February 28, 1991: The End of Operation Desert Storm and the 20 Years After
[promoted from the diaries by streiff]
In what may well be remembered as the high-water mark of the projection of American power and prestige, it was at Midnight on February 28, 1991 that President George H.W. Bush announced the suspension of combat operations, and an end of Operation Desert Storm. Gulf War One had come to a close.
This Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of that day.
To illustrate how far into the depth of national self-loathing and doubt we have descended, I would invite you, dear reader, to imagine Barack Obama standing humbly, yet resolutely and proud, in the Well of the House of Representatives, as President George Bush the Elder did one week later, on March 7th, and announce to the nation:
…We watched over our sons and daughters with pride, watched over them with prayer. As Commander in Chief, I can report to you that our Armed Forces fought with Honor and Valor, and as President, I can report to the nation that aggression is defeated, the war is over.”
It is difficult for me to ever imagine our first Post-Constitutional, Post-American president delivering a public utterance like this; one that mentioned Pride, Prayer, Honor and Valor in the context of victory over aggression. Oh, he might use the words , in a string of vacuous, empty and platitudinous homilies, in his ever-expansive desire to redound to himself the reflected glory of the hard toil and sacrifice of others, but Barack Obama would never, ever praise the stunning efforts of our military armed forces, and the iron willed strength of our warriors that lead, arrow-straight, to victory.
“Victory”, said President Barack Obama “is not a concept I’m comfortable with”.
Oh, what a winding and dark road we’ve trod these last twenty years, that have lead us to this, the Presidency of Barack Hussein Obama.
The twenty-year journey began on August 2nd, 1990. It is interesting to note that the magnificent, common-sense approach to both energy policy and military strength under the exemplary leadership of Ronald Reagan lead (tangentially) both to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and our thunderous victory over Saddam Hussein. Because Reagan deregulated the domestic energy industry, prices for OPEC oil plummeted thoughout most of his presidency, to the point that the cost of oil on the day of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was a little over $20 a barrel.
Throughout the early stanzas of the Iran/Iraq war, during a period of intense domestic U.S. oil price controls and industry regulation, the price of oil was trading in the $30-$50 per barrel region, and this wealth kept the Hussein Kelptocracy propped up and able to function. But, by the end of the Reagan presidency, the price dropped into the low $20’s, where it remained stuck until the end of the 1980’s.
Saddam (or, as George H.W. Bush pronounced it, “Sad-em”), bereft of his oil revenues, needed cash. He was in hock to everybody, most notably Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. So, he did what any self-respecting bully would do: He attacked his neighbors to whom he owned the most money in the summer of 1990.
The conventional wisdom at the time was that Sad-em wouldn’t stop in Kuwait, and would turn left, and pounce on Saudi Arabia. At the time King Fahd supplied about 35% of our imported oil. So, under the leadership of the elder Bush, a massive coalition military force, consisting at it’s height of nearly one-million men, was assembled as a defensive shield in the sands of Araby.
After the usual multi-national United Nations hi-jinx, in which the Arab beligerents insisted on linking the Iraqi-Kuwaiti question to the age-old whipping boy Israel (huh?), along with the last dying gasps of Gorbachev’s USSR as it tried desperately to remain relevant, the air campaign began in earnest on January 16th, 1991. By February 28th, after a one-hundred hour ground offensive, the war was over. Saddam was driven out of Kuwait. On the streets of Kuwait City, there were riotous celebrations, with the celebrants chanting “George Boosh! George Boosh!” In these scenes alone were the stock footage for the victorious re-election campaign for President Bush, that was certain to be waged in only eighteen months.
Somewhere along the way, though, a small recession intervened (in which unemployment jumped to –gasp– 6.8 percent), a heretofore unknown and insignificant southern Governor name Bill Clinton intervened in these plans, calling it “the worst economy in 50 years”. The rest, they say, is history.
But what of this history?
What IF we’d never bothered to check the gates of Fahd’s kingdom, and thus allowed Saddam to have his way with the Saudi Arabian oil fields? This, at the very least, would have cut off the source of immense wealth that was just beginning to pour into the radicalized Wahhabist movement, and would have likely killed it in the cradle.
