Thursday, June 13, 2024

Interagency/Intergovernmental Operations: WWII vs Vietnam


In comparing World War II and the Vietnam War as presented in Snow & Drew[1] and Guttieri, Franke, & Civic[2], one is struck by differences between the way government agencies and whole governments interacted in those two wars. The primary difference was that in WWII, major friction took place between the Allied governments, whereas in the Vietnam War the friction was between US military and civilian agencies. The histories of these rivalries is explained and some theories for their origins are proposed.

World War II

With WWII, the interactions between the Allies were represented by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin. FDR and Churchill had frequent clashes over operations in the European theater. The location and timing of the invasion of the European continent was a serious point of contention between them: Churchill wanted to retake France early in the war, FDR wanted to knock Italy out of the war first. After that, the question of how the retaking of France was to be organized[3].

Running in parallel with this was the uneven trust between FDR, Churchill, and Stalin. Winston Churchill deeply mistrusted Stalin[4], fearing that once Germany was conquered, the Soviets would continue unchecked into Europe[5]. Meanwhile, FDR was much more trusting of Stalin, which can be attributed to FDR’s very strong socialist leanings. In the end, the Soviets indeed did control European nations, not through conquest but through negotiations: as part of the Yalta Conference, Soviets were given control of Eastern Germany, Poland, and other countries behind the “iron curtain.”

FDR, Churchill, and Stalin at the Yalta Conference, February 1945.

Vietnam War

In Vietnam, the Americans originally acted in support of the French military in their colonies in French Indochina. French presence was being reduced following France’s defeat in the First Indochina War (1946 – 1954), and while this was happening, communists were consolidating control in the north of Vietnam. The 1954 Geneva Conference used the 17th Parallel to separate North Vietnam from South Vietnam.

America’s role in South Vietnam changed over the years[6], ranging from participating as advisors to full blown combat. One of the early goals was to rebuild the (South) Vietnamese Army, as implemented by the National Security Division of the Training Relations and Instruction Mission. Civilian agencies were not seriously involved in this.

Civilian agencies began playing a serious role in 1955, with the United States Operations Mission (USOM) insisting that the industrial areas of South Vietnam receive aid and that the rural areas be ignored. The rural areas were thus abandoned militarily and economically, and they were alienated by the corrupt and authoritarian Ngô Đình Diệm government. From 1957 to 1960, the Vietcong insurgency began to organize in the rural areas. Diệm did not respond to this, and neither did the American military and civilian agencies, which were acting in an uncoordinated manner.

The Kennedy Administration took notice of the growing presence of the Vietcong and began a process called “pacification.” There was disagreement on the meaning of that term: Secretary of Defense McNamara and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) interpreted pacification to mean the use of conventional military force against the Vietcong. Meanwhile, the CIA and US Army Special Forces understood pacification to mean the standing-up of irregular forces among the rural Vietnamese[7], akin to modern counterinsurgency tactics[8].

McNamara’s interpretation resulted in Vietnamese Army units conducting attrition (“search and destroy”) operations, akin to World War II tactics. This had the effect of alienating many Vietnamese civilians against the Americans.

In 1962, the Kennedy Administration shifted to involve civilian aid programs in counterinsurgency. Tri-partite committees were established in each province, consisting of a Vietnamese province chief, a representative of the USOM, and an advisor from MAAG. These committees monitored the distribution and usage of funds and were involved in hamlet construction as well as training of hamlet militia.

Operations at the hamlet level were not coordinated with top levels of the Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV), which meant the Vietnamese Army and US air support frequently operated at odds with the hamlets, endangering the safety and security of the population.

Two military coups (November 1963 and January 1964) resulted in an interruption in the strategic hamlet program until June 1964, when the program resumed.

The tripartite provincial committees were officially abandoned in the fall of 1964, and Americans began working with the central government in Vietnam, insisting that aid be ran through Saigon instead of directly to the hamlets, The tripartite committees eventually all dissolved.

American troops were deployed to Vietnam in 1965, placing pacification operations under the military. The American civilian agencies (USAID, State Department, CIA, etc.) objected to the Defense Department being placed in control, and the Defense Department refused to have any advisor operations under civilian command.

The Pentagon prevailed, and pacification operations were placed under MACV. A new agency, the Office of Civil Operations and Rural Support (CORDS), was created in May 1967, and MACV was placed under CORDS. The result was that two chain of command ran through MACV (one civilian and one military).

Somehow, almost all rural areas of South Vietnam were pacificated by 1971, but the North Vietnamese added conventional military forces to the Vietcong, crossing the 17th Parallel in the 1972 Easter Offensive. The North Vietnamese were defeated by the Vietnamese army and US air support. Later, as American forces were withdrawing in 1975, the North Vietnamese overran the South.


In comparing the interagency and intergovernmental operations of those two wars, operations between the American, British, and Soviet governments were not nearly as fractious as were the operations between U.S. civil and military agencies.

