Five Military Lesons of the Iraq Crisis

Report Middle East

Five Military Lesons of the Iraq Crisis

October 5, 1990 28 min read Download Report
Jay P.
Contributor, The Foundry
(Archived document, may contain errors)

794 October 5,1990 Fn7E n!llLEmY LESSONS OF THE IRAQ CRISIS INTRODUCTION When Iraqs Saddam Hussein ordered his forces into Kuwait on August 2, he triggered an American response that put to the test years of United States militaq prepara tion for just such an emergency. Although shots have not been fired -yet the dispatch of American troops to the Persian Gulf already has taught the U.S a number of lessons that apply to the defense budget and to the longer-term debate over the missions, o rganization, and arming of Americas armed forces in a post-Cold War world.

So far Operation Desert Shield justifies many of the crucial military decisions made over the past decade or so: bolstering airlift capabilities; expanding realistic training; stati oning floating bases stocked with military equipment around the world; and equipping American forces with modem and technologically sophisti cated equipment.These and other dividends of the U.S. defense investment of the 1980s enable America to confront S addam With overwhelming military force, stop ping further aggression. Only America, the worlds remaining superpower, can carry out such an extensive and sophisticated military operation.

Shortcomings in Preparedness. Operation Desert Shield also reveals so me shortcomings in Americas military preparedness. Despite the purchase of eight fast sealift cargo ships over the past decade, the U.S. came up-short on the ships needed to move such heavy weapons as tanks and artillery quickly to the Middle East. The U. S . finds, meanwhile, that a failure to resolve nagging issues like whether or not to field a new light tank can have serious consequences when war suddenly seems imminent. And the U.S. finds itself less than fully prepared to protect its soldiers, sailors, and airmen against the threat of an Iraqi attack with ballistic missiles and chemical weapons If Saddam fails to. withdraw his army from Kuwait, and George Bush is com pelled to order into battle the military forces now assembled in the Persian Gulf the t est of combat undoubtedly will provide new lessons to be learned. For now some lessons already are evident White House should go easy on defense cuts confidence that is Bushs strongest suit in his confrontation with Saddam.

Precipitous cuts in the defense budget will threaten the military capabilities that have allowed the U.S. to react swiftly and decisively to Saddams aggression against Kuwait Lesson #1: The U.S. defense investment of the 1980s paid o

Congress and the American military power, rebuilt during the 198Os, undergirds the ~tional self Lesson #2: America has a leading military role in a post-Cold War world.

Only the U.S. has the military force and global stature to lead the international coalition now opposing Iraqi aggression. American milita ry power will be essential to maintaining regional and global stability even if the Soviet military threat con tinues to recede.

Lesson #3: Power projection should be Americas top military priority in the 1990s.

Americas heavy investment in power projection -forces that allow the U.S. to respond quickly to military crises around the globe, including aircraft carriers, the Marine Corps, and airlift -proved its value during Operation Desert Shield.

Serious deficiencies in U.S. power projection, however, ha ve become apparent particularly the shortage of fast sealift ships to move such heavy military equip ment as tanks, armored personnel carriers, and artillery quickly into combat. As the U.S. reduces its reliance on forward bases in Europe, the Philippines and else where, the importance of power projection will grow, and with it the importance of sealift, airlift, and such programs as the V-22 Osprq, a new aircraft needed to transport Marines from ship to shore.

Lesson #4: Technology matters, even against Third World foes.

Outnumbered in men and equipment, as they are on the Saudi peninsula American forces still can be confident of victory, largely because of their tech nological edge. This should prompt a recons ideration of several advanced weapons that either the Pentagon or Congress has considered cancelling in light of the decreasing Soviet threat. Some of these include: FOG-M, an anti-tank missile in development; J-STARS, an new airborne radar that sees deep into enemy ter ritory; and ATACMS, a deadly-accurate Army missile with a range of over 100 miles.

Lesson #5: The U.S. must be better prepared to meet a worldwide nuclear biological, chemical, and ballistic missile threat.

U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia find themselves less prepared than they ought to be to meet Iraqs formidable chemical weapon and ballistic missile threat. These Iraqi weapons, as well as Iraqs advanced nuclear weapons program, highlight the need 2 for the U.S..and its allies to: maintain cr e dible retaliatory forces; build defenses against ballistic missiles; stop exports that could be used to create mass destruc tion weapons; and take preemptive militaq action if necessary to eliminate poten tial nuclear, biological, chemical, or ballistic m i ssile threats from such unstable leaders as Saddam or Libyas Muammar Qadhafi LEARNING FROM THE PAST From its military successes, like 1st years Panama operation, and its failures like the death of 240 Marines in Lebanon in 1983, America invariably has lea rned lessons. A key lesson learned tom these past crises is that once a decision is made to challenge an aggressor, halfway measures will not do. If force is to be used or threatened, overwhelming power must be brought to bear swiftly and decisively.

