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James Schumaker~ N o v e m b e r 8, 1991

THE

OPERATION DESERT T H E O R I E S OF B.H.

STORM AND LIDDELL HART

Operation hours, but the as

Desert

Storm

lasted

little

more

than

a thousand be who

lessons long

it h o l d s

for s t r a t e g i s t s

will

remembered chronicle States. historians approach, Basil

as t h e r e

are m i l i t a r y forces

historians of

the g l o r i e s Operation

of the a r m e d Storm

the U n i t e d by m a n y

Desert

will

be r e m e m b e r e d

as a c l a s s i c and

example

of the use of the of the

indirect of Sir

as a f u r t h e r Hart.

validation

theories

Liddell

Liddell German battles World

Hart,

who

saw a generation a bloody

of B r i t i s h , end at

French the Front in who

and

soldiers of the I,

meet Somme

and p o i n t l e s s

and e l s e w h e r e

on the W e s t e r n as the

War

is g e n e r a l l y

remembered

strategist in W o r l d that for

inspired General Hart's

the g r e a t George

generals

of t a n k w a r f a r e said him

War

II.

S. Patton, strategy

for example, had nourished

Liddell years.

books

on

twenty

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Operation Desert Storm and The Theories of B.H. Liddell Hart

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Prescribed by ANSI Std Z39-18

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Generals

Guderian

and R o m m e l

called

themselves Hart's

his pupils.

Consciously teachings Storm, and

or u n c o n s c i o u s l y , reflected

Liddell well

strategic Desert in

were

equally

in O p e r a t i o n

in the d e c i s i o n s in the Pentagon,

made by A m e r i c a n and in the W h i t e

commanders House.

the field,

The core of L i d d e l l ten maxims:

Hart's

strategic

theory boils

down

to

.

The true aim of s t r a t e g y is to seek a s i t u a t i o n so a d v a n t a g e o u s that if it does not of itself p r o d u c e a decision, its c o n t i n u a t i o n by b a t t l e is sure to a c h i e v e this. The aim of s t r a t e g y is first to c r e a t e p h y s i c a l and p s y c h o l o g i c a l d i s l o c a t i o n s in the enemy, and then to e x p l o i t those d i s l o c a t i o n s to his m a x i m u m d i s c o m f o r t . Any s t r a t e g y s h o u l d have to a t t a i n that end. The o b j e c t The b e s t The best The best The best of s t r a t e g y a clear end, and a d e q u a t e means

.

.

4. 5. 6. 7. 8. .

s h o u l d be kept c o n s t a n t l y the line of least the line of least offers alternate

in mind.

strategy strategy

chooses exploits

expectation. resistance. objectives.

line of o p e r a t i o n strategy

is a d a p t a b l e

to c i r c u m s t a n c e s . your

Do not throw your w e i g h t o p p o n e n t is on guard.

into a stroke w h i l e

10. Do not r e n e w an a t t a c k once failed.

along

the same

line

after

it has

-3-

This p a p e r w i l l analyze the c o n d u c t of O p e r a t i o n D e s e r t Storm in terms of e a c h of these maxims, closely actual operations paralleled Hart. and assess h o w

the t h e o r i e s of L i d d e l l s t r a t e g y at the as L i d d e l l H a r t

E m p h a s i s w i l l be p l a c e d on m i l i t a r y level (or the s t r a t e g i c level,

operational

calls it), but some m e n t i o n will also be m a d e of the political, e c o n o m i c and d i p l o m a t i c d e c i s i o n s that d i c t a t e d

the terms of battle, Strategy."

w h i c h L i d d e l l Hart assigns to "Grand

M a x i m 1: The true aim of s t r a t e g y is to seek a s i t u a t i o n so a d v a n t a g e o u s that if it does not of itself p r o d u c e a decision, its c o n t i n u a t i o n by b a t t l e is sure to a c h i e v e this.

F r o m the day S a d d a m H u s s e i n ' s army m a r c h e d City,

into K u w a i t

the G r a n d S t r a t e g i c a p p r o a c h taken by the B u s h to seek all p o s s i b l e l e v e r a g e from Kuwait, but in so to

a d m i n i s t r a t i o n was clear:

o b t a i n Iraq's p e a c e f u l w i t h d r a w a l doing,

to ensure that if war was necessary,

Iraq w o u l d be the

alone and b e r e f t of m e a n i n g f u l defenses.