Also, it wouldn’t have given the anti-Western fig-leaf to the likes of Osama bin Laden; remember, his only brief with the US was (again, supposedly) our parking of our AWACS and our F-16’s on Saudi Holy Ground, and allowing our female military to prance around without burkas. Such was the hatred-germ in the fevered mind of Mr. bin Laden.
Would a Saddam-controlled Saudi Arabia been better, or worse, for American interests in the world? Looking through the long lens of twenty years, who’s to say? We never would have wound up fighting a second Gulf War, bin Laden would be just some unknown Middle-eastern trust-funder trying to figure out how to keep his garments so sparkling white in his filthy cave. There would have been no 9/11. There would have been no Howard Dean. And thus, there would have been no Barack Obama.
Also, I think it is unlikely we would have witnessed the explosive growth of radicalized political Islam. Yes, a wealthy and powerful Saddam Hussein would have offered his own set of special and horrendous difficulties and trials, but don’t forget: One of his proposals for backing out of Kuwait was his insistence that other nations should leave other occupied areas (a direct, and intentional, insult to Israel) including Syria’s removal from Lebanon . It is hard to imagine a middle-eastern dictator with even a tiny smidgen of realpolitik pragmatism, but, there it is. My, how things have changed…
Now we have a Mid East hurling headlong into the 9th century, and any of that age-old and thread-bare “stability” is gone with the wind. Which brings us back to where we are today: February 28th, 2011.
The only reason any of this is germane is because we categorically, and generationally, refuse to get our domestic energy policy in order. We insist that third-world basket-case nations shoulder the burden of our energy exploration, extraction and refining demands. Thus, we send our valorous Armed Forces hither and yon to protect oil fields. We have, up to this point, been rich enough to pay others to put up with this dirty business or energy extraction. But, this house of cards is crashing down around our ears.
We went to King Fahd’s defense only because the stable and predictable supply of world wide petroleum was in our best national interests. If all the man had in his backyard was sand, we wouldn’t have lifted a finger (-as well we shouldn’t. Oil is a vital national resource. Sand is not.) Or, conversely, we wouldn’t have lifted a finger to defend the Saudi Royal Family if we had all the oil and coal and natural gas and oil shale and nuclear power we needed right here in the United States for the next ten generations, thank you. Deal with Saddam yourself, Mr. Fahd.
In the mid-1940’s, we departed down the path of overt obsequiousness to the Soviet game-plan of world-wide communist domination. This lead to a 50-year arms race that created a Total-State in America with which we are still dealing, and for which we are still paying. It also, not unimportantly, nearly wiped out civilization on a number of occasions during that time. We can thank the left for this.
Similarly, we are today well down the path of overt obsequiousness to radical environmentalism, and our inability to show these people the door in our public policy discourse. There simply is no room for their radical ideology, and their false science, in a world where far too much of our energy comes from places it shouldn’t,–when we can obtain all the energy we need right here at home.
Twenty years ago tomorrow marks the anniversary of one of the most stunning victories ever achieved by the Armed Forces of the United States (or any nation, as far as that goes). As George Herbert Walker Bush so beautifully and movingly observed at the time, they did so with great honor, and with great valor. Their sacrifice and power stands to this day as an exemplary light to our nation.
The sad fact is, though, we usually extend these military risks only as a response to great folly on the part of the political Left, in tandem with the inability of the Right to stand against it. If we’d stood up with Whittaker Chambers and insisted that our most valuable atomic secrets were already in the hands of the Soviets, perhaps things would have been different in 20th century America. Perhaps if we’d stood four-square against the Jane Fondas and Robert F. Kennedy Jrs, and insisted on a rational energy policy in this nation, we wouldn’t have run afoul of Saddam Hussein and his oil-lust on the Arabian peninsula twenty years ago.
This is a lesson we still have time to learn. But just barely. Learning this lesson NOW, TODAY would be a fine and fitting tribute to those magnificent warriors I recall here tonight, twenty years on. It is a lesson, once learned, will help insure we don’t have to fight another war like theirs.