ANALYSIS OF EVENTS AND CAUSES LEADING TO THE IRAQ CRISIS March 6, 1991 Copyright 1991 Tran
ANALYSIS OF EVENTS AND CAUSES LEADING TO THE IRAQ CRISIS
March 6, 1991 Copyright 1991
Transcript by Laurence L. Miller
The following is a transcript of a letter written to the children in
our family by our father, Col. Roy A. Miller, USAF Ret'd., on January
16, 1991. Col. Miller was a career soldier from 1940-1971, beginning
as one of the acclaimed "Sergeant Pilots". Later commissioned as a
Lieutenant he "Flew The Hump" in the China-Burma-India campaign of
WWII. An original member of SAC (Strategic Air Command) he went on
to become a Command Pilot who flew among many other aircraft the B-47
and the B-52. He was a "Full Bull" Squadron Commander, an Operations
Plans officer, a graduate of and instructor at the Air War College.
His service culminated in a tour at the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the
Pentagon. After his retirement he completed his Masters Degree in
Economics at LSU, and has since been a constant source of analysis of
and information on the events of the world around us.
The transcript is offered verbatim excluding the salutation, and is
useful as an overview for anyone in the Baby Boom generation
who doesn't grasp the current world situation, as well as
the precarious position of our country, now that the war appears
to be completed. As is stated later, the body of the letter was
written prior to actuation of hostilities, but addresses past, present
"Last week when your sister called, she expressed disillusionment
at the prospective conflict in the Middle East, coming so swiftly
upon the easing of the Cold War and the promise of relative peace
and cessation of international tensions. You all must have some
doubts and uncertainties in trying to come to some personal judgments
on the course our country has taken. With my knowledge, experience,
and intellectual background, perhaps I have something to offer that
will help you to a better understanding of what is happening,
certainly more than you will get from the popular media.
In my years as a military professional, studies of conflict in
history and of the present, one fact became clear: Humans are little
closer to a millennium of peace than a thousand years ago. There are
abroad the same envies, the same selfishness, the same corruptions,
the same lusts for power in the name of empire, the same delusions
of grandeur, the same disregard of the value of life, as in long
history. We have the continuing gross economic disparity among
peoples, the conflict in idealogies, the uses of national power to
take advantage of other peoples. Clearly, with these continuing
social, economic, political and ideological strains and the
increasing availability of advanced technology in weapons systems,
regional conflicts are more likely than ever. So I see the world.
So, why do Americans think that with the Soviets no longer a threat
(we hope, but watch the Baltics), we can look forward to peace and
the advancement of freedom and justice for all peoples, without
worrying about deterring war?
But my view is not necessarily pessimistic, nor has it been in the
past 40-odd years. But I would be pessimistic should the western
democracies and regional coalitions such as is developing in Western
Europe choose to look inward and try to ignore such threats to peace
as portended by the taking of Kuwait, or at most trying to modify
their course by extended diplomacy while preserving in primacy their
self-centered programs for advancing their own societies. This is
what many in the U.S. and apparently the Europeans (except for
Margaret Thatcher) would like to do in response to today's crisis.
'Let's wait and see if diplomacy and sanctions work', they say.
'Let's meanwhile reduce our armed forces appropriately to a peaceful
world and use the dividends therefrom to perfect our liberal
societies.' To me this is a temporizing and in the long term losing
But there is another view: that great nations such as ours, by
virtues of being powerful and being a democracy, have a
responsibility and an opportunity for changing the course of such
events by direct and forceful involvement, using our elements of
national power - economic, technological, political, and militarily
if necessary - to discourage, prevent, or even reverse aggressions
which threaten world order. Since 1947 the U.S. has taken this view.
We have had as a central principal of our foreign policy the
promotion of the right of self-determination of peoples and have
repeatedly used our power, including the use of force or threat of
use of force, in furtherance of this principal. There was the
Marshall Plan beginning in 1947, Korea in 1950, NATO from 1949, the
1960's in South Vietnam, several other lesser military actions over
this period, and now the Persian Gulf. Except for Vietnam, we have
succeeded in these past commitments. And it is wrong to deduce that
our failure in Vietnam is reason to abandon this world view of
responsibility in promoting and even protecting the freedoms of other
It is true that there have been this and other failures on the part
of the U.S. to follow through on this commitment to principle. For
examples, Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, and of course
South Vietnam. However there were two constraints which limited U.S.
effectiveness: The avoidance of war with the Soviet Union and the
inability, largely through ineptitude, of our national leaders to
gain or maintain the support of the American people for military
operations, on-going or contemplated, as being in our national
interest. But nevertheless the principle of self-determination of
peoples has always been central in guiding our foreign policy. For
this reason the U.S. can claim honor and integrity in its use of its
Now, about Kuwait and Iraq. It seems to me that there are three
levels on which we can debate the use of force, which we may be
about to do. To take these in reverse order of preference, the least
supportable first, the question of oil:
Nations, once entering into extended commerce which is mutually
beneficial have a right to expect that the trading partners will not
arbitrarily cut-off such commerce when one party has become dependent
on it, at least in the short run, for its economic life. So if an
outside aggressor steps in with intent to grossly alter this economic
arrangement and thereby threaten the well-being of a trader nation,
that nation should have good ground for acting to remove the threat.