The conflicts between FDR, Churchill, and Stalin can be explained through the two reasons addressed above: they had different strategies for defeating the enemy, and Churchill and Stalin had diametrically opposed political beliefs.

There are several explanations for all the conflict during the Vietnam War: first, the United States went through five presidential administrations (Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, and Ford) during that conflict. Second, the civilian agencies were seen as co-equal to the military agencies and that lead to interagency rivalry. Third, both civilian and military agencies had competing strategies for defeating the communists: US Army Special Forces and the CIA wanted to take a “bottom up” approach, establishing counterinsurgent guerrillas and hamlet militias, whereas JCS and the other civilian agencies used a “top down” approach, carrying out attrition-style  “pacification” operations, taking responsibility for defeating the Vietcong with the idea of handing the country over to the Vietnamese people once the communists were eliminated.


[1] Snow & Drew, From Lexington to Baghdad and Beyond.

[2] Guttieri, Franke, & Civic (Eds), Understanding Complex Military Operations

[3] Snow & Drew, From Lexington to Baghdad and Beyond, Ch. 5.

[4] Daniels, “’Favourable Reference to the Devil’: Why Churchill Allied with Stalin.”

[5] Folly, Roberts, & Rzheshevsky, Churchill and Stalin.

[6] Outline of the history is based upon Phillips, R. “CORDS campaign of pacification” found in Guttieri, Franke & Civic (Eds). Understanding Complex Military Operations

[7] Kelly, Vietnam Studies: U.S. Army Special Forces 1961-1971.

[8] Seals, “MACV-SOG History.”


Daniels, C. “’Favourable Reference to the Devil’: Why Churchill Allied with Stalin.” Churchill Project of Hillsdale College, 26 June 2021. Retrieved 13 June 2024 from

Folly, M., Roberts, G., & Rzheshevsky, O. Churchill and Stalin: Comrades-in-Arms during the Second World War. Pen and Sword Military, 8 February 2020.

Guttieri, K., Franke, V., & Civic, M. (Eds). Understanding Complex Military Operations: A Case Study Approach. Routledge, 2014.

Kelly, F. Vietnam Studies: U.S. Army Special Forces 1961-1971. Department of the Army, 2004. Retrieved 13 June 2024 from

Seals, R. “MACV-SOG History.” USASOC History Office, 25 January 2019. Retrieved 13 June 2024 from

Snow, D. & Drew, D. From Lexington to Baghdad and Beyond: War and Politics in the American Experience. 3rd ed. Routledge, 2009.

Monday, June 10, 2024

Coalition Building in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars


Wars are frequently multinational operations, extremely complex operations involving standardizing communication systems, hiring translators, establishing both national and international chains of commands1, and so on. Fundamental to this is the diplomatic work to build coalitions. The coalition President George H. W. Bush assembled to liberate Kuwait came together relatively easy during the buildup to the Gulf War. President George W. Bush was able to rapidly assemble a multinational operation for prosecution of the Afghanistan War, but he encountered difficulties in forming what would be called the Multi-National Force - Iraq (MNF-I), popularly called the "Coalition of the Willing." This paper compares the assembly of the coalitions for both the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars and attempts to identify the ways the younger Bush was able to overcome the difficulties in forming the MNF-I.

The history of our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq are extremely relevant to explaining the difference in effort needed to build the two MNFs, perhaps as important as the jus ad bellum (reasons for declaring war) for both conflicts. For this reason, the historical context for both wars is provided. Following this, the usual factors that a potential member of an MNF must consider before committing are examined. Finally, the ways that the Bush Administration used to grow MNF-I are described, along with the embarrassments they generated.

Colin Powell at the UN.

Historical Background of the Afghanistan War

During Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (24 December 1979 - 15 February 1989), the United States via the Central Intelligence Agency supported the Afghan Mujahideen resistance fighters, as did Pakistan, Iran, the UK, and the Arab Gulf States. The Soviets withdrew following the signing of the US-brokered 1988 Geneva Accords, but they left in place a Soviet-backed regime led by Mohammad Najibullah. Thus, the war to rid Afghanistan of communism continued, but now it was a civil war.

Najibullah was ousted in 1992 and was replaced by the Mujahideen. This lasted until September 1996 when the Mujahideen were in turn replaced by the Taliban, an Islamic group primarily composed of Pashtun Afghans, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan.

A new civil war then started between the Pashtun (represented by the Taliban) and the other ethnic groups (represented by the Northern Alliance). While this war raged, foreign fighters entered the country, most importantly Al Qaida led by Osama Bin Laden, and they began using Afghanistan as a base of operations.

Al Qaeda bombed two US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on 7 April 1998, and on 12 October 2000 they attacked the USS Cole while docked in a Yemeni port. Bin Laden was now considered an international terrorist threat, and the US demands his extradition. The Taliban refused, and the UN imposed economic sanctions in response.

