(As it looks it is more likely that there will be a sequel to the 91
Gulf War ('The Return of the Bushes'). I thought the article below might
be of interest to some infocon readers. I would also recommend to have a
look at the 'Lessons of Modern War Volume IV' which contains a brilliant
1000 page Analysis of the 91 Gulf War (for example Chapter 4 looks at 
C4I BM and Chapter 5 looks at Intelligence and Net Assessment) WEN).  
Published Aerospace Power Journal - Fall  2001

Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.

Another View of the Myths
of the Gulf War
Lt Col Martin Wojtysiak, USAF

Editorial Abstract: Colonel Wojtysiak revisits one of the more
provocative articles published by APJ in recent years, Dr. Grant
Hammond’s "Myths of the Gulf War: Some ‘Lessons’ Not to Learn" (Fall
1998). He evaluates Hammond’s 10 Gulf War "myths," discusses accuracies
and inaccuracies, and concentrates on lessons learned. Since the Gulf
War involved a first-rate air campaign, perhaps Dr. Hammond’s myths
should be considered truths with asterisks. 

I am sorry to think that you do not get a
man’s most effective criticism until you
provoke him. Severe truth is expressed
with some bitterness.

—Henry David Thoreau

As an active duty officer and Gulf War veteran, I found it sometimes
difficult to discern between the criticism and provocation in Dr. Grant
Hammond’s "Myths of the Gulf War: Some ‘Lessons’ Not to Learn," which
appeared in the fall 1998 edition of Airpower Journal.1 

"Myths" takes a recently all-too-familiar tone toward those who ballyhoo
the successes of the Gulf War, particularly those of the much-heralded
air campaign. Since Carl Builder’s The Icarus Syndrome was published in
1995, it has become fashionable within military intellectual circles to
characterize airmen and airpower enthusiasts as overly enamored with
their own high-altitude grandeur. The academic community portrays airmen
as smitten by technology and incapable of learning the true lessons of
the past, as they are blinded by the glimmer of their
often-serendipitous successes. Perhaps these characterizations were
justified after debacles such as the "high risk– low reward" World War
II daylight bombing raids over Germany or the misdirected and benign
Rolling Thunder campaign over Vietnam. These campaigns were long,
drawn-out affairs with confusing objectives and questionable successes.

But Operation Desert Storm was different and invigorating. In fact, the
original name of the air campaign, "Instant Thunder," was intended to
parody, and thus distance itself from, Rolling Thunder. This was a truly
successful air war that paralyzed, incapacitated, and demoralized the
enemy from the first sorties to the last on day 38—leaving only 100
hours of "mop-up" duty for the ground forces. The air campaign assured
victory and effectively fulfilled Gen Billy Mitchell’s promise that, "If
the matter ever came to fighting an overseas enemy, airpower could
decisively attack the enemy’s vital centers without first defeating his
armies or navies. Attacks on such vital targets would render war so
decisive and quick that the total suffering would be less than
otherwise."2 It was our Air Force’s finest moment, but it was more than
a first-rate air campaign—it was also a remarkable war.

Strategically speaking, the Gulf War stifled the greatest threat to
Middle East stability in the last 25 years—Iraqi president Saddam
Hussein. Iraq’s barbarous invasion of Kuwait in 1990 exposed Saddam as
exceedingly ambitious and violent, as well as a potentially permanent
threat to the region. It seemed that his army had hardly rested from a
brutal eight-year war with Iran when it invaded Iraq’s small, relatively
defenseless neighbor and, perhaps inadvertently, seemed to threaten
another in Saudi Arabia. The coalition of 38 countries, flying over
50,000 combat sorties in seven months and taking nearly 87,000 Iraqi
prisoners of war, left Saddam isolated and his military reduced to
virtual impotence outside of its own borders. Admittedly, he survived,
but the Gulf War left Saddam Hussein in a strategic box from which there
is no escape. Indeed, it seems that every now and then Saddam tests the
limits of his box, only to be crushed back again by Operations Northern
and Southern Watch.