Here it would be helpful to reflect on what the interruption of
Middle East oil at a reasonable price would do to the U.S and also
Western Europe: Economic Catastrophe. Oil, in its various end uses
is so interwoven in the processes and products of our industries and
so critical to our logistics systems and means of travel, that a
sudden dependence only upon our limited national reserves could shut
down many of our industries, put millions if not billions out of work
and on the dole, and effect an extended depression, the like of which
we've never experienced. But we could recover over time, redesigning
our displaced or dysfunctional industries, consumer goods, energy
systems, and transportation systems, by use of other raw materials
(wood, grain, coal, oil-shale) and nuclear power and perhaps be
better as a people, certainly more self-sufficient. (We had people
of steel as a result of the Great Depression.)
Now, whether or not we would value the prevention of national
economic catastrophe and resulting economic depression over the costs
in human life and national resources in a preventive war is
debatable. It seems to be the dominant issue advanced by our media,
some in the clergy, and many in Congress. Personally, I do not think
that oil is sufficient cause to go to war. Losing Middle East oil,
we would all suffer, but we could recover, and our young men would
still be alive.
The second issue, which should have much higher standing than the oil
question, is that of the developing regional threat to peace.
Consider Iraq's leadership, Hitler-like in aggressive posture,
ruthlessness, lawlessness and genocide, its armed forces, its
developing biological, chemical and nuclear arms capabilities, and
its greatly increased financial resources in gaining the Kuwait oil.
Then consider Pan-Arabism, latent perhaps but looking for expression
in Arab unity, also Arab fundamentalism under Islam now spreading,
the historic frustration of the Arab peoples in their search for
union, and their almost universal hatred of Israel. Given these
factors there is the potential for a coalescing of several Arab
nations under a Saddam Hussein, were he victorious in holding Kuwait.
We could not object to such a regional community of Arab peoples
under common leadership if done voluntarily and with peaceful
intentions. But under Iraq there would likely be a powerful military
alliance that sooner or later would be a more direct threat to Israel
and other neighbors. And we are committed to the existence of a free
Israel and rightly so. The conclusion I reach is that with Iraq
victorious in the Kuwait conquest, with greatly expanded power and
influence in the Arab world, the U.S. would later face a military
threat far worse than we now face and in circumstances without choice
except war. It is in our vital interest to forestall such a
I believe that this is the initial, main reason for President Bush's
swift movement last fall, followed by early strengthening of the U.S.
forces in follow-on deployments. But he has not publicized this
reason because of his dependency on the nations of the Arab coalition
against Iraq. Instead he has stated our objective as the liberation
of Kuwait. So on this issue alone we have sufficient cause for using
military force: To liberate Kuwait but even more importantly, to
reduce Iraq to relative equality with its neighbors.
The final issue is a moral one and the one which is most important.
It was cited earlier: Whether the U.S. is to continue to exercise
leadership in the cause of peace and the freedom of peoples. It is
inescapably before us now, where it had been hanging in the air since
our bug-out from Vietnam. George Bush made it so when he drew a line
in the Arabian sand on the far border of Kuwait. Whether masterfully
or not, or with full intent to resume the historical role of the U.S.
since 1947, he did it, and we as a nation will never be the same.
For either we shall resolutely follow through to a conclusion which
achieves our stated and non-stated objectives, or we will satisfy
ourselves with some lesser accommodation which leaves Saddam
substantially as powerful and potentially aggressive. Whatever
happens, our measure will have been taken abroad, a national
soul-searching have occurred, whereafter we will continue as a world
power, active in leadership for peace, freedom and justice, or
looking inward, lapsing into accommodation to aggressions or threats
to others from lack of will.
This is not to propose that we might be the 'policemen of the world'
as the peacenik critics of the U.S. like to put it. But nations
preying on nations we have always condemned, and where we could we
have acted to stop or reverse such aggressions. In particularly
egregious instances, such as Afghanistan, we condemned but the Soviet
Union being what it was, we could not actively intervene. But we
gave economic and military aid which eventually made the venture so
costly that the Soviets withdrew. In other aggressions and
subversions we have also intervened with economic and military aid,
such as in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. These latter
actions were very much in the tradition of fostering liberty and
freedom of choice. Here we were also motivated by concern that
regional peace in the Americas was being threatened by subversive
intervention of a foreign power through client Latin American states.
Many have seen this as U.S. meddling in the affairs of other peoples,
but to me it has been acting in enlightened self-interest of the U.S.
plus supporting our long standing operative principle.
Apparently few leaders in the U.S. understand that this is the large
question before us. Many seem to feel that because of the regression
of communism, the retrenchment of Soviet expansionism, the apparent
disintegration of the USSR internally, and the liberation of Eastern
Europe, there is no longer a bi-polar world where security of free
western nations depended upon U.S. political and military power. So
they feel that the active projection of U.S. power backed by superior
military capabilities is no longer necessary. So we can now turn our
energies and resources into domestic programs for social and economic
progress of Americans. For them, the suggestion that we continue to
take on such broad responsibility, beyond our borders, with drain on
our treasury, is anathema. These leaders and other self-appointed
spokespersons are going to be very vocal in these views.
Already there is another divisive effort by activists to thwart the
orderly and forceful prosecution of the military campaign and the
gaining of our objectives. And in the follow-on time when we will be
evaluating what happened and fixing the course of our country and its
foreign policy, there will be great debates and decisions arrived at
in our democratic tradition. Doubts and uncertainties in trying to
understand these events and to fix your own attitudes about the
proper course of your country, will occur. But as good citizens you
owe it to your country to reach informed judgments and to express
your views to your representatives.
Relatively young and devoting your energies to making or sustaining
your chosen work, you have perhaps not had the time, opportunity, or
cause for in-depth fact-finding analysis of the aspects of your world
that gave rise to this crisis. I hope that the above gives you some
points of departure in organized form for your thinking about what
P.S. Most of this letter was written before the start of the war, so
some statements about it are in the prospective meaning."
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank