The Most Important Factor Leading to the Rapid Coalition Victory against Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War:
The Gulf War played an important role in the balancing the power in the Persian Gulf region. At the same time, this war was characterized as a great success of the coalition since it lasted from January 16, 1991 to February 28, 1991. Obviously, the victory was rapid and the coalition’s tremendous success could not fail to remain unnoticed by specialists, especially taking into consideration the fact that Iraq used to be one of the major powers in the region. In actuality, Iraq was viewed as great threat to the stability in the region and national security of neighboring states as well as all other states of the region. For instance, it is worthy of mention that neither Iran, nor Israel or Kuwait felt secure when Iraq maintained one of the leading positions in the region. It is only after its defeat the position of Iraq was undermined considerably.
Naturally, it is possible to wonder how Iraq, being objectively quite a powerful state compared to other countries of the region, failed to oppose to the US and its allies in the Gulf War, since initially, it was believed that the war could last for quite a long period of time and the military campaign could be quite destructive for the region as well as it could cause numerous casualties from the part of both Iraq and coalition. In such a situation, it is really important to understand what was the major factor that contributed to the success and rapid coalition victory in the war since it provides an opportunity to use this experience in the future military conflicts targeting at the ‘appeasing’ of an aggressor. At the same time, it is necessary to underline that it is hardly possible to view the rapid coalition victory as a victory determined by one factor solely, instead should be rather viewed as a complex of factors that contributed to the rapid defeat of Iraqi troops, though it is quite possible to single out one that is more important than others.
Factors leading to the rapid coalition victory
a. The Iraqi-Iranian war
First of all it should be pointed out that from the beginning of the Gulf War Iraq and coalition were in quite different positions. The coalition was formed just before the war while Iraq was involved in a series of wars, among which the war on Iran may be named as the most serious military conflict Iraq took part in. In this respect, it should be said that the Iraqi-Iranian war which started in 1980 and was finished only in 1988 was extremely heavy burden to Iraq.
To put it more precisely, this war actually was consuming all financial and military resources of the country to the extent that Iraqi people practically worked to finance the war against Iran. Moreover, Iraq was forced to borrow money from external sources. In this respect, it is worthy of mention the fact that Iraq borrowed 4 billion dollars from Kuwait to continue the war against Iran (Simons 1994).
It is also, necessary to remember that the war also led to the considerable casualties that undermined human resources of Iraq that potentially threaten to its military power. At the same time, Iraq could not normally developed its economy and social sphere in the conditions of permanent war which had been lasting throughout 1980s. The militarization of the country and its growing aggressiveness actually led Iraq to the disaster and eventual defeat by the coalition forces.
This is why it is possible to estimate that the Iraqi-Iranian war played an extremely important role in the rapid coalition victory since its enemy, i.e. Iraq, was significantly exhausted by the long war with a very strong opponent. In fact, in the result of this war Iraq was very close to a profound economic crisis, its external financial debts were a really hard burden, its military resources, being quite significant, were also dramatically shattered by this war, finally, Iraqi people were simply tired of this permanent state of war and could hardly bear one more decade of wars. Consequently, this is possible to presuppose that Iraqi people were morally unprepared to the war with a stronger opponent and they simply did not want to take part in a war at large.
b. The international isolation of Iraq
Another important factor, but not the decisive one, that contributed to the rapid coalition victory in the Gulf War is the international isolation of Iraq. In actuality, before the war Iraq turned to be practically alone against the coalition without any substantial support from the part of its allies. In this respect, it is worthy of mention that, to a significant extent, this isolation was the result of the policy of Iraq in the region. It should be said that Kuwait who was an ally of Iraq in the war against Iran soon became the victim of Iraqi aggression. Obviously, it was not the best way to treat its allies. As a result, Iraq had lost its former ally and, what was even more important, it undermined the position of Iraq as a reliable partner or ally in the Gulf region. In such a situation, even Arabian states, which traditionally supported each other, as well as Iraq, in the case of any external aggression either from the part of the US, Israel or any other foreign power, could not rely on Iraq anymore because Iraqi ally would probably risk to follow the example of Kuwait (Latimer 2001).
As for the world community, the situation was even worse for Iraq. It was obvious that the actions of the coalition were not restricted by any serious opposition from the part of the world community or any powerful state. In stark contrast, the actions of the coalition and the war against Iraq were legally sanctioned by the Security Council of the UN (Hiro 1992). In such a way, the war against Iraq did not really meet any serious opposition in the world but, instead, it was even welcome by the majority of the states.
In fact, it seems to be quite probable that the actions of the coalition and the defeat of the Iraqi army was not so rapid if there were some opposition in the world to the military operation of the coalition in the Gulf. For instance, the criticism and active opposition to the actions of the coalition would probably slow down the military operation in Iraq since its public image and legal basis would be undermined on the condition that the Security Council had failed to sanction the military operation in the Gulf. As a result, the US and its allies should constantly take into consideration the extent to which their actions could be legally and morally accepted by the world community, while having the carte-blanche of the Security Council the coalition could act rapidly and in accordance with its own plans without being afraid that its actions would provoke an international scandal or conflict.
