Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press


kopf, was especially concerned that the Iraqi Army might ruin

the left hook flanking movement by his ground forces with a

devastating chemical barrage. Gen Colin Powell, then chairman

of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was particularly focused on

the potential casualties that might come from an Iraqi biological

warfare strike.

James Baker also admitted that the casualties that might

flow from urban warfare and from Iraqis who would fight

harder to protect their homeland would cause many more

American deaths. Thus, it is plausible that the chemical and

biological threats and anything that had the potential to greatly

escalate US casualties impacted US thinking and helped serve

as an Iraqi deterrent to an invasion of Iraq. 53 Therefore, it is

possible that Saddam’s WMD threat, in the form of chemical

and biological weapons, might have been responsible for saving

his regime.

US and Israeli Failure to Deter

Iraq from attacking Israel

The coalition air campaign began on 17 January 1991. The

next day, Saddam Hussein ordered the first of 48 Scud missile

attacks on Israel and the first of 41 such attacks against the

coalition forces in Saudi Arabia. Apparently, the threat of possible

Israeli nuclear retaliation did not deter such a decision.

This was risky, for clearly Israel had enough nuclear firepower to

utterly destroy Iraq. Saddam was playing a dangerous game.

On the other hand, Saddam was attempting to split the coalition

by attacking Israel. Would the coalition’s Arab allies fight

on the same side as Israel against another Arab state? This was

considered highly unlikely in Washington, DC. 54 For this reason,

US leaders were concerned that an Israeli counterattack

would undermine the support of the Arab partners in the US

coalition against Iraq.

Thus, US leaders rushed Patriot theater missile defenses to

help defend Israel from Iraqi missiles and devoted over 2,000 air

sorties against the Iraqi Scud missile launchers to suppress

them and prevent Israel from getting into the conflict. Ultimately,

the swift and decisive air-land-sea war unleashed by the coali-


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