Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press


US Deterrence of Iraqi Chemical

and Biological Weapons Use

On the other hand, the United States and its coalition partners

were trying to compel the retreat of Iraqi forces from Kuwait

short of war from August 1990 until January 1991. Failing

to deter war, President Bush, at least, was intent on deterring

Saddam Hussein from ordering chemical and biological attacks

on coalition forces and from burning the Kuwaiti oil fields. He

warned the Iraqi dictator in clear and forceful terms that this

would be a catastrophic step if enacted.

Note that the 5 January 1991 letter addressed to Saddam

Hussein that President Bush wrote and had Secretary of State

James Baker deliver to the Iraqi government via the Iraqi foreign

minister, Tariq Aziz, in mid-January 1991, “Let me state, too

that the United States will not tolerate the use of chemical or

biological weapons or the destruction of Kuwait’s oil fields and

installations. Further, you will be held directly responsible for

terrorist actions against any member of the coalition. The American

people would demand the strongest possible response. You

and your country will pay a terrible price if you order unconscionable

acts of this sort.” 40

To augment Bush’s warning, Baker restated to Iraqi foreign

minister Aziz the consequences for Iraq if they were not to leave


Our objective is for you to leave Kuwait. That’s the only solution we will

accept. And if you do not do that, then we’ll find ourselves at war, and

if you do go to war with the coalition, you will surely lose. This will not

be a war of attrition like you fought with Iran. It will be fought with the

means and weapons that play to our strengths, not to yours. We have

the means to define how the battle will be fought, and yours do not.

This is not to threaten but to inform. You may choose to reject it, or not

to believe what we say, but we have the responsibility to tell you that we

have tremendous technological advantages in forces, and our view is

that if conflict comes, your forces will face devastatingly superior firepower.

In our view—and you may reject this and disagree—our forces

will really destroy your ability to command your own forces.

We owe it to you to tell you there will be no stalemate, no UN cease-fire

or breathing space for negotiations. If conflict begins, it will be decisive.

This will not be another Vietnam. Should war begin, God forbid, it will

be fought to a swift, decisive conclusion.


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