Alrea dy, this lesson has been confirmed in the Persian Gulf. Saddams forces still are in Kuwait, but he has not sent them to Saudi Arabia. Americas first objective stopping Saddam in his tracks, has been achieved through a massive deployment of U.S. military f orces.

Some have immediate implications, such as putting more money in this years defense budget for sealift and airlift. Others have longer-term implications, such as emuring that the U.S. and its allies act more forcefully to stop the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. Among the lessons of Iraq Lesson #1: The U.S. defense investment of the 1980s paid off; Congress and the White House thus should go easy on defense cuts.

Saddam is a tough foe. As of late September, he had 430,000 troops within strik ing distance of Kuwait, alyng with more than 3,500 tanks, 1,800 armored vehicles and 1,450 artillery pieces. Challenging Saddams forces is requiring the most rapid deployment of major military forces in history. The U.S. has been able to ac c omplish this buildup in the Persian Gulf because of its defense investment of the 1980s. Precipitous cuts in the defense budget will jeopardize the gains that made this possible.

In late July, the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf area consisted o f a handful of cruisers, guided missile frigates, and a single destroyer. By the end of August, one month after Saddam sent his armies into Kuwait, the U.S. had amassed tremendous firepower in the region, including: three aircraft carrier bat tle groups a n d the battleship Wisconsh at sea; about five tactical aircraft wings on the Saudi peninsula, including F-15 and F-16 Fighting F&on fighters, A-10 Thunderbolt ground-attack aircraft, and F-117 Stealrh fighter-bombers; nearly a In the course of the American deployment, new lessons are becoming apparent 1 Figures provided by Pentagon spokesman on September 25.The figures represent troop in Kuwait and southern Iraq, and supplement the testimony of Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney to the Senate Armed Service s Committee, September ll, 19

90. Cheney gave the following mes for forces actually in Kuwait: 174,W troops; over lJ00 tanks and l,m other armored vehicles; 778 artillery pieces 3 full Marine Expeditionary Force of 50,OOO troops; most of an Army mechanized division with its complement of 300 tanks and 300 armored fighting vehicles; and elements of two Army infantry divisions, one with tank-killingApache helicopters.

Many of the capabilities that are making this buildup possible were attained during the 198 0s. Combat readiness was improved; Navy aircraft "mission capable" rates were raised by 66 percent. Airlift was beefed-up with the addition of 19 C-5B GaIary and 51 KC-10 &e&r aircraft, which along with others already on older nearly doubled U.S. airlift capacity to about 47 million ton-miles per day. Eight fast sealift ships were purchased from a private shipping company.

Modem M-1 tanks and fighter aircraft such as Air Force F-15 Eizgh and Navy F 18 Home& entirely replaced older generations of equipment throughout the active force. Maritime Prepositioning Forces (MPF or "floating bases" were dispatched to the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, each with 30 days of supplies for a Marine Expeditionary Brigade of 15,OOO troops; these supplied the equipme n t for the first Marines to arrive in the Persian Gulf. Moreover, U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia are ready to fight: every Army division there has been through the Nation al Training Center (NTC) within the past eighteen months.The NTC, established at Fort Ir win California in 1981, provides realistic desert training for U.S. forces against mock divisions armed with Soviet weapons and trained in Soviet tactics just like the Iraqis.

Threat of Budget Cuts. To be sure, some things could have been done better.

