Storm Over Iraq

While not ignoring General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Hallion introduces us to other leading Gulf War military figures, particularly Air Force commander Charles Horner and Air Force strategist Buster C. Glosson. Hallion includes figures, tables, maps, photographs, appendices on specific weapons, and a glossary of military acronyms. By showing how air power destroyed the Iraqi war machine, STORM OVER IRAQ complements Schwarzkopf’s autobiography, IT DOESN’T TAKE A HERO, which has little on this aspect of the war. Yet the political side of the war is shortchanged by Hallion: a brief discussion of Saddam Hussein offers no comparison with other Middle Eastern rulers; and the decision to stop the war short of occupying Baghdad, and to refrain from aiding Iraq’s Kurdish and Shiite rebels, is disposed of in one noncommittal sentence.

Hallion, viewing the Gulf War as a milestone in the American military’s recovery of self-confidence after Vietnam, devotes four chapters (out of eight) to the history of air power from World War II through the Vietnam War of 1961-1975; the improvements in weapons technology and interservice cooperation following the Vietnam debacle; and the U.S. military’s performance in various minor wars between 1975 and 1990. The failure of massive bombing to defeat North Vietnam was widely seen as proof that air power could never win a war; the performance of newly developed air weapons in the Gulf War, Hallion argues, refutes such negativism.

From that one success, however, Hallion rashly concludes that such weapons have revolutionized warfare for all time. He implies that only superior air weapons and superior generalship distinguish America’s triumph in the Gulf War from her earlier failure inVietnam. This is difficult to believe: The absence of any pre-Saddam Hussein guerrillas among the Iraqi peasants, the difference between jungle and desert terrain, and the post-1985 revolution in Soviet foreign policy all contributed to the difference in military outcomes. In future wars, fought indifferent circumstances from those of 1991, Hallion’s faith in airpower as a panacea could prove to be a dangerous delusion.