Pages:11 (3336 words)
The Effects of Operation Desert Storm on Human Behaviors, Human Expression and Ethics
In early 1991, the United States launched Operation Desert Storm in response to Saddam Hussein’s invasion and occupation of Kuwait while the American public held its collective breath to see whether Hussein’s threat to wage “the mother of all battles,” including threats to use chemical weapons of mass destruction, would come to fruition. Although the Iraqi military was never able to live up to their leader’s claims, the political and social fallout from this successful prosecution of this regional war by the United States had long-term implications for American political and military leaders alike. This topic is important to analyze today because the Middle East remains a global hotspot with the very real potential to erupt in other conflicts with Western powers in general and the United States in particular. To determine the facts, the overarching purpose of this paper is to review the relevant literature to provide an analysis of the humanities that were involved in the lead-up and aftermath of Operation Desert Storm, a critical analysis of the situation and salient post-conflict recommendations. Finally, a summary of the results of the literature review and the key findings that emerged from the research are presented in the paper’s conclusion, followed by some personal reflections about my participation in Operational Desert Storm and its effect on the American consciousness.
Analysis of Humanities
On January 16, 1991, President George H. W. Bush launched the military intervention, Operation Desert Storm, in an effort to force occupying Iraqi troops out and restore Kuwait’s democratic institutions (Taylor, 2016). Like many other military engagements, Operation Desert Storm involved extensive planning operations and the coordination of hundreds of thousands of American and coalition troops which were massed along the Saudi-Iraqi border awaiting the word from military leaders to advance. When the deadline for withdrawal by January 15, 1991 that was set by the United Nations expired with no response from Iraqi’s political or military leadership, the U.S.-led coalition initiated an 5-week bombing campaign of Iraqi command and control centers an effort to dilute their war-fighting capabilities (Taylor, 2015).
Following the cessation of the bombing campaign and despite concerns that Saddam Hussein might unleash chemical weapons at the time, coalition forces initiated a ground invasion in February 1991 which was successful in quickly driving Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. Coalition forces then advanced into Iraq itself but settled for a cease fire within 100 hours which left Hussein in power, an outcome that was highly controversial then and now (Taylor, 2015).
Against the backdrop of other military conflicts prosecuted by the United States, the 300 or so casualties (see Appendix A) that resulted from this “100-hour war” were incredibly minimal, but the corresponding human behaviors that resulted from this war were not. As noted in the introduction, some of the behavioral responses to this conflict included an initial “rally ‘round the flag” reaction that swept the nation which is commonplace during times of perceived threats to national security. In fact, throughout its history, Americans have been taught from an early age that their country is the greatest nation in the world, and it is their patriotic duty to “rally ‘round the flag” in times of crisis, including most especially when the United States is at war. Consequently, the American’s public’s response to Operation Desert Storm was no exception, at least during the early phases of the conflict and immediately thereafter. In this regard, Lindsey and Smith (2003) report that, “The Iraq War validated a basic rule of American politics: the American public closes ranks in times of national crisis” (p. 21).
Indeed, the same reaction has been experienced to some extent in response to the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic when the American public rewarded President Trump with a modest “bump” in his popularity ratings. For example, one historian points out that, “[President] Bush, remembering the lessons of Vietnam, sought public support. Although there were scant opponents of the conflict, the vast majority of Americans and a narrow majority of the Congress supported the President's actions” (Operation Desert Storm, 2020, para. 3). The intensity of the burst of national patriotism and exultation in response to Operation Desert Storm, though, was relatively brief due in large part to the brevity of the conflict and the minimal casualties that were suffered as a result. Moreover, there were no dancing or public celebrations in the street or ticker tape parades, just an overwhelming sense of relief at the quick outcome with few American casualties as well as a growing appreciation for the war-fighting capability of the American military.
This positive reaction, however, was in sharp contrast to the American public’s views about becoming further embroiled in the Middle East prior to Operation Desert Storm. For instance, according to Lindsey and Smith (2003), “In the prolonged march to war, the public was divided and ambivalent about the wisdom of invading Iraq rather than relying on continued United Nations weapons inspections” (p. 21). Despite these negative views, however, the Bush administration’s public relations campaign in support of military intervention in Iraq was highly effective in positively influencing the American public’s views, especially after the successful outcome at minimal cost became apparent.