The U.S still is critically short of fast sealift -ships to transport troops and equip ment quickly to combat. U.S. forces still lack a light tank that can be moved in large numbers by The military is not as ready as it should be to face chemical weapons. Bu t by and large, the U.S. has provided the training and equipment that its soldiers need to protect their lives and to defeat such foes as the Iraqis.This is more than could have been said a decade ago. The defense spending increases that made this buildup p ossible peaked in the mid-1980s. Since 1986, U.S. defense spending has dropped by 7.6 percent, and further cuts are coming.The Iraqi crisis ly. But such cuts still are on the table. Example: The House of Representatives ver sion of this year's Defense Aut h orization Bill would reduce the size of the Army by 68,500 next year, meaning that nearly one in ten GIs would lose their jobs in a single year. I If these cuts had been made in 1990, the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division, the first Army heavy division to reach the Gulf, would have arrived significantly short on manpower and commensurately low on morale. Despite the crisis in the Per sian Gulf, a declining Soviet military threat will pennit the U.S. over the next five years to reduce the size of its armed f orces perhaps as much as 25 percent and to cut as much as $170 billion or so from the defense budget, excluding the costs of I highlights what the U.S. could lose if these cuts are made precipitously or unwise- I 2 Ton-miles per day is the accepted measur e of airlilt capaaty, arrived at by multiplying the number of tons moved by the number of miles they were transported 4 .the Persian Gulf operation or other unexpected crises. But Operation Desert Shield should serve as a reminder that ill-considered cuts in Pentagon spending will threaten the gains that make possible Bushs decisive military response to Iraqi aggression.

Lesson #2: America has a leading military role in a postlCold War world.

Given the Soviet Unions deteriorating political and economic situation, the U.S. may soon by default find itself the worlds only superpower. Even if the Soviet Union holds together and retains much of its formidable military power, it is not likely to eng a ge in open aggression itself in the next few years, or to con tinue providing as much overt diplomatic and military support as it has in the past to such aggressive client states as Iraq. Less concerned about finding themselves at war with Moscow, America and its allies will have greater freedom of action in confronting aggressors who threaten to upset the global or regional stability sup porting such Western interests as freedom of the seas, access to resources, and the suMval of democracy.

Ultimately, th e Iraqi crisis is not likely to stand as a paradigm for most security threats that America will face in coming years: countering terrorism and narcotics traffic, protecting Americans abroad, or intervention with relatively small and lightly-armed forces a s in Grenada or Panama. The U.S. likely will address these threats unilaterally or in cooperation with a few other states directly involved. But for the rare, major military operation like Operation Desert Shield, Bush has set an important precedent in dem anding that Western allies and regional partners contribute their fair share.

Limits of Cooperation. At Bushs urging, 25 nations now are involved militarily in the effort to reign in Saddam. Bush also is making effective political use of the United Nations , taking the lead in organizing an international embargo against Iraq under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter. Bush also has shown that he understands the limits of effective international cooperation, carefully avoiding so far the creation of a Uni t ed Nations command in the Persian Gulf. A U.N. com mand would tie Americas hands if military action were required, particularly if the command included Soviet forces. Moscow still cannot be counted upon as an ally against Iraq. In fact, at least 1,OOO Sov iet military and intelligence advisors remain in Iraq supporting the Iraqi war effort against the U.S. and its allies, along with another 6,000 Sovjet technical advisors, many of whom are involved in the Iraqi defense industry.

Regional military cooperatio n with the U.S. is particularly impressive. Saudi Arabia is making U.S. forces welcome on its territory, committing its own forces to the front, shutting down Saddams pipeline across the Arabian peninsula, supply ing U.S. forces in the Gulf with all the f u el they need, and increasing oil supplies 3 House Republican Research cOmmittee,Task Force OnTerrorism and Unconventional Warfar h Smer Unions Suppi for the Iroqi Invasion, September 6,1990 5 to make up for the loss of Iraqi and Kuwaiti oil on world marke t s. Other Arab states, including Egypt and Syria, are sending divisions to Saudi Arabia. Israel also is playing a critical role through its implicit commitment to attack Iraqi forces if they cross into Jordan, obviating the need to station U.S. forces on I raqs western front.

Prompt Response. NATO allies Britain and Turkey supported the U.S. effort against Iraq from the start. A week after the Iraqi,invasion,Turkish Prime Minister Turgut Ozal agreed to shut down Iraqi oil pipelines throughTurkey. Britain als o needed no prodding, providing warships and squadrons of Tonzado and Jaguar at tack aircraft within the first weeks of the crisis, to which it added in mid-Septem ber a ground force of 6,000 elite desert-fighting troops and 120 tanks.

In the face of heav y U.S. diplomatic pressure, loud complaints in Congress, and continued Iraqi belligerence, other Western allies gradually are expanding their commitments. France, which sent seven warships including the carrier CZemn cetw early in the crisis, decided on S e ptember 16 to send a 4,OOO-man light ar mored brigade to Saudi Arabia. Perhaps most significantly, West Germany and Japan are breaking with their non-interventionist post-war policies to pledge sig nificant contributions to the American-led effort to oust Saddam. After a Septem ber 16 visit to BOM by Secretary of State James Baker, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl promised $2 billion and the use of German transport planes and ships for U.S. forces.The money will go to the U.S. and to such countries as Eg y pt Jordan, and Turkey that are hard hit economically by the worldwide embargo of Iraq. Japanese Prime MinisterToshiki Kaifu on September 14 added $3 billion to Tokyos initial pledge of $1 billion to support the Gulf effort. Japan also plans to send milita ry support personnel to help U.S. and international forces in Saudi Arabia.