The Gulf War was not perfect by military standards. The United States
did make clear strategic and tactical errors during the campaign. Dr.
Hammond, as well as others, makes solid arguments when he discusses the
blundered war-termination process, the fruitless "Scud Hunt,"3 and the
intelligence miscues that resulted in a targeting process that sometimes
lacked strategic effect. There are important lessons to be learned from
our failures in the Gulf, but we must also recognize and learn from our
successes. Dr. Hammond unfairly portrays the Gulf War as fraught with
failures by occasionally exaggerating claims and offering his
conclusions in lieu of arguments. His article crosses the line from
constructive and thoughtful criticism to contrarian polemic, the net
effect being a dilution of truly worthwhile lessons at the expense of
extraneous chaff.

More than two years have passed since "Myths" appeared in Airpower
Journal. Using the advantage of this extra hindsight, this article
reexamines the 10 "myths," separating true lessons from chaff. Each is
discussed on its own merits, citing the valuable lessons but also
highlighting the flawed logic and incomplete conclusions. The author
suggests an opposing view of the achieved end state, including the ideas
that Saddam’s survival was an acceptable result and that, overall, the
United States retains an enhanced regional strategic advantage due to
its successful efforts in the Gulf War.

Myth Number One—It
Was a War
Dr. Hammond concedes that the Gulf War "was a war by definition" but
claims that it was not a war in the classic sense because for most of
the time, only one side fought. In support of this argument, he rightly
points out that the United States suffered relatively few casualties in
proportion to the total forces deployed, while most Iraqi air and ground
forces chose to flee or surrender rather than fight.4 However, this line
of reasoning discounts the strategic-paralysis premise of the air
campaign and its apparent success against the Iraqi forces. The air
campaign was designed to put the Iraqis in a position where they could
not respond, thus minimizing coalition casualties. War is war—the
one-sidedness of the Gulf War should not determine its status as war.
Indeed, the 1939 German blitzkrieg of Poland was one-sided, but few
would argue that it constituted something less than war.

The renowned Prussian strategist Carl von Clausewitz defined war as an
act of force to compel the enemy to do one’s will.5 This "classical"
definition surely qualifies the Gulf War as a war. Saddam Hussein and
his military were ejected from Kuwait by force and against their
will—diplomacy did not effect the change; nor did the imposed sanctions.
The coalition elected to use overwhelming force, which may have been
more than necessary, but the level of force should not determine whether
a conflict constitutes war.

Myth Number Two—It’s Over
Dr. Hammond contends that the war is not over because "its impact
lingers on in many ways, and the region may be no more secure than it
was eight years ago."6 His supporting arguments are that US forces
remain in the region, the Iraqi military was not irreparably beaten, and
Saddam’s rhetoric remains as antagonistic as ever.

The following historical comparisons point out the need to maintain a
strong military presence necessary to maintain the desired end state.
Consider the strategic environment of post–World War II Europe or the
Korean peninsula after 1952; decades after the victories, US troop
strength in both regions remained in the hundreds of thousands. Indeed,
for the second half of the last century, the entire US military
essentially defined and justified itself in terms of maintaining the
previously achieved end states after the two wars. The postwar end state
was so important that it led to the theater military commanders in each
theater being elevated to commander in chief (CINC) status. Our postwar
presence in these two theaters, by any measure, overshadows the current
US presence in the Gulf region. On the other hand, there was no US
presence required following the Vietnam War, essentially because we lost
that conflict and were obliged to leave. Perhaps a postwar peacekeeping
presence is the price of victory— insurance to maintain the postwar end

Historical precedent implies that it is not necessary to end a war by
leaving the enemy’s army or regime in tatters. The excessively punitive
measures of the post–World War I Treaty of Versailles led to the rise of
Hitler and the Third Reich, thereby making World War II inevitable. But
on the Korean peninsula, where the North Koreans maintained a powerful
army and a venomously anti-US regime, deterrence succeeded for 50 years,
allowing some healing of old wounds and possibly leading towards lasting
peace. Iraq’s post-1991 army does not constitute the regional threat
that North Korea presents; nor is Saddam Hussein any more hostile than
President Kim Il Sung.

Some may argue that the Korean parallel strengthens the claim that the
Gulf War is not over, since the conflict ended only in armistice. Yet it
would be difficult to contend that the Korean conflict never ended in
either the classical or the conventional sense. Moreover, unlike the war
against Iraq, the end of hostilities in Korea did not settle the
underlying political issue that sparked the war. The question of whether
the Gulf War is concluded or is in the process of concluding is less
germane than whether or not the end state is leading to the US goal of
regional stability. 

