Deterrence and Compellence in the Gulf 1990-91 (Janice Gross Stein Article)
Iraq invaded Kuwait in August of 1990.
The US was half hearted in its attempts to deter
Iraq from using force against Kuwait and to reassure Iraq of it’s benign intentions.
asks whether the US would have been successful in deterring Iraq before invading
Kuwait, had the United States been more serious about the issue
Moreover, after the
occupation of Kuwait, the US assembled a large international coalition that signified the
use of war if Iraq did not comply and leave Kuwait voluntarily, yet the deadline for Iraqi
withdrawal passed, and the coalition with the US started a large military campaign
Here Stein asks why compellence failed.
She gives three reasons for this:
The US failed to implement an effective strategy of deterrence before the invasion
Had Saddam Hussein correctly calculated the power balance, the war would have
been avoided, that is, he miscalculated the resolve and the capabilities of the US.
Saddam just could not be deterred because he felt that the US was determined to
undermine his regime, and since he had that staunch image in his mind, neither
compellence, deterrence, or reassurance would have worked on him.
Failure to Deter
under this subtopic, Stein gives the background to the Iraq/Kuwait war.
Iraq was repeatedly threatening the Gulf states, who Saddam thought were sabotaging
Iraq by keeping oil prices too low.
Therefore, at a meeting in Jidda, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi
Arabia, UAE, and Qatar agreed to limit oil production to being oil prices up.
however, wanted to reverse it’s commitment to this agreement in the fall.
billions of dollars from Kuwait as a form of compensation because of Kuwait’s over
production of oil, Kuwait’s retrieval of oil from the disputed Rumaila oil field, etc.
the conflict deepened, Washington’s signals were ambiguous to Iraq:
Glaspie, the US ambassador to Iraq states she was very clear about the United States’
stand on the issue, stating she delivered “strong warnings to Saddam … against the use of
threats.” The foreign minister of Iraq thought “she spoke in vague diplomatic language …
and we were not influenced by it.”
Moreover, two days before the Iraqi invasion, the US
had received news of increased military activity but still made no attempt at deterrence.
Therefore, Stein argues that the diplomacy of deterrence failed because it was incoherent,
Even if Saddam was deterrable, he would still have gone to war given
Washington’s vague signals.
Again, she asks, if deterrence was properly executed, was
the war preventable?
She states the answer lies in the assessment of Saddam’s motives