Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press


oil-rich Kuwait to repay his creditors, recoup his wealth, and

re-equip his security and armed forces. 14 At that time, “Iraq

had approximately $80 B in debts stemming from the war with

Iran, compared with a GNP of about $35 B, with a hard-currency

income of about $14 B.” 15

If his biographers are to be believed, Saddam Hussein probably

invaded Kuwait only after long and careful thought. In previous

critical decisions, he was a careful planner. For example,

when deciding whether to nationalize the nation’s oil wells in

1972, Saddam exhibited a blend of caution and boldness. His

chief biographers say that “the nationalization affords yet another

vivid example of Saddam’s calculated risk-taking style of

operation. He proved himself a cautious, yet daring decision

maker who did not flinch before a challenge. Weighing his options

carefully and taking the necessary precautions, he did not

rush into a hasty decision. But once he made up his mind, he

moved swiftly and resolutely toward his target.” 16

After the invasion when his aggression against Kuwait was

challenged by the United States and most of the rest of the

world, Saddam refused to back down as the United States–led

coalition poured military personnel, equipment, and supplies

into nearby Saudi Arabia starting in August 1990 and continuing

until the end of hostilities in February 1991. Early in this

military buildup, tensions were high at the White House because

it took months to get enough firepower transferred to the

theater to offset an initial Iraqi Army advantage in the theater.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and its oil reserves seemed at the

mercy of Iraq’s Army if Saddam chose to continue its operations

and invade the Saudi kingdom.

Clearly, at this point the United States leadership had spelled

out its determination to defend Saudi Arabia and its desire to

compel Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. To bolster this deterrence

posture, the United States had the potential military

might to defeat Iraq, and this might was augmented by the verbal

and nonverbal signaling of US and allied intentions. The

United States was engaged in a continuing military mobilization

in the gulf and was engaged in a worldwide diplomatic

campaign to enlist allies into a coalition and to condemn Iraq’s

invasion at the United Nations.


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