Shortly following the September 11th terrorist attacks, Bin Laden was determined to be the culprit and again America demand extradition. The Taliban again refused to hand him over. This meant that Afghanistan was not only harboring known terrorists, but the Taliban became an impediment to the capture or destruction of Al Qaeda members.

The political objectives of the US-led forces were the capture or destruction of Al Qaeda and the destruction of the Taliban. While the latter was not necessary to achieve the former, it was felt that ousting the Taliban from power would allow US-led forces to gain support of the Northern Alliance, prevent Al Qaeda from reconstituting itself, and serve as an object lesson to other nations of the price of harboring or supporting terrorists.

The ultimate strategy for the War in Afghanistan was to use high tech weapons (UAVs and guided missiles) together with Special Forces to defeat the Taliban2, and to use a small number of conventional forces to search for Al Qaeda. This plan overcame two problems with the location and geography of Afghanistan: the "tyranny of political geography" and the "tyranny of topography," which made Afghanistan into "a logistics nightmare."3

On 7 October 2001, the US and the UK begin bombing operations, less than one month after the 9/11 attacks. Because of this short time interval, insufficient post-combat planning was performed.

Historical Context of the Iraq War

Prior to the start of the Afghanistan War, the US had little interaction with Afghanistan beyond support of the Mujahideen during the Soviet Occupation. In contrast, there was considerable history between the US and Iraq: the Gulf War.

While the Gulf War saw the eviction of Iraqi forces from Kuwait, Saddam Hussein remained in power. When George W. Bush became president, he brought along policy experts who believed that leaving Saddam in power was a mistake. This was the first reason that war with Iraq was seen as inevitable.

The second reason that war seemed inevitable was the Bush Administration's overall policy in response to 9/11. Bush not only declared war against Afghanistan, but he also declared a Global War on Terror (GWOT). Few people at the time wondered just how it was possible to declare war on a tactic (terrorism).

The connection between Iraq and the GWOT was tenuous: Saddam was not known to harbor terrorists, nor was he a sponsor of terrorism (or at least international terrorists). What tipped the scale was Saddam's unwillingness to allow UN Weapons Inspectors to examine certain weapon facilities. This led to suspicions that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the means to deliver said WMD, and that he had used WMD against the Iraqi Kurds. The political objectives of the US-led forces were to eliminate Saddam and the Ba'athist regime, locate and destroy the WMDs and the facilities to manufacture them, as well as to protect the Kurds.

Just like in Afghanistan, there was little post-combat planning, but the difference was that Iraq shared a 994-mile-long border with a hostile enemy: Iran.

Joining a Multinational Operation

The countries involved in multinational operations share a common desired political outcome from the military operations, that much is clear. Assembling a coalition is thus an act of diplomacy, and the decision for a country to become a partner nation (PN) in a multinational task force (MNTF) depends on the purpose of the MNTF, the lead nation, as well as domestic concerns.

There are numerous domestic concerns a potential PN must consider: domestic politics, national interest, the defense budget, and threats from other nations that may seek to use the diversion of the PN's military to the MNTF to their advantage4.

Once the PN decides to join, there is the question of the range of support (the type and level of commitment) the PN would provide to the MNTF. According to JP 3-16, the range of support is a spectrum5. On one end of this spectrum is combat support in the form of troops, aircraft, ships, equipment, etc. At the other end there are commitments that do not require troops or equipment, such as financial assistance, overflight and basing rights, and use of existing facilities. In the middle, noncombatant forces can be committed to provide forms of support such as logistics, infrastructure, air and sea lift, intra-theater lift, etc.

There is also the question of when the PN's forces engage: combat, post-combat, or both. During the Iraq war, several nations agreed to become involved only after combat operations ended, at which point humanitarian assistance and reconstruction came to the fore.6

How the Iraq War Differed from the Afghanistan War

There were two differences between the Iraq War and Afghanistan War that were of importance to potential PNs. First, there was the fresh and raw memory of the 9/11 attacks and the very real possibility that Al Qaeda would attack them (whether they became a PN or not). Second was the differing expected post-combat outcomes.

With the shock of the 9/11 attacks, not much consideration was given to how Afghanistan would look after the completion of military operations. The elimination of Al Qaida was seen as doable, and preventing the return of the Taliban was an important goal, but what form would the new Afghan government take? America promised a representative democracy, but Afghanistan is composed of a number of ethnic and tribal groups and would require a strong central government in order to keep them those groups at peace. The inherent contradiction was lost on the military planners. Add to this was the fact that the Taliban were primarily Pashtun, which were 40% of the population. If the Pashtun were excluded, then the new Afghan government wouldn't be representative; if they were included then a strong central government would be needed to keep them from taking control, so the new Afghan government wouldn't be democratic. The participants in Operation Enduring Freedom would have to prop-up the new Afghan government instead.