Lesson #3: Power projection will be Americas top military priority in the postlCold War world.

With the U.S. thinning its forces based in Europe, the Pacific Rim, and else where around the globe, America will become ever more reliant on the capability to project military force rapidly into trouble spots to deter wars or to fight them.

The Gulf operation demonstrates the value of such power projection forces as Navy aircraft carrie rs, Marines, rapidly-deployable Army divisions, and Air Force F-11 1 bombers. A Navy aircraft carrier was on the scene in the Persian Gulf, ready to provide air cover for the deployment of ground forces, even as Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney travele d to Saudi Arabia one week after the Iraqi in vasion of Kuwait. By August 8, a day after the U.S. decision to send forces to Saudi Arabia, troops from the 82nd Airborne Division the armys fast response force were on the ground at the Saudi port of Al Jubay l . A brigade of about 15,000 Marines quickly moved into the port, where they matched up with tanks and other equipment unloaded from maritime prepositioning ships sent from the U.S. base on Britains Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. Meanwhile, Air Force bombers and fighters moved into position in Egypt, Turkey, and prepared bases in Saudi Arabia. The operation validated years of planning and preparation by the U.S.

Central Command, which was created in 1983 to defend U.S. Middle East inter 6 ests, and now is led by General Norman SchwarkkopE, the top U.S. commander in the Persian Gulf.

Too often, however, efforts to improve "power proje&on" have focussed on so called "light" forces, like the 82nd Airborne Division, lacking M-l tanks or power ful artiller y. But an army the size of Saddam's cannot be countered by light forces alone. During the first weeks of the U.S. deployment, light U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia were highly vulnerable. While superior U.S. air power would have helped blunt an Iraqi advance d uring this time, Air Force and Navy fighters would first have had to gain control of the air, and even then might not have been able to stop Iraqi armor on the ground.To ensure the defeat of Iraq's ground forces, the U.S needs its own "heavy" forces -"ann o red" and "mechanized" divisions contain ing M-1 Abmms main battle tanks, Bmdley infantry fightinglehicles, Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS and other heavy artillery. But the first Army heavy forces elements of the 24th Mechanized Division did not arr ive until August 25, or 24 days after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and still were not fully deployed by mid-September.

Sealift Crisis. It makes little sense to move heavy divisions by air; even the huge C-5 Galary airlifter can carry only two M-1 These di visions must be moved by sea. The 24th Mechanized Division was sent to Saudi Arabia aboard eight "fast sealift" ships known as SG7s, one of which broke down and had to be towed across the Atlantic. Few other heavy forces yet have made it to Iraq, largely because of a lack of sealift.This inability to move heavy forces quickly is the most serious deficiency in U.S. force posture exposed by the Iraqi crisis.

The Navy's eight fast sealift ships were purchased in 1981 and 1982 from a com mercial shipping company.These ships can travel at 33 knots, compared to 20 knots for most modem cargo ships, and as little as 10 to 15 knots for older ships.

The result: the f ast sealift ships can steam to the Middle East from the U.S. in about eleven days. Seventeen other modem cargo ships capable of about 20 knots were supposed to have been available from what is known as the Ready Reserve Fleet (RRF only three were readied o n time. As a result, tanks and other equip ment of the 1st Armored Cavahy Division have been waiting in Houston, Texas since the end of August without transport. Because of a lack of sealift, the 1st Ar mored Cavalry's equipment will have to wait for SG7s returning from their first trip to the Persian Gulf before moving out.

Bargain Ships. The U.S. needs more fast sealift, perhaps up to three times the curtent eight ships. Congress authorized $600 million last year for fast sealift, but Bush shifted $217 m illion of this into other accounts used to pay military person nel costs. This money should be reinstated in the fiscal 1991 budget, as well as money for further procurement. Fast sealift is a bargain. A fast sealift ship costs be tween $100 million and $ 2 00 million depending on design? Its cost is comparable 4 A typical "rnechanbd division contains 290 tanks, an "armored" division contains 348 tanks 5 See "Saudi Deployment H-ts Fast Sea-lift Funding Debate Dqfmse Duify, August 10,1990, p. 232 7 1 to the $ 174 million cost of a single C-17 cargo plane, now in development.The fast sealift ship carries 20,000 tons of cargo to the C-17s 86 tons.