Diplomatically,

B u s h a d m i n i s t r a t i o n put t o g e t h e r a c o a l i t i o n of 36 states that u l t i m a t e l y f i e l d e d a force of 750,000 men and w o m e n in (KTO). At the

and a r o u n d the K u w a i t T h e a t e r of O p e r a t i o n s U.N., opinion solidified

in favor of the e x p u l s i o n of Iraq

from Kuwait,

and several p u n i t i v e s a n c t i o n s w e r e approved. S a d d a m was d o w n to four w i t h m o s t of the rest

By the time D e s e r t S t o r m k i c k e d off, allies: Yemen, Cuba, Sudan,

and Libya,

-4-

of the

world,

i n c l u d i n g the Soviet U n i o n and China, Domestically,

arrayed

a g a i n s t him.

P r e s i d e n t B u s h m o b i l i z e d U.S. to o p p o s e

public o p i n i o n and the C o n g r e s s b e h i n d e f f o r t s Saddam's aggression. U.S. and a l l i e d n a v i e s Iraq, Economically,

the P r e s i d e n t u s e d the

to e n f o r c e strict U . N . - m a n d a t e d and later u s e d a l l i e d air forces to

sanctions against

shut d o w n Iraq's means of r e s u p p l y by air.

M a x i m 2: The aim of s t r a t e g y is first to create p h y s i c a l and p s y c h o l o g i c a l d i s l o c a t i o n s in the enemy, and then to e x p l o i t those d i s l o c a t i o n s to his m a x i m u m d i s c o m f o r t .

O n c e D e s e r t S t o r m b e g a n at 0230 on J a n u a r y forces u s e d a n u m b e r of s t r a t a g e m s severe d i s l o c a t i o n of Iraqi forces.

17, c o a l i t i o n in the

that r e s u l t e d

By the time g r o u n d Iraqi units in the

o p e r a t i o n s b e g a n at 0400 on F e b r u a r y 24, KT0 w e r e a l r e a d y paralyzed, ineffective. supremacy.

d e m o r a l i z e d and l a r g e l y e s t a b l i s h e d air

M a s s i v e air o p e r a t i o n s This,

c o u p l e d w i t h h e a v y b o m b i n g of c o m m a n d and

control f a c i l i t i e s and i n t e r d i c t i o n of m a j o r supply r o u t e s d e p r i v e d the Iraqis of the a b i l i t y to d e t e c t c o a l i t i o n military movements was n e u t r a l i z e d , and to react to them. The Iraqi air force

the navy sunk,

and the f r o n t l i n e units of All the o b j e c t i v e s for

the army forced into immobility.

-5achieving (upsetting each other, retreat) physical dislocation of the enemy's separating forces forces routes from of

Iraqi dispositions, endangering

Iraqi

supply lines,

menacing

were a c h i e v e d by airpower alone though the effects

in the first days of when the ground

the operation, phase began.

intensified

M a s s i v e use of airpower was also able to dislocation levels. of Iraqi Liddell forces both at the Hart calls this the

achieve p s y c h o l o g i c a l

command and the tactical "sense of being frontline masse Iraqi trapped." troops,

This was certainly

the case for surrendered en

who in some instances

to a p p r o a c h i n g

Apache helicopters, and s u b s e q u e n t

so great was their ground attack. This

terror of air b o m b a r d m e n t

was also the case with many Iraqi commanders who were so spooked at the prospect panicked without of combat

in Kuwait City, that they

and ran upon the outbreak of ground o p e r a t i o n s bothering to inform the troops greatly deeply they commanded. This

psychological ground

dislocation

intensified

once c o a l i t i o n

forces p e n e t r a t e d forces

into Iraq and into the rear The extent of this

areas of Iraqi psychological when

in the KTO.

dislocation

became clearer after the operation, of Iraqi troops had of Iraqi criteria forces for

it was found that large numbers their front line units.

deserted

Distraction

was also achieved,

another of Liddell Hart's

s u c c e s s f u l operations.