Further, the positive response to America’s intervention in Iraq extended beyond the Oval Office to include other democratic institutions. In this regard, Lindsey and Smith (2003) conclude that, “Most of those doubts evaporated once the bombs began falling [and] the surge of patriotism not only boosted public support for President Bush, but extended beyond the White House to raise optimism about the country's institutions and American society as a whole” (p. 22). In sum, the United States went to war with Iraq and came out on top, and this outcome was widely viewed by the American public as a job well done by those who were trained for the purpose.
Notwithstanding the successful outcome of the military intervention…
…staring down the mouth of a cannon barrel and have few viable alternatives except to comply while the former provide the economic means by which wars are waged through their tax contributions. To the extent that public opinion fails to support the U.S. government’s military actions will therefore likely be the extent to which such actions are jeopardized and their outcomes adversely affected. The United States could have won the wars in Korea and Vietnam by leaving the north of these countries radioactive wildernesses, but the nation has decided that these weapons are too dangerous to use ever again except perhaps in response to a first strike by another country. What is left in the wake of this line of decision making are mere humans covered only by thin layers of olive drab who rely on their political leaders to make informed decisions and honestly share their reasoning with them and their families and friends back home. The actions by the U.S. government with respect to Operation Desert Storm, however, failed to live up to these standards, a shortcoming that remains firmly in place today.
5. Personal Reflection
Upon reflection, I was and I am still proud of my military service in general and especially during Operation Desert Storm. Researching this project, though, opened my eyes to some of the criticisms that were directed at this intervention and how the U.S. government manipulated public opinion before and after the war was over. While I still do not feel like a pawn in the larger scheme of things, the research was consistent in showing that there are indeed two sides to every story -- and far more in some cases.
One of the most important lessons learned from completing this project was the need for effective time management. The adage that “you have to eat an elephant one bite at a time” is certainly applicable to the academic research process. My strong sense of self-efficacy, though, convinced me that completing this type of project could be accomplished in a single sitting, since this would help ensure the continuity of the thought process. Critical analyses, however, requires some thoughtful reflection that cannot be forced and I will endeavor to “eat the elephant” more slowly in the future.
Yet another lesson learned from completing this project was just how interesting the topic was to me since it represented one of my more memorable lived experiences. Of course, any topic does not necessarily have to hold personal relevance in order to be interesting, but developing a 360-degree perspective about Operation Desert Storm provided me with some compelling information that was especially relevant personally. This eye-opening experience has helped me better understand how and why the American media and White House are at such divisive odds at present, as well as the fundamental need for a free press as stressed by the Founders.
As a final thought, although war is not unique to the human species, we have become exceptionally good…
Curtis, J. (2015, November). Reflecting on strategic results of Operation Desert Storm. Army, 65(11), 24-27.
Khan, H. (2011, July 1). An unbiased estimate of present American competitiveness from deontological and teleological perspectives of utilitarianism. Competition Forum, 9(2), 348-352.
Klotzer, C. L. (2002, October). A lesson for Americans: Desert Storm operation reports were full of lies and distortions. St. Louis Journalism Review, 32(250), 34-39.
Lindsey, J. M. & Smith, C. (2003, Summer). Rally 'round the flag: Opinion in the United States before and after the Iraq War. Brookings Review, 21(3), 20-24.
Operation Desert Storm. (2020). U.S. History. Retrieved from https://www.ushistory.org/ us/60a.asp.
Stilwell, B. (2015, September 12). 21 facts about the first Gulf War. Military.com. Retrieved from https://www.military.com/undertheradar/2015/09/21-facts-about-the-first-gulf-war.
Taylor, A. (2016, January 14). Operation Desert Storm: 25 years since the first Gulf War. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2016/01/operation-desert-storm-25-years-since-the-first-gulf-war/424191/.
Tilford, K. H., Jr. (1993, Summer). Review: The meaning of victory in Operation Desert Storm: A review essay. Political Science Quarterly, 108(2), 327-331.
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