Operation Desert Storm

Operation Desert Storm

The first major foreign crisis for the United States after the end of the Cold War presented itself in August 1990. Saddam Hussein, the dictator of Iraq, ordered his army across the border into tiny Kuwait. This was no ordinary act of aggression. Iraq’s army was well equipped. The United States had provided massive military aid to Iraq during their eight-year war with Iran, giving them the fourth largest army in the world.


Kuwait was a major supplier of oil to the United States. The Iraqi takeover posed an immediate threat to neighboring Saudi Arabia, another major exporter of oil. If Saudi Arabia fell to Saddam, Iraq would control one-fifth of the world’s oil supply. All eyes were on the White House, waiting for a response. President Bush, who succeeded President Reagan, stated simply: “This will not stand.”


In the last months of 1990, the United States participated in the defense of Saudi Arabia in a deployment known as Operation Desert Shield. Over 500,000 American troops were placed in Saudi Arabia in case of an Iraqi attack on the Saudis. The U.S. further sought multilateral support in the United Nations Security Council. Traditionally, Iraq was an ally of the Soviet Union, who held a veto power over any potential UN military action. Looking westward for support for their dramatic internal changes, the USSR did not block the American plan. The UN condemned Iraq and helped form a coalition to fight Saddam militarily.


Bush, remembering the lessons of Vietnam, sought public support as well. Although there were scant opponents of the conflict, the vast majority of Americans and a narrow majority of the Congress supported the President’s actions. When all the forces were in place, the United States issued an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein: leave Kuwait by January 15,1991 or face a full attack by the multinational force.


January 15 came and went with no response from the Iraqis. The next night Desert Shield became Desert Storm. Bombing sorties pummeled Iraq’s military targets for the next several weeks. On many days there were over 2500 such missions. Iraq responded by launching Scud missiles at American military barracks in Saudi Arabia and Israel. Attacking Israel was a stratagem to persuade all the neighboring Arab nations to join the Iraqi cause. After intense diplomatic pressure and negotiation, the Arab nations remained in opposition to Iraq.


On February 24, the ground war began. Although the bombing lasted for weeks, American ground troops declared Kuwait liberated just 100 hours after the ground attack was initiated. American foot soldiers moved through Kuwait and entered southern Iraq. This posed a dilemma for the United States. The military objectives were complete, but Saddam, the perpetrator of the rape of Kuwait, was still ruling Iraq from Baghdad. President Bush feared that the allies would not support the occupation of Baghdad. Concerns were raised that if Saddam’s regime were toppled, the entire nation could disintegrate into a civil war. Soon Iraq agreed to terms for a ceasefire, and the conflict subsided.


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Charting the Storm: DMA’s Role in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, 10 Feb 1992 – 21 Feb 1993 [36 Pages, 1.33 MB] – The increasing importance of geographic intelligence to the Joint Force Commander is illustrated by the cartographic support of the Defense Mapping Agency during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. This paper was done to illustrate the impact that the availability or non-availability of cartographic support plays in modern military operations. The scope of this paper was limited to DMA’s aeronautical, topographic, and hydrographic support, which directly influenced the course of both operations. The increased dependency on these products was directly related to the increased sophistication of modern weapon systems. This was further compounded by the non- traditional requirement areas in the post U.S.S.R. world. To future Joint Force Commanders, these products can serve either as a force multiplier, operational constraint–depending upon their availability…. Cartography, Intelligence, Desert Storm.

Compressing the Levels of War: Operation Desert Storm and Operation Allied Force Case Study, 15 May 2001 [30 Pages, 0.3 MB] – Advances in information and communications technology are combining with the CNN effect to blur the distinction between the strategic, the operational and the tactical level of command. The strategic level of command frequently reaches down through the operational level of command, placing restraints on the operational commander’s selection of possible courses of action or limitations on the tactical level of command. The tactical level of command is similarly affected by these same phenomena such that tactical actions may have immediate and strategic ramifications. While there are measures the operational commander may take to mitigate the occurrence of these effects, it ultimately remains up to the operational commander to become adept at integrating the strategic level of command with the tactical level of command and producing the effects required to meet the assigned political objectives.

Costs of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm: A Burden Sharing Perspectiv, December 1991 [111 Pages, 3.86 MB] – This thesis analyzes burden sharing issues of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Explanations of economic principles including public goods theory, disproportionality, free-riding, marginalism, and opportunity cost provide a common base of knowledge necessary for an intelligent discussion of burden sharing in defense alliances. The thesis concentrates on the problems associated with quantifying benefits, costs and equity issues in multilateral force actions like Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. In particular, it analyzes the Persian Gulf oil supply security benefit and evaluates the efficacy of various oil benefit measures. Current cost estimates and cost reports focus on legitimizing supplemental funding. They do not capture all of the incremental costs appropriate for burden sharing. This thesis examines the critical difference between incremental burden sharing costs and the costs that were reported to satisfy congressional budget deliberation. Recommendations focus on ways for the U.S. to implement the financial lessons learned from Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm to be more prepared for similar burden sharing arrangements in the future.