The best example of this was the t h r e a t e n e d Marine

Operation

Imminent Thunder,

-6-

i n v a s i o n of the K u w a i t coastline,

w h i c h froze m a n y Iraqi w h e n the real g r o u n d d e e p in the in

units in static p o s i t i o n s on the beach,

stroke was to come at the o t h e r end of the front, Iraqi desert. As G e n e r a l S c h w a r z k o p f

jokingly acknowledged

"the m o t h e r of all b r i e f i n g s , " successfully manipulated landings,

the w e s t e r n press was

into t h e o r i z i n g about b e a c h

and these s p e c u l a t i o n s p l a y e d a key role in that a m a j o r threat w o u l d come

convincing Saddam's commanders from the sea.

M a x i m 3: M a x i m 4:

Any s t r a t e g y should have a clear end, and a d e q u a t e m e a n s to a t t a i n that end. The o b j e c t of s t r a t e g y s h o u l d be kept c o n s t a n t l y in mind.

At the G r a n d S t r a t e g i c level,

there was n e v e r any d o u b t

in P r e s i d e n t B u s h ' s m i n d that the sole end of O p e r a t i o n D e s e r t S t o r m was f u l f i l l m e n t of the U.N. R e s o l u t i o n s b o u n d the a n t i - I r a q c o a l i t i o n together. from this stand. that

He n e v e r d e v i a t e d resolutions that the that Iraq

The s i x t e e n r e l e v a n t U.N.

s p e c i f i e d that Iraq should be e x p e l l e d from Kuwait, l e g i t i m a t e g o v e r n m e n t of K u w a i t should be restored, should c o m p e n s a t e Kuwait and others for damages,

and that

Iraq should s a t i s f y v a r i o u s c e a s e - f i r e terms

(including The P r e s i d e n t

s u r r e n d e r of its w e a p o n s of mass d e s t r u c t i o n ) .

w o u l d h a v e m a d e a fatal error if at any time he had d e v i a t e d from the p r o v i s i o n s of the U.N. resolutions. For example,

g o i n g to B a g h d a d to take out Saddam H u s s e i n w o u l d h a v e

-7-

i m m e d i a t e l y d e s t r o y e d S e c u r i t y C o u n c i l unity,

w o u l d have had

u n p r e d i c t a b l e e f f e c t s w i t h i n the Soviet U n i o n and c o u l d have led C h i n a and the U S S R to r e n e w their s u p p o r t of Iraq. Additionally, internal it w o u l d have i n v o l v e d the U.S. m o r e d e e p l y in

Iraqi affairs than A m e r i c a n p u b l i c o p i n i o n may h a v e Another possible

b e e n p r e p a r e d to s u s t a i n over the long run. objective,

that of p r o m o t i n g the d i s m e m b e r m e n t of Iraq and

the e s t a b l i s h m e n t of i n d e p e n d e n t K u r d i s h and S h i ' a states, w o u l d h a v e i n s t a n t l y a l i e n a t e d Turkey, Arabia, Syria and Saudi and m a d e a

led to the b r e a k u p of the coalition,

c o n t i n u i n g U.S. p r e s e n c e

in the r e g i o n u n s u s t a i n a b l e .

W i t h r e g a r d to m a t c h i n g ends and means, allies m a d e c e r t a i n that s u f f i c i e n t m i l i t a r y

the U.S.

and its in

forces w e r e

t h e a t e r to a c h i e v e U . N . - m a n d a t e d o b j e c t i v e s b e f o r e e m b a r k i n g on m i l i t a r y operations. sealifts One of the largest a i r l i f t s and troops

in h i s t o r y was m o b i l i z e d to t r a n s p o r t U.S. to the Gulf. In the event,

and e q u i p m e n t a m i l l i o n U.S. all types,

a three q u a r t e r s of

and c o a l i t i o n troops,

o v e r 2,000 a i r c r a f t of

six c a r r i e r b a t t l e groups and several score to h a n d l e the

c o a l i t i o n v e s s e l s p r o v e d to be quite s u f f i c i e n t " f o u r t h l a r g e s t army in the world."