In comparison, the reasons for invading Iraq were suspect from the start: there was no evidence for the existence of Saddam's WMDs7. Further, the Bush Administration provided a plethora of reasons for going into Iraq, and if WMDs turned out to be a wash, the US could always fall back on Saddam's history of human rights violations.

Further, the goal of eliminating the Ba'athist government did not come with a plan to replace it. The need for a replacement was immediately obvious due to the presence of Iran: if no de-Ba'athized government was formed, Iraq would invade, and so an extended foreign presence would be required. The realpolitik Pottery Barn Rule would apply: "If you break it, you bought it."

So, both wars would require an extended presence in both countries, but the problems for post-combat Iraq were much more obvious.

Building a multinational force was considerably more difficult for Iraq than for Afghanistan for all these reasons8. In addition, the US was unable to get UN agreement on invading Iraq. To compensate for all this, the Bush Administration had to get... creative.

Getting to ‘Yes’: Persuading Potential PNs to Join MNF-I

For whatever reason, the primary metric that the Bush Administration used for determining the robustness of the Multi-National Force - Iraq (MNF-I) was the number of partner nations. This quickly led to issues.

The Bush Administration initially released only the number of PNs, not the names of the PNs. When the list of names was released9, several problems became clear: first, several listed countries (the Solomon Islands, Palau, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands) not only lacked name recognition, they also lacked standing armies. Second, two of the counties on the list (Eritrea and Ethiopia) had recently completed a major war against each other (the Badme War, 6 May 1998 - 18 June 2000). Third, at least one country on the list (Costa Rica, also a nation without a standing army) denied agreeing to be a PN.

To pad these numbers, the State Department claimed that 15 nations were "covert" PNs. The existence of at least one covert nation (Canada) was proven in the WikiLeaks US diplomatic cable leak10.

The Bush Administration also used financial pressure to grow the number of PNs. Several of the countries were already receiving US aid. Georgia was believed to have become a PN and commit 2,000 soldiers to Iraq as repayment for American training of Georgian forces that could be used to stabilize break-away regions. In 2003, Turkey was offered $8.5 billion in loans for sending 10,000 troops. They refused the loans but did allow medical airlifts into and out of the country.

Thus the Coalition of the Willing came into being.


Prior to the Iraq War, participation of states in a multinational operation depended on domestic consent, decisions about the range of support, as well as decisions about the stage of the operation (conflict-phase, post-conflict, or both). The Bush Administration added two additional factors: whether to participate publicly, and the amount of quid pro quo necessary.

Regardless, the MNF-I was established. As combat operations concluded, the existence of WMD came into serious doubt and the Iraq War became more and more a quagmire, PNs began leaving the Coalition of the Willing.


  1. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Joint Publication 3-16, Multinational Operations, II-1 to II-19.
  2. Howard, C. “To Baghdad and Beyond: ARSOF in Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
  3. Snow, D. & Drew, D. From Lexington to Baghdad and Beyond.
  4. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Joint Publication 3-16, Multinational Operations. III-1 to III-4
  5. Ibid. III-3 to III-5.
  6. Rayburn, J. & Sobchak, F. The U.S. Army in the Iraq War – Volume 1
  7. Younge, G., Norton-Taylor, R. & Wintour, P. “Blix attacks ‘shaky’ intelligence on weapons.”
  8. NATO, “NATO and Afghanistan.”
  9. Schifferes, S. “US names ‘coalition of the willing’”.
  10. Weston, G. “Canada offered to aid Iraq invasion: WikiLeaks”


Howard, C. “To Baghdad and Beyond: ARSOF in Operation Iraqi Freedom.” USASOC History Office, 20 March 2023. Retrieved 10 June 2024 from

Joint Chiefs of Staff. Joint Publication 3-16, Multinational Operations, 12 February 2021.

NATO. “NATO and Afghanistan.” North Atlantic Treaty Organization. 31 August 2022. Retrieved 9 June 2024 from

Rayburn, J. & Sobchak, F. The U.S. Army in the Iraq War – Volume 1: Invasion – Insurgency – Civil War, 2003-2006. USAWC Press, 17 January 2019. Retrieved 9 June 2024 from

Schifferes, S. “US names ‘coalition of the willing’” BBC News, 18 March 2003. Retrieved 9 June 2024 from

Snow, D. & Drew, D. From Lexington to Baghdad and Beyond: War and Politics in the American Experience. Routledge, 2009.

Younge, G., Norton-Taylor, R. & Wintour, P. “Blix attacks ‘shaky’ intelligence on weapons.” The Guardian, 23 April 2003. Retrieved 10 June 2024 from

Sunday, June 9, 2024

A Review of Rodrigue’s Geography of Transport Systems


The purpose of this paper is to determine whether The Geography of Transport Systems by Jean-Paul Rodrigue (Rodrigue, 2020) is suitable either as a textbook or as a training resource. This is review of limited to the 5th edition of the text, but it is expected that the evaluation will be applicable to the 6th (current) edition.