Disease and Non-Battle Injuries among Navy and Marine Corps Personnel during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm [24 Pages, 1.27 MB] – This study describes types and frequencies of Diseases and Non-Battle Injuries (DNBI) that occurred in a sample population of U.S. Navy and Marine Corps personnel deployed to Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War. Data were collected at two U.S. Navy mobile field hospitals set up in northern Saudi Arabia during the seven months of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. A Medical Encounter Data Sheet (MEDS) was used to capture pertinent medical information during individual patient visits. The MEDS form is a modified version of an instrument used in earlier studies of DNBI during peacetime. Completed MEDS forms were forwarded to the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, where they were coded and the data entered into a computer file for analysis. Frequencies were computed for each of the major illness and injury categories defined in the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9). The highest number of visits were for ‘Injuries and Poisonings’ followed by ‘Diseases of the Respiratory System.’ These findings are consistent with earlier studies of DNBI among U.S. Navy and Marine Corps personnel under peacetime conditions. The MEDS form proved useful as a means of documenting medical treatment information from deployed units. Operation Desert Shield Documenting Medical Treatment, Operation Desert Storm, Medical Encounter Data Sheet, Disease and Non-Battle Injuries, Persian Gulf War.

Military Review: Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, September 1991 [119 Pages, 9.07 MB]

Operation Desert Storm and the Theories of B.H. Liddell Hart, 8 Nov 1991 [13 Pages, 0.5 MB] – Operation Desert Storm lasted little more than a thousand hours, but the lessons it holds for strategists will be remembered as long as there are military historians who chronicle the glories of the Armed Forces of the United States. Operation Desert Storm will be remembered by many historians as a classic example of the use of the indirect approach, and as a further validation of the theories of Sir Basil Liddell Hart. Liddell Hart, who saw a generation of British, French, and German soldiers meet a bloody and pointless end at the battles of the Somme and elsewhere on the Western Front in World War I, is generally remembered as the strategist who inspired the great generals of tank warfare in World War II. General George S. Patton, for example, said that Liddell Hart’s books on strategy had nourished him for 20 years. Generals Guderian and Rommel called themselves his pupils. Consciously or unconsciously, Liddell Hart’s strategic teachings were reflected equally well in Operation Desert Storm, and in the decisions made by American commanders in the field, in the Pentagon, and in the White House. The core of Liddell Hart’s strategic theory boils down to 10 maxims. This paper analyzes the conduct of Operation Desert Storm in terms of each of these maxims, and assesses how closely actual operations paralleled Liddell Hart’s theories. Emphasis will be placed on military strategy at the operational level (or the strategic level, as Liddell Hart calls it), but some mention also will be made of the political, economic, and diplomatic decisions that dictated the terms of battle, which Liddell Hart assigns to “Grand Strategy.”

Operation Desert Storm: Evaluation of the Air Campaign, 12 Jun 1997 [240 Pages, 13.1 MB] – This report is the unclassified version of a classified report that we issued in July 1996 on the Operation Desert Storm air Campaign. The Department of Defense (DoD) reevaluated the security classification of the original report, and as a result, about 85 percent of the material originally determined to be classified has subsequently been determined to be unclassified and is presented in this report. The data and findings in this report address (1) the use and performance of aircraft, munitions, and missiles employed during the air campaign; (2) the validity of DOD and manufacturer claims about weapon systems’ performance, particularly those systems utilizing advanced technology; (3) the relationship between cost and performance of weapon systems; and (4) the extent that Desert Storm air campaign objectives were met.

Operation Desert Storm. Questions Remain on Possible Exposure to Reproductive Toxicants, August 1994 [39 Pages, 2.56 MB] – Since their return from deployment in the Persian Gulf war, many U.S. troops have complained of health problems that they believe result from their service in the gulf region. Research has shown that U.S. troops were exposed before, during, and after the war to a variety of substances that are potentially hazardous. These include occupational hazards (such as the extensive use of diesel fuel as a sand suppressant in and around encampments, the burning of human waste with fuel oil, the presence of fuel in shower water, and the drying of sleeping bags with leaded vehicle exhaust), infectious diseases (most prominently leishmaniasis), prophylactic agents (to protect against chemical and biological weapons), depleted uranium (contained in certain ammunition and in the fragments of exploded rounds embedded in casualties), pesticides and insect repellents, possible chemical warfare agents, and a large variety of compounds contained in the extensive smoke from the oil-well fires that enveloped the region at the end of the war. Some veterans of the Persian Gulf war believe that exposure to these elements had harmful effects on not only their own health but also on the health of their spouses and children. There are also concerns about various reproductive problems and about the incidence of birth defects thought to be abnormally high among offspring born to Persian Gulf veterans. This latter subject is the focus of this report.