M a x i m 5: M a x i m 6:

The b e s t s t r a t e g y c h o o s e s the line of least expectation. The best s t r a t e g y e x p l o i t s the line of least resistance.

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Maxims

5 and 6 w e r e s t r i c t l y o b s e r v e d

in b o t h the o p e n i n g

p h a s e of the air war on J a n u a r y of the g r o u n d w a r on F e b r u a r y

17, and in the o p e n i n g p h a s e The m a s s i v e air a t t a c k

24.

that b e g a n O p e r a t i o n D e s e r t Storm in the e a r l y hours of January 17 f u n n e l e d t h r o u g h a gap o p e n e d in the c h a i n of the Iraqi i n t e r i o r and r e s u l t e d in c o m p l e t e

radars g u a r d i n g

t a c t i c a l surprise,

the q u i c k e s t a b l i s h m e n t of air s u p r e m a c y Similarly, as February

and the b l i n d i n g of Iraqi intelligence. General

S c h w a r z k o p f p o i n t e d out in his n o w - f a m o u s the "Hail Mary"

27 press briefing,

strategy eventually

a d o p t e d by the allies for the g r o u n d c a m p a i g n was also completely successful. D e p l o y i n g XVIII Corps and VII corps flank e n a b l e d d e e p p e n e t r a t i o n into

s e c r e t l y to the W e s t e r n

the rear of the Iraqi army w i t h i n hours of the i n i t i a t i o n of ground o p e r a t i o n s KTO. and s e a l e d the fate of Iraqi forces fooled, in the

The Iraqi h i g h c o m m a n d was c o m p l e t e l y

and

forces in the area of initial p e n e t r a t i o n were q u i c k l y overrun.

M a x i m 7:

The best line of o p e r a t i o n o f f e r s a l t e r n a t e objectives.

Once c o a l i t i o n

forces had e s t a b l i s h e d t h e m s e l v e s d e e p As G e n e r a l

inside Iraq, M a x i m n u m b e r 7 came into play.

S c h w a r z k o p f h i m s e l f p o i n t e d out, by the end of the first day of g r o u n d operations, XVIII and VII Corps w e r e in a p o s i t i o n

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to t h r e a t e n b o t h the e n c i r c l e m e n t and a n n i h i l a t i o n of Iraqi forces in the KTO, to the northwest. and the seizure of Baghdad, It should be noted, however, only 150 m i l e s

that c a t c h i n g

the Iraqi army on the horns of such a d i l e m m a was not as u s e f u l as it could be in the s t r a t e g i c sense. in the KTO w e r e a l r e a d y p a n i c k i n g and running; had no i n t e n t i o n of m a r c h i n g on Baghdad, Iraqi also, forces the U.S.

and in any case it

is likely that at this point S a d d a m H u s s e i n was n e i t h e r aware of the g r a v i t y of his s i t u a t i o n nor c a p a b l e of s t o p p i n g w h a t e v e r g r o u n d m o v e s the allies chose to make.

M a x i m 8:

The best s t r a t e g y is a d a p t a b l e to circumstances.

Since there w e r e v e r y few things that w e n t w r o n g in the coalition's c o n d u c t of the war, there w e r e very few

opportunities

to o b s e r v e the a d a p t a b i l i t y of our m i l i t a r y in the face of failure. first, Three the

s t r a t e g y or its f l e x i b i l i t y military

failures w e r e of some s i g n i f i c a n c e :

f a i l u r e to c o n v i n c e Patriots

Israel from the o u t s e t to rely on U.S. and e a s i l y

for d e f e n s e a g a i n s t S a d d a m ' s o f t - h e r a l d e d

p r e d i c t a b l e a t t e m p t s to b r i n g them into the war via Scud strikes; second, the i n a b i l i t y of the U.S. to s u p p r e s s the

completely

Scud attacks on Saudi A r a b i a and Israel d u r i n g and third,

air phase of O p e r a t i o n D e s e r t Storm; of the c o a l i t i o n destruction.

the i n a b i l i t y

to find and d e s t r o y Iraqi w e a p o n s of m a s s v a s t l y i n c r e a s e d U.S. strikes

As it turned out,

-10-

into w e s t e r n to Israel from

Iraq,

coupled with hurried arm-twisting

Patriot the

deployments Israelis out, kept the the

and s e v e r e

to p r e v e n t

following

their n a t u r a l

instinct

to s t r i k e

lid on the S c u d / I s r a e l war with destroy the c o a l i t i o n weapons

problem intact.

long e n o u g h The failure

to c o n c l u d e to find and a

of mass d e s t r u c t i o n

did not b e c o m e refrained

significant what w e a p o n s made during

factor because

Saddam wisely

from u s i n g moves he

he had -- one of the few i n t e l l i g e n t the Gulf war.