Myth Number Three—We Won
Myth Number Four—We
Accomplished Our Objectives
It is difficult to argue these separately, since logic suggests that the
side that accomplished more of its objectives is the winner. Dr. Hammond
begins his discussion of "Myth Number Three" with the absurd statement
that "we did not win politically or militarily, for we did not
accomplish our objectives on either front."7 But his argument
essentially boils down to the failure, in his view, to meet every
objective. Specifically, he cites the realities that Saddam remains in
power, that the Republican Guard forces were not effectively destroyed,
and that Saddam still seeks to develop weapons of mass destruction

In terms of achieving objectives, it is unreasonable to suggest that
warring nations can guarantee the achievement of all objectives,
political and military, when engaged in limited war. Unlike its attitude
toward Germany and Japan in World War II, the United States never sought
Iraq’s unconditional surrender. The best the United States could do in
the Gulf was to prioritize its objectives and obtain as many as possible
without fighting a total war or breaking up the coalition. Once the
United States achieved its political objectives, one could argue that
the military objectives became unnecessary. This was the situation in
the Gulf War—the coalition was built on political objectives, and the
military objectives varied by individual countries. Indeed, any
coalition that included countries as diverse as the United States, the
Soviet Union, and Syria could not be expected to agree on everything.

The four political objectives, declared by President George Bush and
reinforced by United Nations (UN) Security Council resolutions, included
the unconditional and complete withdrawal of all Iraqi forces from
Kuwait, the restoration of Kuwait’s legitimate government, the
reestablishment of security and stability of the Persian Gulf, and the
protection of American citizens abroad.8 In the nearly 10 years since
the end of the war, it is evident that the United States realized its
objectives. Dr. Hammond contends that the first two were met but that
the latter two "constitute an open-ended commitment that we may have to
demonstrate again."9 Regional stability and protection of Americans are
open-ended issues in many parts of the world today—so much so that our
civilian and military leaders are now rethinking future force
requirements. The open-ended commitments in the Gulf may prove to be
vital, requiring and permitting a continuing US regional presence and
influence in an area of vital geostrategic importance.

Often cited as the most glaring failure of the Gulf War is the survival
of Saddam Hussein and roughly half of his Republican Guard protectorate.
While these were among the military objectives (Saddam was never
mentioned individually, but his removal was implicit in the objectives
and his known residences were targeted), their achievement likely would
have jeopardized the coalition’s survival and the long-term US
reputation in the region. To achieve them, a military march to Baghdad,
outside the auspices of UN resolutions and with questionable coalition
consent, probably would have been necessary. The likely end state would
have been an uncertain Iraq and the possible disenfranchising of the
United States as a powerful broker in future Gulf affairs. Instead of
regarding this as a failure, one could argue that, by deciding to cease
hostilities after meeting the political objectives (thus allowing Saddam
and enough of the Republican Guard to escape), the United States wisely
placed its political objectives ahead of all others. History suggests
that this was a sensible choice.

The continued US presence and its role in Gulf affairs are justified
more by the continuance of Saddam’s regime than by any other single
factor. Saddam may be bad for Iraq, but his continued hold on power
arguably enhances regional influence by the United States. He is
universally accepted as a regional "bad actor" amongst such disparate
nations as Egypt, Israel, Iran, and the United States. Valuable regional
US allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, remain committed to the US
regional presence as long as Saddam’s containment remains a regional
rallying point. These former coalition partners, either directly or
tacitly, continue to support the US-led enforcement of Iraq’s no-fly
zones. In fact, the United States is granted virtual carte blanche to
contain Saddam in operations such as Desert Strike (1996) or Desert Fox
(1998)—thus defining and limiting Iraq’s role in the regional balance of

Saddam’s addiction to WMD, especially his quest for a nuclear device,
remains an ongoing concern. Dr. Hammond simply restates a lesson
definitively discussed in Eliot A. Cohen and Thomas A. Keaney’s Gulf War
Air Power Survey (GWAPS) years earlier. The GWAPS identified
intelligence miscalculations that led to targeting failures: "Overall,
the United States did not fully understand the target arrays comprising
Iraqi nuclear, biological, chemical, and ballistic missile capabilities
before Desert Storm."10 Nevertheless, Ambassador Richard Butler, the UN
weapons inspector, believes that the coalition was effective in this
regard and reduced Iraq’s WMD capability by "at least an order of
magnitude" during the Gulf War and then again in the Desert Fox raids of
1998.11 Urging continued vigilance by the United States and coalition
members, Butler believes that Saddam will never abandon his pursuit of