The text is examined on a per-chapter basis with particular attention on whether there is conceptual development between these chapters. The depth of coverage of major topics is evaluated, even if those topics cross multiple chapters.

Next, four serious criticisms are made of the text: its narrative quality, the lack of quantitative methods, its adherence to the “happy path,” and its treatment of transport networks as public goods. Each of these criticisms will be justified by a chapter-by-chapter summary of the text.

Finally, the text is evaluated for its usefulness as a textbook, a training resource, and also as a reference work. Because of the four criticisms listed above, it is found not to be suitable for any of those purposes.


Jean-Paul Rodrigue’s The Geography of Transport Systems is a sprawling overview of the field of Transport Geography. It contains abstract definitions of transportation and distance, and it includes an explanation of the various modes of transportation (either for passengers or freight). The function of transport terminals is explained, and the operating costs associated with terminals as well as various transportation modes are described. In addition, several “soft” issues are discussed such as global warming, environmental impact, etc.

The text suffers from several major flaws, but to isolate those shortcomings it is necessary to examine each chapter individually as well as how the chapters are sequenced. This review begins with a per-chapter overview, and these overviews will be used to describe the shortcomings. The chapter overviews will also provide some examples of the shortcomings as they occur.

Chapter-by-Chapter Summary

The text opens with the introduction of several core terms, including “transportation” which is defined as “the spatial linking of a derived demand as it takes place because of other economic activities for which it is linking its special components as flows of people, goods and information.” (pg. 2). Another core term is “distance” which is relative and is perceived as a function of “the amount of effort needed to overcome it.” Following this, the concept of “logistic distance” is introduced, which describes the tasks needed to move something from place to place. As for the fundamental concept of Euclidean distance, the author describes it as “commonly used to provide an approximation of distance, but rarely has a practical value.” (pg. 5)

The first chapter continues with a very cursory description of the evolution of mechanized transport. Major milestones, such as the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, are omitted. Chapter 1 next describes how transportation networks underly commercial activities and supply chains. The chapter ends, as do all chapters, with a case study. Unfortunately, the case study is merely a link to the text's accompanying website. All case studies are like that.

Chapter 2 describes transport networks in terms of graph theory. Also discussed is the "digitalization of mobility" which (somehow) includes "cloud services" and "blockchain" - the perfect excuse to pepper key terms for search engine optimization. Another currently hot buzz term, the “Internet of Things”, makes an appearance in the text's concluding chapter. The most important part of Chapter 2 is the description of transportation networks in terms of graph theory. This is completely superficial, and a more comprehensive presentation of graph theory must wait until Chapter 10. It is noted (pg. 64-66) that the networks of different transport modes have co-evolved and are expanding – which repeats the moral of the history section of Chapter 1.

The following chapter, Chapter 3, goes into some depth into the concept of "friction of distance", though this concept was introduced earlier (Chapter 1). Also covered is how transport systems and economic opportunities rise or fall together.

Chapter 4 discusses the environmental impact of transportation systems. This discussion includes global warming, “sustainable environment,” and “environmental responsibility”, which the author assumes is a given. Also taken for granted is “social equity.” Vehicles (EVs and hybrid vehicles are mentioned) are the problem, and a list of methods for controlling transport demand is included on pg. 147.

Chapter 5 explains different transport modes. This chapter is one of the highlights of the text, with its discussion of modal competition (how different means of transportation vie for dominance), modal shifts (how one transport mode can supplant another), and the "last mile problem". These three concepts explain much of the history described in Chapter 1; unfortunately, they are introduced too late in the text.

Chapter 5, even when taken by itself, is not without its faults, however.

There are numerous points in the chapter where “piles” of concepts (ideas not immediately connected but also not organized into hierarchies) are presented. This is demonstrated in Figure 5.1, which is designed to show the main modes for passenger transport, but the inclusion of light rail transit (LRT), high speed rail (HSR), and monorail is a technology-based distinction instead of a mode-based distinction.

A second problem with the chapter is the use of gratuitous illustrations, like for example Figure 5.6. In the background is a map of the Earth in Fuller/Dymaxion projection, but what exactly is this illustration supposed to be showing?

The problems demonstrated by these two examples are by no means limited to Chapter 5, but they ruin what could have been an outstanding chapter.

Transportation terminals are the main topic of Chapter 6, with descriptions of passenger and freight terminals, followed by a discussion of some of the operating costs of terminals. Next, the concept of a transport terminal's "hinterland" is defined: "hinterland" here means the area of influence of a terminal, which (in the context of freight) consists of the geographic area from which outgoing freight is collected, and the geographic area over which incoming freight is distributed. Finally, particular types of terminals (ports, rail terminals, and airports) are described. The very important question of where to locate a terminal is raised, but the necessary techniques to answer that question are not fully addressed here or later.

