Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

4 - The Iraqi Interregnum, 1991–2000


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.

Fallows's, James bestselling National Defense (New York: Random House, 1981)
Vickers, Michael G., “Revolution Deferred: Kosovo and the Transformation of War,” in Bacevich, Andrew J. and Cohen, Eliot A., eds., War over Kosovo: Politics and Strategy in a Global Age (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), p. 190
Vego, Milan, RECCE-Strike Complexes in Soviet Theory and Practice (Ft. Leavenworth, KS: Soviet Army Studies Office, June 1990)
Bellamy, Chris, The Future of Land Warfare (London: Routledge, 1987), p. 65
Hazlegrove, Allen P., “Desert Storm Time-Sensitive Surface Targeting: A Successful Failure or a Failed Success,” Defense Analysis Vol. 16, No. 2 (December 2000), p. 123
Kamieski, Lukasz, “Gulf War (1990–1991),” in Sterling, Christopher, ed., Military Communications (ABC-CLIO, 2007), pp. 201–4
Winnefeld, James A., Niblack, Preston, and Johnson, Dana J., A League of Airmen: U.S. Air Power in the Gulf War (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 1994), p. 213
Cordesman, Anthony, The Iraq War: Strategy, Tactics and Military Lessons (New York: Praeger, 2003), p. 400
Shapiro, Jeremy, “Information and War: Is It a Revolution,” in Khalizad, Zalamy and White, John, eds., Strategic Appraisal: The Changing Role of Information in Warfare (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 1999), p. 120
Stanley-Mitchell, Elizabeth, “Technology's Double-Edged Sword: The Case of US Army Battlefield Digitization,” Defense Analysis Vol. 17, No. 3 (December 2001), pp. 267–88
Stevenson, Jonathan, “Hope Restored in Somalia?” Foreign Policy No. 91 (1993), p. 139
Clarke, Walter and Herbst, Jeffrey, “Somalia and the Future of Humanitarian Intervention,” Foreign Affairs Vol. 75, No. 2 (March/April 1996), p. 74
Drysdale, John, “Foreign Military Intervention in Somalia,” in Clarke, Walter and Herbst, Jeffrey, eds., Learning from Somalia: The Lessons of Armed Humanitarian Intervention (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1997), p. 134
Smith, Michael, “Humanitarian Intervention: An Overview of Ethical Issues,” Ethics and International Affairs Vol. 12 (1998), p. 63
Drew, Elizabeth, On the Edge: The Clinton Presidency (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995), p. 358
Geertz, Bill, “Aspin's Decision on Tanks Was Political: Reports Says He Gave in to U.N.,” Washington Times (October 3, 1995), p. 3
Bacevich, Andrew J., “Learning from Aidid,” Commentary Vol. 16, No. 6 (December 1993), p. 32
Leivin, Anatol, “Hubris and Nemesis: Kosovo and the Pattern of Western Military Ascendency and Defeat,” in Bacevich, Andrew J. and Cohen, Eliot A., eds., War over Kosovo: Politics and Strategy in a Global Age (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), p. 111
Jablonsky, David, “Army Transformation: Tale of Two Doctrines,” Parameters (Autumn 2001), p. 44
Cohen, William S., Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review (Washington DC: Department of Defense, 1997), Section 3
Rose, Donald G., “Peace Operations and Change in the US Military,” Defense Analysis Vol. 17, No. 2 (2001), p. 141
Spiegel, Peter, “The US military's continued inability to move heavy equipment may force war planners to go with a smaller, lighter ground force than the Pentagon had planned,” Financial Times (March 17, 2003), p. 19
Linn, Brian McAllister, The Echo of Battle: The Army's Way of War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), p. 226
Sullivan, Gordon, “A Vision for the Future,” Military Review Vol. 75, No. 3 (May/June 1995), p. 6