Myth Number Five—Technology
(PGMs) Won the War
Dr. Hammond’s claim that the statement "precision-guided munitions (PGM)
won the war" constitutes a myth of the Gulf War seems dubious at best
since no one seems to have made this declaration, outside of his
article.12 The GWAPS does not assert that technology won the war, though
it does cite five technologies that "worked best in the Gulf War,"
including "stealth/low observability, laser-guided bombs, aerial
refueling, the high-speed antiradiation missile (HARM), and the secure
telephone (STU-III)."13 Other Gulf War reviews have discussed the
effectiveness, or lack thereof, of the various technologies, but none
have made the naïve assertion that the outcome would have been any
different—absent PGMs or any other technology. 

Nevertheless, Dr. Hammond believes that the role of technology in the
Gulf War, specifically that of stealth and PGMs, was overstated because
they were used in relatively small numbers and our intelligence was not
as accurate as our weapons. He reminds us that roughly 95 percent of the
coalition ordnance consisted of "dumb" bombs dropped by nonstealth
aircraft.14 These numbers are correct, but they tell only half of the
story. According to the Department of Defense’s (DOD) final report to
Congress on the Gulf War, stealth aircraft using PGM ordnance flew only
two percent of the total attack sorties but struck about 40 percent of
the strategic targets attacked. They were also the only aircraft to
attack targets in downtown Baghdad (the area presenting the greatest
threat area), hitting targets in all 12 categories.15 This remarkable
performance validated the technology and led Maj Gen David Deptula,
director of the Air Force Quadrennial Review and one of the key
architects of the air war, to conclude that stealth technology and PGMs,
combined with the effects-based targeting used in the Gulf, constituted
no less than a revolution in military affairs.16 Whether it was a
revolution or simply an evolution, technology made its impact on the
Gulf War.

The more important question is whether our technology has outpaced our
intelligence capability. Dr. Hammond rightly posits that precision
munitions are worthless without precision intelligence.17 The mistaken
bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999 underscores this
argument and indicates that the United States may still have some
catching up to do on the intelligence front.

Myth Number Six—The "Vietnam
Syndrome" Is Over: US Military
Might and Prestige Are Restored
The American public’s confidence in the military has nearly doubled
since the aftermath of the Vietnam War. A Harris Poll conducted in
January 2000 found that confidence in the military is higher than that
of any other institution, including the medical profession or the legal
profession, the latter epitomized by the Supreme Court.18 A second
Harris Poll specifically addressed the issue of US military prestige
over the last 20 years, showing that 70 percent of Americans felt
military officers had "very great prestige" or "considerable prestige,"
the former at 42 percent (up from 22 percent in 1982).19 The success of
the Gulf War was surely the primary reason for the changes in these

Dr. Hammond points to the approximately 40 percent decrease in US
military forces since 1990, arguing that the United States is less
effective at deterring would-be aggressors and less likely to fight them
than in the past.20 But connecting the Gulf War with the drawdown of the
1990s is misleading since it ignores the end of the Cold War. On 1
August 1990, the day before Iraq invaded Kuwait, President Bush was
scheduled to announce upcoming "major cuts in US military forces."21
However, the speech was delayed due to diversions surrounding the
impending invasion, and the cuts were officially announced during the
budget battle of late 1990—months before the war. Indeed, the fact that
the United States was able to execute the military drawdown in the
aftermath of the Gulf War yet still keep Iraq in check is a testament to
the level of US dominance.