In this respect, it is necessary to remind again that it is Iraqi’s fault that the country had lost international support since it is because of the occupation of Kuwait the US and its allies had got the legal pretext to launch the military operation against Iraq and facing no opposition from the part of the world community the coalition of 30 states headed by the most powerful country at the moment, the US, easily defeated Iraq in a very short period of time.
c. The lack of support from the part of the USSR
Naturally, the international isolation of Iraq was really important but the lack of support from the part of the USSR, its traditional partner, was even more important. In fact, it is obvious that the agreement of all countries but the USSR with the actions of the US and its allies would be quite important but not the decisive factor in the war against Iraq. In 1991, the USSR was still viewed as the superpower and the major competitor of the US in the international relations. Consequently, the USSR still played an extremely important role in the world politics and without its agreement the US could hardly freely act in Iraq and launch a large military operation. In this respect, it is worthy of mention that the intrusion of one of the superpowers in the military conflicts without the agreement with another superpower inevitably led to the escalation of the conflict and resulted in the long duration of the war (Hiro 1992).
For instance, it is possible to remind the war in Vietnam when the US army had to struggle against Vietnamese forces amply supported by the USSR, or else, the USSR had to struggle with Afghani opposition amply supported by the US. In both cases, wars lasted for years. This is why it would be logical to presuppose that if the USSR opposed to the intervention of the US and its allies in Iraq, than the conflict would be much more serious and, in all probability, it would last for years as any other serious military conflict involving the opposition of the two superpowers.
However, Iraq, being traditionally supported by the USSR, had failed to gain its support in the Gulf war. As a result, Iraq, powerful it was, had to face the coalition led by the superpower, the US, alone. Naturally, not a single country, but another superpower, could resist to such a power and the defeat of Iraq could be easily while the speed of the coalition victory only proved the superiority of the US in relation to other countries of the world. In such a way, the lack of the support from the part of the USSR was probably the most important factors among all those that have been already mentioned above.
d. The technological and military superiority of the coalition as the major factor of the rapid victory
Nevertheless, even the lack of support of Iraq by the USSR and international community could not fully guarantee the coalition the rapid victory. In actuality, Iraq had a great experience of military actions in the result of the Iraqi-Iranian war and it still had quite a powerful army which, even though it was not so strong as the army of the coalition, could potentially resist for a long time. However, the resistance of this presumably strong army was soon broken and Iraq was totally defeated.
In such a situation, the technological and military superiority of the coalition played the most important role and it was the decisive factor that determined the outcome of the war. It should be said that Iraqi army was basically equipped with the Soviet weapon which was really good and effective. Iraqi soldiers and officers had experience acquired during the Iraqi-Iranian war as well as in the result of the occupation of Kuwait. However, it is necessary to underline that Iraqi army had never struggled against such a powerful enemy which military forces and technologies were not just equal to Iraqi ones but were better and more advanced.
In this respect, it should be said that the weapon supplied the USSR was not the most modern weapon since the USSR could not simply sell its recent weapon and technologies to a country of the third world that would be a strategic mistake and very risky decision. This is why the weapon supplied to Iraq was not the most advanced.
In stark contrast, the US and its allies could use the most recent weapon and technologies, including those which had been just started to use by the US army. Practically, it means that the US army and its allies used more sophisticated and technologically advanced weapon compared to Iraqi and the gap in the technological level of the opposing armies turned to be extremely large.
At the same time, it should be said that practically since the beginning of the military operation the coalition had got the crucial advantage in the air struggle against Iraq. In fact, within the first week of the war 38 Iraqi MiGs were shot down by coalition planes, while the Iraqi Air Force began fleeing to Iran. As a result, it was estimated that from 115 to 140 Iraqi aircrafts had flown to Iran (Kepel 2002).
Naturally, in such a situation, Iraq turned to be exposed to the bombings and the coalition amply used this strategic military advantage destructing the military objects and the major and strategically important facilities of the country. As a result, Iraqi army was defeated and its chaotic resistance was easily overthrown by the coalition troops.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the technological and military superiority of the coalition was the most important factor that contributed to the rapid coalition victory. At the same time, it is worthy of mention that the military superiority of the coalition was not just technological but also strategically because the coalition had managed to easily defeat Iraqi Air Force that was the key element in the general success of the entire military operation. As a result, the Iraqi army could not resist to the coalition having lost its Air Forces and destructed infrastructure. In such a situation, the rapid coalition victory was natural but, to a significant extent, it was also determined by the combination of all factors mentioned above, among which technological and military superiority was the most important one.
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