As a short-term measure, the U.S. should purchase available modem sealift ships (fast sealift ships have to be commissioned since none are available on the open market) for the Ready Reserve Fleet (RRF Also, the fiscal 19

91. Pentagon budget should include at a minimum the $225 million requested by the White House for the RRF, to modernize the fleet and boost readiness. In 1990, Congress neglected the RFW, cutting its budget to $89 billion from the $239 billion re quested by the President.

The Pentagon also should look into shifting responsibility for the RRF from the Maritime Administration to the Navy, which may bette r ensure that modem cargo ships are kept ready to go in the event of a crisis. Over the longer-term, the U.S should join research forces with Japan, which has done extensive development work on ultra fast sealift, ships that would travel at speeds in exce ss of 35 knots enabling them to outrun most attack submarines.

Importance of Airlift. The Iraqi crisis demonstrates U.S. forces heavy reliance on airlift. U.S. C-5 Gaky and C-141 Starl

er, operating at surge levels that saw a cargo plane landing in Saudi Arabia every ten minutes, brought 75,080 troops and 65,000 tons of equipment to Saudi Arabia in just over one month. The U.S also relied, as planned, on chartered commercial airliners to ferry troops to the Middle East. This included 38 of the Boeing 747s and other wide-body civilian aircraft of the Civilian Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) that have been modified to meet military requirements vice life. No plans exist to extend the life of the C-141 through what is known as a Service Life Extension Program (SLEP or to re-open production lines for the C 5 Gdiq. In the absence of these plans, the only option for preserving or expand ing U.S. airlift is to procure the C-17, which should have its first flight next year.

The Pentagons Major Aircraft Review in April cut the size of the planned C-17 fleet from 210 to 120, bringing its cost down from $41.8 billion to about $30 billion.

The size of the fleet may have to be revised upward again, however, as a result of what has been learned through Operation Desert Shield.

Expanding Marine Capabilities. Over the past decade, the U.S. has invested heavily in Marine power projection capabilities, buying new cargo and troop transport ships, maritime prepositioning ships, and new landing craft that travel at high speeds on a cu shion of air. The importance of the Marines is demonstrated today in the Persian Gulf- Marines were the first troops to arrive with heavy tanks (albeit older M-60~ rather than M-1s) to match Saddams.The only major Marine modernization program that has not been carried out is procurement of The problem is that the (2-141s are beginning to reach the end of their useful ser 6 See testimony of General Colin L. Powel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Senate Armed Services Committee, September 11,1990 8 th e V-22 Osprey.The Osprey, a small transport plane that takes off like a helicopter and tilts its rotors forward to fly like an airplane, would extend the speed, range and safety with which Marines could move troops and equipment from ship to shore and withi n a combat theater.The Pentagon tried to kill the program in 1990 and 1991, but both houses of Congress have kept Osprey research and develop ment funding alive. In addition to funding the Ospmy, the U.S. should deploy another Maritime Repositioning Squadr o n, the floating bases that proved so successful in getting equipment quickly to the Marines heading for the Persian Gulf.These bases should be stocked with modem M-1A1 tanks rather than older Deploying a Light Tank Critical power projection needs like sea l ift often are not met because they do not have a strong constituency within the military ser vices; the Navy brass simply doesnt like to spend its money on cargo ships that will carry Army equipment and be piloted by Merchant Marine captains. A light tank for the Army is another power projection requirement that has suffered from lack of support within the military services.

In its last two operations, in Panama and now in Saudi Arabia, the Army deployed the 82nd Airborne Division armed with its 77 Sherida n light tanks, the only light tanks in service with the Army.The Sheridan, which was built in the 1960s, is smaller and about one-third the weight of the 65-ton M-

1. It is not as sur vivable as a heavy tank because it is lightly armored. But unlike heavy tanks, it can be transported in large numbers by air, eight or so might be carried in the hold of a C-5 Galuy, compared to two M-1s. Despite its age, the Sheridan proved its worth against the lightly armed Panamanians. It is not the ideal weapon for chal lenging IraqsT-72 heavy tanks, but until heavy M-1s arrived by sea two weeks after the decision to move U.S. forces into Saudi Arabia, the light Sheridans were the only Army tanks on the ground.