That said, Dr. Hammond rightly questioned whether the so-called Vietnam
Syndrome is over, as President Bush claimed at the end of the Gulf War.
In reality, the actions of the Bush administration and its top military
leaders were clearly influenced, even preoccupied, by the ghosts of
Vietnam.22 Unfortunately, this might have resulted in some of the poor
decisions surrounding the bungled war termination. Clearly, the United
States wanted to avoid a potential quagmire from an Iraqi civil war, but
the decision to declare victory—unprecedented in that it came before the
enemy requested terms, allowing the victorious soldiers to return to a
hero’s welcome—was an overreaction to the Vietnam experience. The
relative detachment of the Washington establishment (i.e., leaving the
war fighting and peace negotiating to the theater CINC) reflected that
experience. This was followed by the reactionary view that the postwar
revolutionary uprisings in the north and south were a snare for a
protracted US involvement. All these events fell into the category of
"Vietnam’s lessons" applied inappropriately to the Gulf War. Had this
series of mistakes not characterized the war-termination process, Saddam
Hussein might have vanished as a troubling regional influence.

Despite the lingering psychological effects of the Vietnam Syndrome, the
actual military capability of the United States relative to the rest of
the world stands in stunning contrast to that of the post-Vietnam era.
After Vietnam, the United States stood conventionally outmanned and
outgunned by the Soviets, and the short-term trend was getting worse.
Since Vietnam, the United States has completed a major military buildup,
achieved important victories in the Cold/Gulf Wars, and afterwards
experienced a significant military drawdown. Currently, the United
States has no peer competitor, and there appears to be none on the
horizon—for a while at least. One can argue whether or not this means a
safer world—but one cannot doubt the ability of the US military to
respond when necessary. 

Myth Number Seven—We Can
Do It Again If Necessary
Desert Strike, Desert Fox, and—on a different continent—Operation Allied
Force all demonstrated that the United States has the political will,
international ties, and military strength to take forcible actions when
necessary to achieve its objectives. But more impressive is simply the
way we were able to pull off the Gulf War, considering our state of
readiness for that conflict. The US military of 1990 was heavy, slow
moving, and tailored for conventional battle in Europe. As such, it was
generally unprepared for action in US Central Command’s area of
responsibility and faced the logistical nightmare of moving required
forces into the theater.23 But Saddam Hussein, among his numerous other
failures, lacked a sense of strategic timing and failed to act before
the coalition assembled a huge force. The United States cannot count on
such a foolish adversary during the next war.

Sweeping changes in US military doctrine and force structure since the
Gulf War reveal a concerted effort to take this lesson to heart. Joint
doctrine has taken an expeditionary twist, and Air Force basic doctrine
now admits that "the decline of both total force structure and worldwide
bases has decreased the size of our forward presence and forced the US
military to become primarily an expeditionary force—our service is able
to rapidly project power over global distances and maintain a virtually
indefinite ‘presence’ over an enemy."24 The Army is also engaged in an
enormous metamorphosis, intended to create a "light and lean" force. Gen
Eric Shinseki, Army chief of staff, testifying before Congress in 1999,
outlined his vision:

Our goal is to be able to deploy a combat-capable brigade anywhere in
the world within 96 hours after receipt of an order to execute liftoff,
a division within 120 hours, and five divisions in 30 days. These forces
will be light enough to deploy, lethal enough to fight and win,
survivable enough to return safely home. They will be versatile enough
to make peace or fight wars. They will be agile enough to transition
from peacemaking to war fighting and back again quickly. And they will
be lean and efficient enough to sustain themselves whatever the

Clearly, the US military understands the importance of being prepared to
"do it again." As a result, we should be readier and more prepared for
the next war than we were in the Gulf.

Myth Number Eight—Others
Paid for the Cost of the War
The Gulf War was little more than a blip on the financial screen of the
United States, especially in comparison to the cost of previous major
wars. The highest estimate Dr. Hammond cites is $100 billion spent, half
of which was paid by other governments—mostly Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
But the real story, according to Dr. Hammond, is the long-term cost the
United States will pay in terms of the wear and tear upon its equipment
and manpower. This point is difficult to reconcile with his earlier
claim that by 1997 the defense share of the US gross national product
was the lowest since Pearl Harbor.26

A cost-benefit analysis tells the story beyond the economic costs.
Americans have always inherently valued human cost over financial cost,
as exemplified by Gen Colin Powell’s (chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff during the Gulf War) recommendation to use overwhelming force and
expensive technology rather than engage the Iraqis in a conventional
battle. As a result, the United States suffered only 146 combat
fatalities, a tiny number compared to those in past wars and a pittance
compared to Iraq’s losses. In addition to saving lives, the extra
dollars spent in the Gulf also allowed the real-world testing of weapons
and theories of force structure. It is impossible to measure how much
these lessons contributed to wiser post–Gulf War military spending.
Additionally, it is impossible to put an economic value on US gains in
the world’s leadership quotient as a result of the Gulf War. Political
leadership begat economic leadership, and for the entire decade
following the Gulf War, the rest of the world looked to the US economy.
In the meantime, the United States enjoyed its greatest peacetime
economic expansion in history.