Chapter 7 is devoted to two topics: how transport networks support supply chains, and the issue of globalization. Like transport networks as a whole, globalization is treated in this text as a "given," in a value-free manner focusing on the regulations of global trade instead of the facts that the businesses involved in globalization are almost never local, and that globalization is often deleterious to local economies – without local economies, transport networks wouldn’t exist.

Urban transportation systems are the topic of Chapter 8. There is limited discussion of how unban transport systems connect to larger-scale transportation networks (that was addressed in Chapter 2), but the bulk of this chapter is devoted to regulation.

Chapter 9 is devoted to transportation planning and policy, but also includes a section devoted to natural and man-made disasters and how they relate to transportation systems. All these topics will be discussed below, but it is worth noting that the three primary security measures implemented by the International Ship and Port Security Code - the use of an Automated Identity System on all ships falling into a certain weight range, each port must undergo a security assessment, and all cargoes destined for the U.S. must be inspected prior to departure – really do nothing for security.

Chapter 10 finally provides a little depth to the graph theory (introduced in Chapter 2) that could be used for analyzing transport networks. The presentation is mostly descriptive, and many important tools are missing, the most useful omitted tools being methods for finding the shortest paths between two nodes in a graph, and for finding the shortest routes that visit all nodes in a graph. Another failing of this chapter is the use of very nonstandard terminology such as “ego network,” “nodal region,” “community,” etc. (pg. 362-363)

The text’s concluding chapter again discusses the “digitalization of transportation” (a repeat of Chapter 2), governance and management (treated in numerous locations), and social and environmental responsibility (a repeat of Chapter 4). None of these topics are expanded upon.


The text, while providing exhaustive coverage of certain topics in transport geography, falls short in four major areas: narrative quality, quantitative analysis, adherence to the “happy path,” and finally the coverage of regulations.

Critique 1: Narrative Quality

The text is a series of short vignettes, here called “concepts,” some written by Rodrigue alone, others written by him in collaboration with other authors. These vignettes are then collected into chapters. The result is as expected – disjointed narration, repetition of concepts, and a lack of significant development. For example, "digitalization of mobility" is treated both in Chapter 2 and in the Conclusion Chapter, but neither chapter significantly expands on the other.

Critique 2: Lack of Quantitative Methods

There is almost no coverage of quantitative aspects of transport networks. The general framework needed for such quantitative analysis (graph theory) is postponed until the penultimate chapter.

A related failure is that the discussion and associated figures give the appearance of quantitative knowledge when there is only qualitative knowledge, for example the explanation of elasticity of demand given in Chapter 3.

It is unreasonable to expect the general reader to have a complete mastery of graph theory or scheduling theory or any of the other relevant techniques needed to convert the purely qualitative information provided in this text into something quantitative. However, the supposed difficulty of those techniques is an absolute myth: techniques that are extremely useful to transport geography are within easy grasp at the freshman undergraduate level, as demonstrated by (Tannenbaum, 2012).

Any person possessing only the qualitative knowledge presented here would wither in any meeting, boardroom, or other context where there is someone present with even a modicum of quantitative understanding. By excluding this knowledge, the author is doing a disservice to the reader.

Critique 3: Adherence to the "Happy Path"

The coverage of transport network operation in this text suffers from an almost complete fixation on the “happy path” – the assumption that everything goes according to plan and will continue going as planned in perpetuity.

Several transportation closures due to natural disasters are briefly discussed (2011 Thailand Floods, Hurricane Sandy, 2011 Tohoku earthquake, and the 2010 Island volcano eruption, all on pg. 348). The effects of the 9/11 attacks were briefly described, along with the rise of piracy (pg. 350). Two airplane crashes are discussed (both also on pg. 350) and this discussion concludes with a description of the regulatory changes prompted by those disasters.

The coverage of all these disasters is not sufficiently detailed to learn how transport networks responded to these disasters. Further, events that cannot properly be called disasters but still diminish a network’s functionality are almost given zero coverage. The “teachability” lost is considerable.

An example of a “less than disaster” situations is the 2021 Suez Canal Obstruction by the Ever Given (Braw, 2021). This occurred (as well as the 2023 grounding of the MV Xin Hai Tong 23 (Maher, 2023)) after the publication of the text, but that canal has been closed multiple times since its opening in 1869. Each of those closures are lessons in ways the “happy path” can be abandoned (nationalization of the canal, war, blocking ship, etc.), and how redundancies and alternative transport networks transform to resolve problems. Further, the duration of closures – the shortest lasting only a few hours, the longest lasting 8 years in response to the Six Day War – is quite variable and demonstrate how transportation networks adapt and overcome depending on expected times of delay.

