from various perspectives. In essence, the American public perceptions view the Middle East region as a place where religion is supreme to politics. Therefore, this aspect has continued to shape the American’ foreign policy to be moralistic than moral; where the policy makers justify the foreign policy in moral perspectives.
The 1991 Gulf war has remained as the most relevant military campaign to be facilitated by the US since the end of the Second World War. The War saw the US lead a coalition of forces to attack the Iraq forces in Kuwait making them retreat, an operation that did not last for long. However, the operation was a great success, and the US ensured that the Iraq forces did not compromise Kuwait’s sovereignty. However, as the lead question in this paper focused on, the two principal participants (The United States and Iraq) did not effectively realize the primary political objectives that explained their differences. The US did not manage to topple the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein through the war, and Saddam Hussein was not able to rise to the political command of the Arab region, as was the primary motive for attacking Kuwait.
However, the war changed the American foreign policy and positioned the country as the arbitrator to the conflicts among countries in the world. In fact, the idea of toppling the Saddam Hussein government in Iraq by the US had a different motive than having Iraq abort its mission in Kuwait. The mission would make the US re-invade Iraq in 2003 and ensure that the rule of Saddam Hussein is overthrown. From the discussion, the rivalry between the two could be explained by the need to have the US maintain the position of the global superpower as explained in the change of foreign policy. By controlling the oil-rich Gulf region, the US would control the growth of military power in the countries which threatened the dominance of the US in global power. The gulf war that lasted only 42 days attracted the participation of many countries with no support on the side of Iraq. The allies participating in the war and who were members of the coalition were together with the United States as the leader, Kuwait, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, France, Italy, Canada, Egypt, Syria, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Oman as well as Qatar. Although the war resulted in thousands of casualties, the military campaign led to the restoration of the sovereignty of Kuwait from the invasion by Iraq.