Myth Number Nine—The Gulf
War Represents an Almost
Unblemished Record of Success,
Superior Military Performance,
and Accomplishment
If this claim constitutes a myth at all, it is not considered as such
among those who wear military uniforms. Officers who attend intermediate
and senior service schools are bombarded with the glut of critical
evaluations of the Gulf War. These writings provide excellent insight
and unbiased lessons to be learned from the experience. Dr. Hammond
cites three important "blemishes," including intelligence failures
linked to targeting and battle-damage assessment, the pointless "Scud
Hunt," and problems with fratricide.27 But all three of these, as well
as others, are officially addressed in the GWAPS, which provides a
balanced account of the war–– and the Air Force doesn’t appear to be
paying mere lip service to them. The decade since the Gulf War saw a
flood of doctrinal changes and institutional modifications intended to
ensure that such failures are not repeated. One of the most notable of
these has been the creation of a formal joint air operations center
(JAOC)—a focal point designed to assess, plan, and execute the
integrated targeting process in combat. A flexible JAOC, comprised of
strategy, combat plans, combat operations, and mobility teams, may help
address targeting problems in the next war.

Numerous well-written books also detail the lessons of the Gulf War,
warts and all. Those wishing to explore its political-military dimension
should read The Commanders by Bob Woodward and Hollow Victory by Jeffrey
Record. Military aspects are covered in The Generals’ War by Michael
Gordon and Gen Bernard Trainor and Thunder and Lightning: Desert Storm
and the Airpower Debates by Edward Mann. The biographies of Gen Colin
Powell and Gen Norman Schwarzkopf provide additional, if one-sided,
insight into the war. Those seeking an "almanac" version of the war
should consult DOD’s Conduct of the Persian Gulf War, its final report
to Congress. This 800-page volume contains a plethora of tactical
information and an informative section on lessons learned. No war is
perfect, and many people, both inside and outside the process, critiqued
the Gulf War before "Myths" was published. 

Myth Number 10—The Promise
of Airpower Was Finally Fulfilled
The fulfillment of the promise of airpower depends on which airpower
"promise" one has in mind. Dr. Hammond concedes that "airpower came far
closer to achieving its goals and accomplishing our military aims than
ever before," but he rightly points out that airpower alone was unable
to close the deal without surface forces. On the other hand, it is also
worth mentioning that the architect of the Gulf’s air campaign, Col John
Warden, now retired from the Air Force, contends that airpower alone
could have achieved victory after just another week of strategic
attack.28 Current Air Force doctrine seems to have accepted Hammond’s
notion, but Warden’s argument continues to stir up debate, as well as
the parochial insecurities of the sister services. Meanwhile, the
American psyche and the political leadership seem to have reached a
dangerous conclusion about airpower.

Dr. Hammond was prophetic in proposing this myth, but he targeted the
wrong audience. Since the Gulf War, Western politicians— not military
professionals—seem to have over-simplified airpower’s effectiveness,
even implying the existence of a new paradigm. They apparently believe
that airpower is a panacea that can routinely achieve military
objectives through precision engagement, and with only limited
collateral damage or friendly casualties. This unsophisticated view of
airpower was evident in 1999 during Allied Force, when North Atlantic
Treaty Organization (NATO) leadership publicly announced it would
attempt to remove Serbian forces from Kosovo with air strikes
exclusively. Military professionals, including airmen, disagreed with
the strategy of ruling out surface engagements from the outset. Yet, at
first glance the "paradigm" seemed to work. In reality, however, the air
strikes were relatively ineffective, blurring the lines between
political and military objectives and sometimes placing them in direct
conflict with each other.29 Diplomatic breakdowns and the loss of
Rus-sian support may have had more to do with Serbia’s surrender than
the effects of airpower—but that’s another set of myths.

