A Justifiable If Not Just War

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A Justifiable, If Not Just War The American Persian Gulf War Essay, Research Paper A Justifiable, if not Just, War: The American Persian Gulf War The American-led war against Iraq in the Persian Gulf in 1991 was one of the defining moments of the post-Cold War era. Although its six-week duration was relatively short when compared with conflicts such as the Vietnam, Afghan or Korean Wars, the scale of the war and the magnitude of the destruction involved were nonetheless significant. A question that was, and has been, much debated is whether the U.S. Administration, under President George Bush, was justified in going to war against Iraq which was, and remains, under the regime of Saddam Hussein. This essay will argue that, in terms of a just war, the American involvement in

the region was morally ambiguous and probably unjustifiable. However, in terms of American interests – and, indeed, in terms of the economic and political interests of many other parties in the conflict – the American-led war with Iraq was justifiable. This distinction, as will be seen, is important considering the complex network of interests and interested parties that focused on the Persian Gulf in 1990-91. In military terms, the Persian Gulf War represented the culmination of modern military technology and tactics. In the first two weeks of the air campaign against Iraq, the Allied air forces dropped more conventional explosives on Iraq and Kuwait than had been dropped in World War Two, which had lasted 310 weeks. To maintain its 430,000 troops in the war, the United

States military had to move some 6 million pounds of supplies a day (Hiro, 4). It was a war that was to end in an overwhelming victory for the American-led coalition. During the six-week campaign Iraq suffered approximately 82,000 casualties – a number arrived at through a critical analysis of the inflated figures provided to the media by both sides, with over three-quarters being military personnel. In comparison, the allied coalition lost, in the entire seven-month period of crisis and the war itself, only 376 military personnel in combat and accidents (Hiro, 397). In terms of financial cost the amount was staggering. By late March 1991, the cost to the allied armies amounted to some $61 billion; with the Americans paying $17.9 billion (0.34% of the US annual GDP) and the

allies $43.1 billion. The Saudi Arabian government itself paid an estimated $43 billion in subsidies to the allies, as well as in costs for maintaining the armies on its soil (57.3% of its annual GDP). Kuwait’s government-in-exile paid $22 billion to finance the allied armies (over 300% of its annual GDP) at a time when they would suffer staggering financial losses as a result of the 640 oil wells that would be put out of commission when set ablaze by retreating Iraqi troops. The Iraqi economy was, needless to say, completely devastated by the conflict; a cost that would continue past the end of the hostilities as a result of the United Nations’ trade embargo against Iraq (Hiro, 397-398). Clearly, there were enormous costs from the war that were borne by all sides in the

conflict; although more by some parties than others. While President Bush could not have factored all of these costs into his decision-making processes prior to engaging in conflict, they nonetheless allow us to better assess the question of justification from a historical perspective. At this point, it would be useful to review the historical factors contributing to the conflict. The Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait, that began on August 2 1990, was the product of both long-term, as well as immediate, historical factors. The state of Kuwait has its origins in the late nineteenth century when powerful local families asserted their independence from the Ottoman Empire which then controlled, in one form or another, much of the Middle East including what would eventually