The basis for understanding many deviations from the happy path - articulation points and bridges in graph theory – receive only one paragraph on Chapter 10 (pg. 364). The author mentions that bridges and articulation points are points of failure, but that is all. Missing is the idea that different points of failure cause different severities of failure – for example, the collapse of a bridge at the Port of Baltimore is more severe than the breaking-loose of 26 barges on the Ohio River. The “value” of a point of failure is of crucial importance to security experts (who ask how much should be invested in protecting that point of failure) as well as to military planners (how worthwhile is it to cause that point to fail), but this value is not even considered.

Critique 4: Coverage of Regulations

Coverage of the regulation of transport networks in this text is presented in an ahistorical and value-neutral manner. This follows from the author’s apparent assumption that transport networks are public goods, as opposed to privately funded or taxpayer-funded networks with lifespans determined by market forces. No mention is made of the impropriety of imposing such regulations as well as the existence of regulatory failures.

A recent example of regulatory failure in transport geography involves the creation of a network of electric vehicle charging stations (Osaka, 2024). Under the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, $7.5 billion was allocated to the construction of 500,000 EV chargers, but only seven or eight charging stations have been constructed as of June 2024. This debacle is, of course, occurring after the publication of the text, but it is easy to find earlier and ongoing regulatory failures, such as how the 1920 Jones Act makes the costs of goods in Alaska and Hawaii much more expensive than they could be.

The author believes that government operation

provides a level of confidence that an activity, such as a terminal or logistics zone, is effectively managed. This can involve daily operations as well as the planning, design and funding of new infrastructure. Effective governance is linked with consistent and reliable services, as well as a good level of responsiveness and feedback when an unexpected issue arises. (pg. 337).

The apparent level of ignorance of government incompetency, government corruption, and regulatory failure is shocking. This quote essentially states that all is good as long as the trains run on time.

If there is any question about the author’s assumption that transport networks are public goods, that doubt should be dispelled by the coverage of congestion as well as the following sentence from pg. 335: "Car ownership is beyond the ability of the transport planner to control directly and the question remains if this should be the case."

Slowly the author began to hate car owners.

The result of all of this is to completely undermine trust in the author’s objectivity as well as the objectivity of the text.


There is little that can be recommended about Rodrigue’s text. It may be useful as a reference for the nomenclature of the transport geography field, but this must be tempered by the quality of the definitions as demonstrated in the above overviews of Chapters 1 and 10.

The text is disjointed and sprawling, with concepts repeatedly introduced with no development or refinement. Concepts are presented out of order, the two most egregious examples being how modal competition and shifts are discussed long after the coverage of the history of mechanized transport, and how graph theory is primarily saved for the next-to-last chapter. The overall effect is to sacrifice quality for quantity.

The strict adherence to the “happy path” and the fact that quantitative analysis is never really explored severely limit the applicability of the knowledge presented in this text.

Finally, there is the assumption that transport networks should be treated as public goods. With this assumption, the title of the text really should not be The Geography of Transport Systems, but rather The Regulation of Transport Systems.

There is a supplemental website for this text (Rodrigue, 2020) which is referenced in each chapter’s Case Study (except for Chapter 1’s Case Study, which references the website for another of the author’s texts (Notteboom, Pallis & Rodrigue, 2022). The website includes PDF slides for each chapter, and a password is required to download these slides.

The slides are geared for the 6th edition of the text, and only the PDF for Chapter 10 was evaluated. The 5th edition’s Chapter 10 has been moved into an appendix, and there is no PDF for that appendix. A quick review the downloaded PDF shows that the slides do not compensate for the above-listed defects in the text.

The website has no links for downloading example quizzes and exams, and if there ever were slides for the 5th edition, they have been removed.

Because of the four critiques explained above, plus the lack of educator resources, Rodrigue’s The Geography of Transport Systems cannot be recommended as a textbook for either undergraduate or graduate classes in transport geography.

The PDF slides may be useful for training purposes, but significant explanation must be added by the trainer to make them comprehensible.


Braw, E. (10 November 2021). “What the Ever Given Taught the World.” Foreign Policy. Retrieved 8 June 2024 from

Maher, H. et. al. (25 May 2023). “Suez traffic returns to normal after ship briefly stranded.” Reuters. Retrieved 8 June 2024 from

Notteboom, T., Pallis, A. & Rodrigue, J-P. (2022). Port Economics, Management and Policy. Routledge.

Osaka, S. (29 March 2024). “Biden’s $7.5 billion investment in EV charging has only produced 7 stations in two years.” Washington Post. Retrieved 8 June 2024 from

Rodrigue, J-P. (2020). The Geography of Transport Systems (5th ed.). Routledge.

Tannenbaum, P. (2012). Excursions in Modern Mathematics (8th ed.). Pearson Press.