The "myths of the Gulf War" are generally not myths at all but "truths
with asterisks." These asterisks are the genuine lessons that we must
internalize so we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. Overall, the
Gulf War was a successful effort, and the world is a better place
because a militarily intact Iraq does not control Kuwait and its assets.
Unfortunately, Saddam’s regime survived, but it continues to reinforce
the military necessity of a powerful US presence in a region that
includes two-thirds of the world’s known oil reserves. The first test of
coalition warfare in the post–Cold War era was a major victory because
of US diplomacy and military might. Yet, our greatest accomplishment may
have been in showing military restraint when it counted.

If the United States hopes to continue to lead the rest of the world, it
must demonstrate that it can be trusted to accomplish the coordinated
aims of the many, rather than embarking on selfish crusades. The United
States suffered tough consequences in Korea and especially Vietnam when
it tried to run its strategy "on the fly," since the fog of war led to
changing objectives and confused ideas about the desired end state.
Perhaps the most enduring lesson of the Gulf War is that placing
predetermined political objectives before military aims was the right


1. Grant T. Hammond, "Myths of the Gulf War: Some ‘Lessons’ Not to
Learn," Airpower Journal 12, no. 3 (Fall 1998): 6–18.

2. William Mitchell, Winged Defense: The Development and Possibilities
of Modern Airpower—Economic and Military (1925; reprint, New York: Dover
Publications, Inc., 1988), 16.

3. Hammond, 7. 

4. Ibid., 15.

5. Carl von Clausewitz, On War, ed. and trans. Michael Howard and Peter
Paret (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1976), 75.

6. Hammond, 8.

7. Ibid.

8. President George Bush, "The Deployment of US Armed Forces to Saudi
Arabia," address, 8 August 1990, reprinted in Military Review, September
1991, 82. Additionally, for a full listing of United Nations Security
Council resolutions, see DOD’s final report to Congress: Conduct of the
Persian Gulf War, (Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense, 1992),
appendix B.

9. Hammond, 9.

10. Thomas A. Keaney and Eliot A. Cohen, Gulf War Air Power Survey:
Summary Report (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Air Force, 1993),

11. Ambassador Richard Butler, interview with Col Roman Hrycaj, Maxwell
AFB, Ala., 29 November 2000.

12. Hammond, 10.

13. Keaney and Cohen, 223.

14. Hammond, 11.

15. DOD, Conduct of the Persian Gulf War, 703.

16. Brig Gen David Deptula, "Effects Based Operations," address to the
Air War College, Maxwell AFB, Ala., 27 November 2000.

17. Hammond, 11.

18. Harris Poll Library, "Harris Interactive," Harris Poll no. 7, n.p.,
on-line, Internet, 26 January 2000, available from
http://www.harrinteractive.com .

19. Ibid., Harris Poll no. 51, 6 September 2000.

20. Hammond, 11.

21. Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor, The Generals’ War (New
York: Little, Brown & Company, 1995), 25. 

22. Hammond, 11.

23. For a synopsis of the nearly insurmountable logistics problems faced
by US Central Command during Operation Desert Shield, see Gordon and
Trainor, 54–74. 

24. Air Force Doctrine Document (AFDD) 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine,
September 1997, 32.

25. House, Status of Forces: Testimony to House Armed Services
Committee, Statement by the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, Gen Eric K.
Shinseki, 21 October 1999, 106th Cong., 1st sess., 21 October 1999.

26. Hammond, 13.

27. Ibid., 15.

28. John Warden, The Air Campaign (New York: Excel Publishers, 1998),

29. Earl A. Tilford, "Operation Allied Force and the Role of Airpower,"
Parameters, Winter 1999–2000, 28.



Lt Col Martin Wojtysiak (USAFA; MS, Auburn University) is chief of
tanker operations and training, Headquarters Air Mobility Command, Scott
AFB, Illinois. He previously served as KC-10 operations officer and
commander of the 9th Air Refueling Squadron at Travis AFB, California,
and as assistant air attaché, US Embassy, Islamabad, Pakistan. Colonel
Wojtysiak is a graduate of Squadron Officer School, Air Command and
Staff College, and Air War College.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the
author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of
Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S.
Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the
Air University.

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