After Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990, the United States deployed more than five hundred thousand troops to the Persian Gulf region throughout the fall and early winter to encourage Iraqi withdrawal and to prevent it from invading the oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Operation Desert Shield). In the predawn hours of January 17, 1991, two days after a U.N. deadline for Iraqi withdrawal, U.S.-led forces attacked Iraq in what became known as the Persian Gulf War. The five-and-a-half-week air campaign (Operation Desert Storm) was followed on February 24 by an invasion with ground forces (Operation Desert Sabre) that led to the complete collapse of Iraqi military forces and their subsequent withdrawal into Iraq. The purpose of this military invasion, which involved a broad coalition of nations, was to remove Iraqi military forces from Kuwait forcibly and thereby prevent the destabilization of the region under Iraqi hegemony.
The Persian Gulf War is an important example of the development of the theory of victory and its influence on American security policy in the late twentieth century. Responding to a threat to U.S. national interests in the region, the United States used force to achieve a decisive political–military victory; it was not intended to be on the scale of a grand strategic victory attained by the Allies in World War II. This chapter examines the conduct of the 1991 war against Iraq and its implications for the development of a pretheory of victory.