The Army rejected the deployment of a new light tank in the 198Os, perhaps be cause it feared jeopardizing funding for the M-l, or for its ongoing research pro gram to design a new light tank that will be nearly as survivable as a heavy tank.

Despite the Armys best efforts, however, the technology to build a survivable light tank remains years away. As an interim measure, the Army should modernize and overhaul some of the 1,OOO Sheridans now in storage to boost the firepower of its light divisions, or pur chase a version of the Rapid Deployment tank developed but never purchased during the 1980s.

Lesson #4: Technology matters, even against Third World foes.

As the Iraqi crisis has shown, U.S. forces may face the prospect of fighting out numbered, particula rly during the early stages of a conflict. Advanced technology is a force-multiplier that helps better the odds for U.S. forces by allowing them to shoot at greater distances, fire with more accuracy, and gather more intelligence information than an adver s ary. This technology includes missiles that allow a gun ner to fie at a tank or plane and immediately seek cover; munitions that use sen sors to seek out targets actively and strike with precision; and airborne radars capable of looking deep behind enemy lines to track moving targets.The bottom M-60s 9 line: advanced technology in the hands of U.S. forces helps protect the lives of American GIs.

Some of these new technologies are available today; others still are in develop ment. The decreasing risk of war with the Soviet Union will allow the U.S. to slow the development of some advanced weapons needed specifically to counter Soviet weapons. Example: the Air Forces Advanced Tactical Fighter. But the Iraqi crisis demonstrates the advantages of technological superiority even against Third World foes. One of the first steps the U.S. took after Saddam invaded Kuwait was to increase its production of advanced PcrtriOt missiles, the only weapon with even a limited capability to shoot down Iraqi Scud ballistic mis s iles, and the Army Tacti cal Missile System (ATACMS able to strike such targets as command posts with precision up to 100 miles behind Iraqi lines. The Iraqi crisis illustrates the need for a number of weapons that the Pentagon, or Congress, has considere d cancelling in light of the decreasing Soviet threat.These include: FOG-M, a long-range anti tank missile guided by a fiber optic cable, now in development, that would be the ideal weapon against Iraqi armor; J-STARS, an airborne radar system used to trac k ground targets over great distances -it would have been so valuable for tracking Iraqi tanks in Kuwait that the Army and Air Force considered sending one to Saudi Arabia last month even though the system has just begun testing; and ATACMS, the Armys new long-range missile which the House of Repre sentatives recommends cancelling.

Another system that would have proved extremely valuable had it been avail able to U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia is the Israeli Harpy drone, designed to home in on the signals emit ted by radar to destroy anti-aircraft missile sites and command posts. The U.S. did not purchase Hiupy, which is deployed with Israeli forces, be cause it preferred to continue research on its own system, known as ground launched Twit Rainbow. Ground-laun c hed Twit Rainbow still is in development and its projected cost is about four times that of Hm, if it ever is developed and deployed. The U.S. has no system equivalent to Harpy for suppressing Iraqs modem, mobile Surface-to-Air missile network, including SA-6 and SA-8 missiles.

Lesson #5: The U.S. must be better prepared to meet a worldwide nuclear, biological, and chemical weapon threat.

In Iraq, the U.S. finds itself on the brink of war with an adversary possessing chemical and perhaps biological weapon s, ballistic missiles, and an extensive nuclear weapons research program. Washington must assume that American troops may face weapons of mass destruction, once associated only with super powers or other advanced industrialized nations, anywhere in the wo rld.

The Iraqi nuclear, biological and chemical threat already is out of hand. Iraq produces three kinds of chemical weapons, including mustard gas; which causes severe skin irritation and lung damage, and sarin and tabun, two forms of nerve agents which c ause convulsions leading to heart failure or asphyxiation. It developed these capabilities with the help of West European firms as well as the Soviet Union. It has artillery systems, aircraft, and ballistic missiles which might be used to deliver these we apons against U.S. troops, bases, and ships in the Middle 10 East, yd could be used in coming years to deliver them against American ter ritory.

Scramble to Update. America has come up short in its preparations to fight on chemically-contamhated battlefiel d. The U.S. is scrambling to update its out moded chemical detection capabilities, borrowing 60 German Far chemical-recon naissance vehicles.These use an instrument known as a mass spectrometer to detect chemicals while operators remain inside the vehicle . The U.S. has nothing comparable. Only some of the U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia are equipped with the latest in chemical alarm units, a British-made hand-held device; the rest will have to rely on chemically-sensitive paper tied to a stick and dragged on th e ground.