Maxim Maxim

9:

Do not throw y o u r w e i g h t into a s t r o k e w h i l e your o p p o n e n t is on guard. 10: Do not r e n e w an a t t a c k a l o n g the same line a f t e r it has once failed.

Since Desert

Iraq was b l i n d e d there were Iraqi

from the o u t s e t

of O p e r a t i o n the c o a l i t i o n warning. and no

Storm, when

few i n s t a n c e s had a d e q u a t e

in w h i c h tactical

attacked The

forces

Iraqis w e r e on their guard, the a t t a c k was coalition coming. defeats a second

but r a r e l y

knew when

where

Similarly, in the war, time

since

there w e r e of

significant attacking that h a d cases

the q u e s t i o n

a position

to m a k e up for an a t t a c k There were forces two to

f a i l e d did not arise very often. repeated attacks

in w h i c h

by c o a l i t i o n

failed in no

achieve changes against

their objectives, in o v e r a l l command

but n o n e t h e l e s s These w e r e facilities,

resulted coalition

strategy.

airstrikes

and c o n t r o l

which

proved which

impossible

to wipe out totally,

and a g a i n s t

airfields,

-11-

w e r e r e p a i r e d m o r e q u i c k l y than anticipated. instance, however,

In n e i t h e r

did these f a i l u r e s h a v e a s i g n i f i c a n t In the case

impact on the c o u r s e of O p e r a t i o n D e s e r t Storm. of s u r v i v i n g c o m m a n d and c o n t r o l links,

it b e c a m e e v i d e n t

a f t e r the war that Iraqi c o m m a n d e r s used their s u r v i v i n g net only very sparingly, U.S. o p e r a t i n g u n d e r the a s s u m p t i o n that the Furthermore, it is

could h e a r e v e r y t h i n g they said.

clear that m o s t Iraqi c o m m a n d e r s had no idea of w h a t o r d e r s to give: their m i l i t a r y s i t u a t i o n was hopeless. Therefore, links p o s e d no

the s u r v i v a l of some Iraqi c o m m a n d and control serious d a n g e r to c o a l i t i o n airfields, forces.

W i t h r e g a r d to Iraqi

a l t h o u g h many a i r f i e l d s w e r e r e p a i r e d quickly, The Iraqi air force was v e r y q u i c k l y and after J a n u a r y 25 the Iraqis

they w e r e little used.

d e m o r a l i z e d and neutralized,

m o u n t e d no s i g n i f i c a n t o f f e n s i v e air operations, concentrating to Iran. instead on m o v i n g as m a n y a i r c r a f t as p o s s i b l e

CONCLUSION

L i d d e l l H a r t ' s s t r a t e g i c theories fit q u i t e well w i t h coalition, and e s p e c i a l l y American, c o n d u c t of O p e r a t i o n American

D e s e r t Storm. commanders precepts

W h e t h e r by chance or by design,

in the field and at home a d h e r e d c l o s e l y to the and in so d o i n g e n s u r e d The i n d i r e c t

taught by L i d d e l l Hart,

overwhelming victory

for their forces.

-12-

a p p r o a c h has p r o v e d to be a w i n n i n g t h r o u g h o u t history,

formula for g e n e r a l s to the to the

from the a n c i e n t C h i n a of Sun Tzu,

c o m m a n d e r s of A l l i e d and Axis armies in W o r l d War II, c o n f l i c t s of the p r e s e n t day. for future c o n f l i c t s

It s h o u l d r e m a i n e q u a l l y v a l i d finds itself.

in w h i c h the U n i t e d States