United States Air Force Fighter Support in Operation Desert Storm, 1995 [122 Pages, 4.88 MB] – Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm were characterized by unanticipated levels of demands for U.S. Air Force (USAF) fighter logistics materials and services-sometimes high, sometimes low, but seldom what was predicted during peacetime planning. Peacetime predictions about the required kinds, quantities, and locations of critical logistics resources were frequently wrong-often substantially. In this report, we discuss logistics Support to USAF fighter aircraft in Operation Desert Storm. We review the ability of the logistics system to satisfy fighter units’ needs for aircraft components, electronic countermeasures, and Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) pods, and for munitions during the conflict. Where that performance varied from expected or officially planned levels in either a positive or negative way, we sought to identify the underlying causes. From those findings, we draw inferences for the future logistics system, especially in light of post-Cold War changes in the global threat, USAF missions, force size, and future budgets. This report should be of interest to logistics policymakers, wartime planners, and logistics analysts, because it challenges widely held assumptions about wartime support to fighters. Not only do we question the validity of analysts extrapolating peacetime demand experience into wartime predictions, but we observe that the logistics system for fighters performed best when logistics managers on the scene developed ad hoc processes to supplant standard processes and resource plans. Finally, we indicate the need for more-flexible resources and structures in future USAF logistics policies and plans.

The Role of the Media in The Operational Deception Plan for Operation Desert Storm, April 1992 [78  Pages, 2.53 MB] – This monograph examines the operational deception plan used in Operation Desert Storm from 17 January to 28 February 1991 in relation to U.S. Army deception doctrine. Using the deception plan from Operation Overlord in World War II to illustrate the deception framework, the monograph analyzes the operational deception plan from Operation Desert Storm. The author contends that the deception plan was successful because it synchronized air, naval, and ground unit efforts toward deceiving the enemy. General Schwarzkopf, commander of Central Command, credited the deception plan with helping establish the conditions for success by keeping the Iraqi forces focused on the wrong locations for the ground campaign.

United States Army Reserve in Operation Desert Storm. Individual Manpower Mobilization: The Army Reserve Personnel Center, 30 Nov 1992 [66 Pages, 3.62 MB] – This is one in a series of monographs describing and assessing the role of the United States Army Reserve in winning the war in the Persian Gulf. This report on the mobilization of individuals to augment the Total Force details the contributions made by Individual Mobilization Augmentees (IMAs), Individual Ready Reservists (IRRs) and retirees. It tells the story of mobilizing this vast pool of personnel, its management by the Army Reserve Personnel Center and the problems associated with such a mammoth challenge. It is a story of Total Army success in meeting the needs for trained and ready soldiers. Recommendations for employment of these mobilization assets in any future contingency action are offered.

The Wrong Target: The Problem of Mistargeting Resulting in Fratricide and Civilian Casualties, 13 May 2007 [76 Pages, 375 KB] – Despite a considerable effort since Operation Desert Storm, the Services have yet to reduce the likelihood of mistargeting–the engagement of friendly forces and noncombatants by friendly fire. Mistargeting has always occurred but has historically received little scrutiny. The numbers of mistargeting casualties have gone down dramatically since World War II, but the rate has gone up. When tactical mistargeting occurs today, the effects can be enormous, particularly given modern global media. There are thousands of U.S. military entities that potentially require Combat identification (CID) as well as coalition partners and neutrals. CID of aircraft and ships has historically received proportionally more attention compared to ground units, which suffer the greatest cost of mistargeting. Despite impressive technological advances, there is currently no universal system for positive identification of friendly forces or hostile targets. U.S. and coalition forces are increasingly reliant on the accuracy of information to locate and positively identify targets. Aircraft are more dependent on external sources for precise targeting data, and weapons are increasingly being dropped “on coordinates” provided by off-board sensors and sources, increasing the risk of mistargeting. Modern precision weapon capabilities have outpaced the military’s ability to differentiate positively between friend, neutral, and foe, and to locate desired targets precisely. A serious, long-term, joint approach to enabling aircrews to distinguish the enemy from friends and noncombatants is possible and must be pursued.



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