Before the next crisis, modem European equipment should be purchased for all U.S. forces.

U.S. chemical protective clothing provides basic protection if wom properly, but can be oversaturated by a nearby attack. It was designed, moreover, for us e in Europe and meant to provide some extra warmth in a cool climate -just the op posite of what is needed in the Saudi desert. Marines in the Persian Gulf are being issued new British-made suits and gas masks, which are considered more effective than U.S . equipment. Increased research and development into light-weight chemical protection suits, designed specifically for desert warfare, is a U.S priority The U.S. also must ensure that it maintains its ability to retaliate in kind against a chemical attack. T his capability, essential to deterring attacks in the first place may be in jeopardy in coming years. The U.S. began in 1987 to produce a new generation of binary chemical weapons; these contain two inert chemicals that become lethal only when mixed after firing. They thus are safer to store and hand le than older unitaryw weapons containing deadly chemicals. Some binary artil lery shells have been produced, but binary chemical warheads for the armys multi ple launch rocket system, and binary chemical bomb known as bigeye have not yet entered production.

Destroying Chemical Weapons. By the terms of this years June 1 Bush-Gor bachev summit agreement, the U.S. and Soviet Union will cease producing chemi cal weapons as soon as the agreement enters into force, which could be later this year. Since the U.S. temporarily stopped production last spring due to a shortage of chemicals, no more U.S. chemical weapons will be produced if the agreement goes into effect. At the same time, the 1986 National Defense Authori zation Act requires the Pentagon to destroy all of its older unitary chemical weapons by April 30,19

97. If this schedule is carried out, the U.S. will be left with only the binary ar 7 See Baker Spring, Americas Options If Iraq Uses Chemical Weapons, Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No 785, August 24,1990 11 tillery shells produced so far as its entire chemical stockpile. While the precise size of this residual stockpile is a secret, its total capability will be measured in hundreds of tons, perhaps less than Iraq's yearly estimated output of 700 tons.

Bush would be wise to forego a chemical weapons prod uction ban until the US has produced a sufficiently diverse chemical stockpile, and until such countries as Iraq and Libya, not 'ust the Soviet Union, are placed under verifiable chemical 43 weapon constraints.

Limited Effixtiveness. Iraqi ballistic missi les create another, related, headache for U.S. forces in the Middle East. Iraq possesses Soviet-built Scud B missiles some of which it has modified to extend their range from 185 miles to as much as 550 miles. It is not known whether Iraq yet has produced chemical warheads for these missiles. The U.S. has available a limited number of Patriat surface-to-air missiles which have been modified to shoot down missiles as well as aircraft, but their effectiveness is limited against chemical attack Patriot may no t do enough damage to chemical warheads, or destroy them at a high enough altitude to prevent deadly chemicals from reaching the ground.

A top U.S. priority should be theAmw project, a joint U.S-Israeli program to develop a defense against ballistic missil es. Because of its unique warhead and the high altitude at which it destroys incoming missiles, Amw will protect a wider area than P&t and will be able to protect against chemically-armed ballistic missiles.

The U.S. should sign a new Memorandum of Unders tanding with Israel which would speed Amw development. Research also should begin into a mobile Amw which could be used to protect U.S. troops in the field as well as fixed targets, such as airbases or cities.

But evenAmw is effective only against missile s with ranges of up to about 650 miles or so. The U.S. also needs protection for its own territory against intercon tinental-range missiles, which in coming years could be developed by Iraq or some of the fifteen to twentyThird World countries with ballis tic missile programs.

Noting that Iraq tested a space-launch rocket in 1989, the Pentagon's Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) Director Henry Cooper told The Heritage Foundation on August 29 that "once an ability to place satellites in orbit is achieved by any nation, it is not an extraordinary technical challenge to deliver weapons of mass destruction to essentially any place on earth."

Need for Strategic Defenses. While it would be unconscionable for a U.S. Presi dent to permit Iraq or other hostile states to gain the ability to strike America with nuclear weapons, the U.S. must be prepared to defend itself against the possibility.

The most effective defense against intercontinental nuclear missiles is a layered strategic defense system. A system along the lines now being planned by SDIO 8 See U.S. Congress, Senate, National Defense Authorization Act for Fd Year 1991 pp. 81-86, and US.