Sullivan, Gordon, “Force XXI,” The Collected Works of the Thirty-Second Chief of Staff of the United States Army: June 1991–June 1995 (Washington, DC: CMH, 2004), p. 316
Ullman, Harlan and Wade, James (with Edney, L.A., Franks, Fred, Horner, Charles, Howe, Jonathan, and Bradley, Keith), Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance (Washington, DC: The National Defense University, 1996)
Ullman, Harlan, “Slogan or Strategy: Shock and Awe Reassessed,” The National Interest No. 84 (Summer 2006), p. 45
Betz, David J., “The More You Know, the Less You Understand: The Problem with Information Warfare,” The Journal of Strategic Studies Vol. 29, No. 3 (June 2006), p. 511
Cebrowski, Arthur K. and Garstka, John H., “Network-Centric Warfare: Its Origins and Future,” Proceedings of the US Naval Institute Vol. 124, No. 1 (January 1998)
Blaker, James, “Arthur K. Cebrowski: A Retrospective,” Naval War College Review Vol. 59, No. 2 (Spring 2006), pp. 129–45
Singer, P.W., Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century (New York: Penguin Press, 2009)
Bernstein, Adam, “Adm. Arthur Cebrowski Dies: Led Pentagon Think Tank,” Washington Post (November 15, 2005), p. B6
,Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Vision 2010 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Defense, 1996), p. 1
Biddle, Stephen, “The New Way of War? Debating the Kosovo Model,” Foreign Affairs (May/June 2002), p. 138
Daalder, Ivo H. and O'Hanlon, Michael E., Winning Ugly: NATO's War to Save Kosovo (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2000), p. 40
Henricksen, Dag, NATO's Gamble: Combining Diplomacy and Airpower in the Kosovo Crisis, 1998–1999 (Anapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2007), pp. 162–4
Arkin, William M., “Operation Allied Force: ‘The Most Precise Application of Air Power in History,’” in Bacevich, Andrew J. and Cohen, Eliot A., eds., War over Kosovo: Politics and Strategy in a Global Age (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), p. 5
Lambeth, Benjamin, NATO's Air War for Kosovo: A Strategic and Operational Assessment (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2001), p. 232
Posen, Barry, “The War for Kosovo: Serbia's Political-Military Strategy,” International Security Vol. 24, No. 4 (Spring 2000), pp. 51–2
Harden, Blaine, “The Milosevic Generation,” New York Times Magazine (August 29, 1999), p. 34
Thomas, Timothy L., “Kosovo and the Current Myth of Information Superiority,” Paramaters Vol. 30, No. 1 (Spring 2000), p. 24
Daalder, Ivo and O'Hanlon, Michael E., “Unlearning the Lessons of Kosovo,” Foreign Policy (Fall 1999), p. 128
Mandelbaum, Michael, “A Perfect Failure: NATO's War Against Yugoslavia,” Foreign Affairs Vol. 78, No. 5 (September/October 1999), pp. 2–8
Pape, Robert, “The Limits of Precision-Guided Air Power,” Security Studies Vol. 7, No. 2 (Winter 1997/98), p. 99
Pape, Robert, “The True Worth of Air Power,” Foreign Affairs Vol. 83, No. 2 (March/April 2004), p. 124
Stigler, Andrew L., “A Clear Victory for Air Power: NATO's Empty Threat to Invade Kosovo,” International Security Vol. 27, No. 3 (Winter 2002/03), p. 143
Hosmer, Stephen T., Why Milosevic Decided to Settle When He Did (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2000), p. 110
Zakaria, Fareed, “Face the Facts: Bombing Works,” Newsweek Vol. 138, No. 23 (December 3, 2001), p. 54
Newman, Richard J., “After the Tank,” U.S. News and World Report Vol. 129, No. 11 (September 18, 2000), p. 42
Nardulli, Bruce R., Perry, Walter L., Pirnie, Bruce, Gordon, John, and McGinn, John, Disjointed War: Military Operations in Kosovo (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2002), especially pp. 57–98