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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

4 - The Iraqi Interregnum, 1991–2000

Summary

The Calm After the Storm

It is hard to argue with success, and there is little doubt that Desert Storm was a success, at least in military terms. Certainly the war revealed deficiencies, and nothing is ever perfect. But on the whole, the war's result was taken as a vindication of American defense policy over the preceding fifteen years. Not everyone had been convinced that the United States was on the right track. Politicians and defense analysts associated with the “military reform movement” in the early 1980s, for example, viewed with suspicion the Defense Department's fascination or fixation with high-tech weapons they considered too expensive, complex, and unreliable. Better they thought to acquire a larger quantity of cheaper weapons that worked than some technological marvel prone to breakdown that might be too expensive to risk losing in battle. The Gulf War appeared to resolve this debate as key weapons systems performed better than even many of their supporters hoped. This positive evaluation of the road taken was easily transformed into a prospective judgment about the road ahead: American defense policy should continue along the same trajectory that brought it from Vietnam to Desert Storm. Not only is it difficult to argue with success; it is also best not to mess with it.

Reflecting an assessment similar to that of the Gulf War Air Power Survey, Michael Vickers argues that “when the Cold War ended and victory in the Persian Gulf endowed the United States with the mantel of the ‘world's only superpower,’ Americans found themselves in the possession of a force already exhibiting incipient RMA capabilities – stealth, precision-guided munitions (PGMs) and all weather-imaging satellites, for example.

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