Congress, House, National Defense Authorbation Act for Fd Year 1991, for discussions of chemical weapons p roduction and arms control 12 would provide complete protection against any feasibleThird World missile force for decades to come cal (NBC) weapons should be coupled with effective efforts to stop the spread of NBC technology. Iraqi nuclear and chemical w e apons programs have been sup ported panies. Creation of a serioys NBC control regime that imposes tight restrictions on the export of this technology should be the first order of business for Western allies and the Soviet Union. In cases where the control regime fails, the U.S should be prepared to use covert military action to prevent the proliferation of mass destruction weapons. Action should include preemptive strikes on NBC facilities abroad when necessary to protect vital U.S. interests I Worts to de f end U.S. forces and territory against nuclear, biological, and chemi- I I technical assistance from Western, particularly West German, com I I CONCLUSION The dispatch of American troops to Saudi Arabia has deterred further Iraqi ag gression. Whether these forces will have to go to war to push Saddam Hussein's ar mies out of Kuwait is still unclear. If so, new lessons undoubtedly will become ap parent through the test of combat. Already, however, Operation Desert Shield reveals much about what the U.S. has done well, and what it has neglected, in ar ming and organizing its armed forces over the past decade.

On the plus side, in mere weeks following Saddam's aggression, America rushed enough forces to the Persian Gulf to stop an Iraqi invasion of Saudi Arabia . This would not have been possible without the U.S. defense investment of the 198Os, in cluding the purchase of airlift, sealift maritime prepositioning "floating bases stepped up training and readiness programs, and modernized military equipment for all three services. If the U.S. cuts its defense budget precipitously in coming years, it is likely to lose the military capabilities that allow Bush to challenge Sad dam decisively. One clear lesson of Iraq: military power matters, even in a post Cold War wo rld. No country but America can provide the international military and political leadership needed to stop Saddam, or future Saddams.

On the minus side, the U.S. finds itself short on sealift, particularly "fast" sealift ships needed to transport heavy U.S . forces tanks, artillery, and armored fighting vehicles -quickly to the Middle East. Six weeks after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait the U.S. still had only one heavy division on the ground in Saudi Arabia, while another waited on the docks inTexas for sea t ransport. Sealift and airlift capabilities should be improved in coming years through the acquisition of two to three times the current inventory of fast sealift ships and purchase of the C-17 air lifter since no plans exist to upgrade or'expand the prese n t fleet of military air cargo planes.The U.S. also has found that the Army's failure to procure a light 9 See, for example, Gary Thatcher and Timothy Aeppel 7'heTrail to Samarra The QlrisriM Science Monitor December 3,1988, for background on Western invol vement in the Iraqi chehcal weapons program 13 .tank, transportable in large numbers by air, added to U.S. VulneGbility during the early days of the crisis when heavy tanks, which must travel by sea, were not yet available.

American forces arriving in the Persian Gulf remain outnumbered in troops and equipment.Their combat edge, in addition to superior trainin& is provided by weapons that are more capable than those of their adversaries. George Bush and the Congress will have to reconsider proposals to can cel or discontinue such ad vanced weapons as: FOG-M, a long-range anti-tank weapon, and J-STARS, an air borne radar capable of tracking tanks and other vehicles behind enemy lines.

The U.S. also has found that there is a price to be paid for years of ignoring Iraqs expanding nuclear, biological, chemical (NBC) and ballistic missile capabilities. U.S. forces have had to scramble to prepare themselves for possible chemical attack by o b taining an emergency loan of Fax chemical reconnaissance vehicles from West Germany and advanced chemical protective clothing from Britain. Meanwhile, the U.S. stopped production of its own chemical weapons this year and will destroy most of its chemical arsenal by 1997.

Salutary Effects of Crises. The Iraqi experience reinforces the importance of new efforts to: maintain credible retaliatory forces against weapons of mass destruction; build defenses against ballistic missiles; stop exports of technology u sed in NBC weapons; and take preemptive military action if necessary to eliminate nuclear, biological, chemical or ballistic missile threats from such un stable leaders as Saddam or Libyas Qadhafi.

Crises can have a salutary effect if lessons are learned and incorporated into policy; after the U.S. fiigate Roberts hit a mine in the Persian Gulf during reflag ging operations in 1988, the U.S. decided to add ten minesweepers to its inventory by 1994, and another ten by 19

98. If America learns the lessons o f Iraq, deficien cies in Americas defense posture can be corrected, even in an era of declining defense budgets. If not, America will find itself increasingly unprepared to meet the inevitable crises to come Another lesson learned from the Iraqi crisis is that technology matters.

Jay P. Kosminsky Deputy Director of Defense Policy Studies 14


Jay P.

Contributor, The Foundry