August 23, 1990

August 23, 1990 | Executive Memorandum on National Security and Defense

How to Defeat Iraq

(Archived document, may contain errors)

8/23/90 279 HOW TO DEFEAT IRAQ America may be getting ready to go to war in the Middle East. In the f astest military buildup in history, the United States is moving into position near Iraq: an entire Marine Expeditionary Force of 50,000; parts of at least two tank-laden Army mechanized divisions; four aircraft carriers; and Air Force fighters, bom- bers, and ground-attack aircraft from the venerable B-52 bomber to the ultra modem radar-evading F-117A stealth fighter. This military buildup should bring to mind the lessons of history. The Vietnam War taught the U.S. that slow-motion military escalation does not impress a determined opponent, and that putting unnecessary political constraints on the military will lead to defeat. Vietnam also taughtthat using military force for murky political objectives and without any clearcut idea of victory undermines publ i c support and saps the morale of U.S. fighting forces. Unlike Vietnam, military force was used swiftly and decisively in Grenada, Libya, and Panama and was successful each time. Iraq is a tougher foe, but the principle still stands. George Bush and Joint C hiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell appear to have learned well the lessons of recent history, particularly the Vietnam War. If there is to be war with Iraq, America's rapid military buildup provides the force to strike fast, fight hard, and win. Bush sa i d plainly on August 8 that U.S. objectives are to protect Saudi Arabia and to force the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait. If it comes to war, two other objectives should be added: Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's fall and replacement with a more mode r ate leadership, and the destruction of Iraq's ability to wage modem warfare. These objectives are necessary not only to protect American security interests, but to fulfill the United Nations mandate " bring the invasion and occupation of Kuwait to an end and to restore sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity to Kuwait." If war comes, Kuwait will never be safe unless the rule and power of Saddam Hussein is destroyed. Anything short of this could lead to a protracted struggle with unclear ob j ectives and uncertain public and congressional support. Issuing An Ultimatum. Several events could require a U.S. military response: if American hostages are harmed; if Iraq attempts to undermine or invade Saudi Arabia or Jordan; or if Iraq fires on any U . S. for- ces. But Saddam is calculating. He may not provide the U.S. with a clearcut reason for military action. He may prefer instead to play the waiting game in hopes that he will be able to rally Arab support, particular- ly among the Palestinian Arabs i n Jordan, and break the solid front of international support for sanctions against him. If Bush sees that the blockade is not working and Saddam is succeeding, and that time is start- ing to work against the U.S., he would be justified in issuing an ultim a tum to Saddam to release American hostages and withdraw from Kuwait, or face war. Under any of these circumstances, Bush's military action should be decisive. He should ask Congress for a declaration of war against Iraq. This will galvanize public opinion and -free Bush's hand to fight on whatever terms he sees fit. He should use as much force as necessary to bring the crisis to a quick and suc- cessful conclusion with minimal loss of American lives. Ile U.S. cannot afford militarily or politically to beco me bogged down in a protracted land war on the Arabian peninsula.

War IL The U.S. cannot afford militarily or politically to become bogged down in a protracted land war on the Arabian peninsula. Fighting to win. America's major advaitages in a war agains t Iraq are its air power and ability to strike deep inside Iraqi territory, including Baghdad. American, Israeli, and other intelligence sources have iden- tified most of these. If given the leeway, U.S. military commanders are likely to use air power bas e d on aircraft carriers and on the ground in Saudi Arabia and surrounding countries to achieve the following: Objective #1: Destroy the Iraqi Air Force on the ground and in the air. Also targeted for destruction should be Iraqi short-range ballistic Scud B missiles, which may be armed with chemical warheads, - ground-based anti-ship Silkwonn missiles, and the tiny Iraqi navy; these strikes would give the U.S. con- trol of the air and the sea. Objective #2: Annihilate key strategic targets in Iraq including c hemical weapon production plants, nuclear research facilities, and ballistic missile research facilities; this would destroy Iraq's capability to threaten its neighbors - and eventually the U.S. -with weapons of mass destruction. Objective #3: Target the I raqi civilian and military leadership, including Saddam. himself, until a leader comes to the fore who is willing to negotiate peace on U.S. terms. Objective #4: Strike key psychological targets, such as electrical generation plants serving Baghdad, to br i ng home to the Iraqi people the futility of Saddam's policies; avoid strikes against civilian targets, to press home that America's quarrel is with Saddam. and the Iraqi government, not the Iraqi people.71be air campaign against Iraq should not subside un t il Iraq has given in to U.S. demands. This may be enough to bring the Iraqi government to its knees, but if not, the U.S. then can focus the of- fensive on the Iraqi army. With Iraqi planes grounded, the Iraqi army is open to air attack by U.S. A- 10 Thun d erbolt ground-attack and other jets. Round-the-clock air attacks can cut off most fuel, food, and water to the Iraqi army in Kuwait, immobilizing Iraqi forces. If the Iraqis go on the offensive into Saudi Arabia, they will become even more vulnerable to a i r strikes as they leave defensive positions and spread out across the open desert. Counter-attacks by highly mobile Marine and Army forces at the flanks and rear of the Iraqi army in Kuwait, combined with actions to slow any Iraqi advances into Saudi Arab i a, should halt offensive Iraqi operations, and send the Iraqi army retreating to within its own borders. Stopping A Menace. America inevitably will pay a heavy price for war against Iraq. Even if the Pentagon is given free reign to fight as it sees fit, h u ndreds or even more than one thousand GIs still may lose their lives. As tragic, so will a number of U.S. hostages held by Iraq. Some countries may turn against the U.S. But these costs must be measured against the price of appeasement. Saddam. is a menac e . If he succeeds in his aggression, he will have demonstrated that America cannot protect its own interests and those of the West in the Middle East. He will emerge encouraged in his aggressive course, and stronger politically and militarily. He will cont i nue his programs to develop nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, and the next time he strikes he could have missiles capable of attacking American cities with these weapons. He will continue his expansionist ways, controlling Kuwait, probably someda y Jordan as well, and he would exercise tremendous influence over Saudi Arabia. He will control much of the world's oil. And he surely will have split the Arab alliance against him, creating greater hostility in the Middle East against the U.S. and Israel, and making an Arab4sraeli War more likely. If he is not stopped, the price to America and its friends and allies will be tremendously greater'than the cost of war against Iraq today. So far, Bush has handled the crisis flawlessly. His decisive action has given him widespread public sup- port. If he proves as decisive in war, America can win quickly and bring its troops home in victory.

Kim R. Holmes Director of Foreign Policy and Defense Studies Jay P. Kosminsky Deputy Director of Defense Policy Studies


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