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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

18 - End of the war?



The end of the war came much faster than either many politicians or armchair strategists expected. But the final days were filled with drama and dilemma. Would last minute negotiations persuade the Iraqis to withdraw from Kuwait before the land offensive? To what extent would the Iraqi Army resist the ground attack? Should the coalition forces push on to Baghdad and overthrow Saddam Hussein? What sort of conditions should the coalition and the United Nations impose upon Iraq? Australia was not closely involved in any of these questions but, as a minor alliance partner, Australia still shared responsibility for the outcome, and the resolution of these questions would influence Australia's policy towards the region for years to come. Should Australian ships remain in the Gulf? What other commitments should Australia make? Finally, the end of the war did not end the arguments for and against Australia's involvement in it. These arguments would shape the government's and the public's attitudes towards future commitments to the region, for although it was the end of the war, it was not the end of the United Nations' problems with Iraq.


Two important issues – civilian casualties and last-minute negotiations – illustrate the problems of alliance management. For the first four weeks of the air campaign there was much press speculation about when the coalition was to begin its ground offensive. Discussion revolved around the possible length of the campaign, with some experts forecasting numerous allied casualties.