Friday, May 31, 2024

Civil Affairs during the Gulf War


The purpose of the Army Reserves Civil Affairs during the Gulf War was to rebuild Kuwait following its occupation by Saddam Hussein. This was no small task: Kuwaiti infrastructure was damaged by the Iraqi invasion, and upon being evicted, Iraq resorted to a “scorched earth” policy, setting fire to more than 600 Kuwaiti oil wells. It took Coalition forces 11 months to extinguish them all. Further, to prevent an amphibious landing, Iraq dumped 4 million US barrels of oil into the Persian Gulf.

The Kuwait Task Force, the Civilian Affairs (CA) force that would eventually rebuild Kuwait, was created before the oil well fires and the oil spill – all members of the Task Force knew was that the support they would be providing would be considerable. The establishment of the Kuwait Task Force would prove almost as difficult a task as the reconstruction.

Brief History of Civil Affairs

Army Civil Affairs units were created during World War II to allow military commanders to take on governmental roles. As the Cold War began, CA added skill sets usually found only in civilian sectors, including cultural and linguistic knowledge relevant to the country of operation. The result of this was to focus the CA on infrastructure rebuilding in coordination with the host-country.

In the mid-1980s, General William R. Richardson of USATRADOC believed that the functions provided by CA should be outsourced, either to other parts of the military (such as the Army Corps of Engineers) or even to civilian agencies (e.g., the State Department). CA was an anachronism according to Richardson and needed to be removed from the Army.

CA was rescued by the (long term) advocacy of Senator Strom Thurmond, but this left open the question as to where CA should be placed. As it goes, CA was placed within the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) starting in 1987. The Army then redesigned Reserve CA units to support most major logistical operations, wherever USSOCOM operated.

CA is maintained as a military position because civilians in a war zone are more apt to interact with military personnel. CA is a job for Reservists because the particular technical skills CAs possess take an inordinate time to develop, incompatible with active duty time committments.

CA and the Gulf War1

As the Gulf War started, there was no clear plan for rebuilding Kuwait: USCENTCOM was not developing a plan, and there was a top-level CA vacancy in the Third Army. To people such as COL Randy Elliott (member of 352nd U.S. Army Reserve Civil Affairs Command as well as the chief of the Middle East Division of the State Department), COL Dennis Barlow 2(of the Joint Staff), and LTC Paul Mikesh (Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict), this appeared to be a repeat of the 1989-1990 events in Panama in which CA tasks were ignored until after days of looting in Panama City.

Could CA be organized so that the needed plans and resources for rebuilding Kuwait be in place before the conflict was concluded? Mikesh, Barlow, and Elliott understood that there was no policy for operationalizing the goal of Kuwaiti reconstruction, and that such a policy would be needed so that CA would be ready at the right time. Of the three, COL Elliott would be most directly influential as it was his 352nd U.S. Army Reserve Civil Affairs Command that would be deployed to Kuwait.

On 14 August 1990 – almost immediately after President George H. W. Bush’s demand that Iraqi occupying forces withdraw - Mikesh and Barlow wrote a staff paper advocating the early stand-up of a CA team. This paper was submitted to Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict Jim Locher. Locher accepted the recommendations in this paper and on 22 August he wrote a memo recommending Mikesh and Barlow’s ideas. The ideas in this memo were rejected by the Director of Joint Staff, claiming that the task of rebuilding Iraq must wait until after the conclusion of combat operations.

Locher persisted, writing a policy directive requiring that planning for reconstruction should begin early. The Department of the Army’s response was essentially a repeat of General Richardson’s position: the proper agency to act on reconstruction would be the State Department, that the Army Corps of Engineers would be the appropriate force to perform the reconstruction, and that the twenty functional capabilities outlined in Locher’s directive were best handled individually.

Despite the Department of the Army’s protestations, work on the reconstruction plan continued, but was halted in October 1990 by the Commander and Chief of USCENTCOM, reasoning that no policy should be prepared since none was requested.

Locher persisted and sent messages to the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz as well as senior officials in the Army, USSOCOM, and the Joint Staff. They provided little response, but Locher was able to build alliances with the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. Mikesh and Barlow were assigned to key roles, but progress was slow.

This changed on 20 September 1990 when officials from the Kuwaiti government-in-exile travelled to Washington, D.C., and specifically asked for reconstruction assistance. COL Elliott knew Ambassador-Designate to Kuwait Edward Gnehm as result of Elliott’s civilian position in the State Department, and Elliott told Gnehm that his CA unit possessed relevant expertise. The Kuwaitis requested CA assistance directly from the President, and 10 days later the plan was approved.

As Iraqi control of Kuwait tightened, the mission expanded beyond infrastructure and government reconstruction to include treatment of Iraqi collaborators as well as displaced civilians. CA progress (of a sort) was made with a Pentagon CA team devising guidelines for the guidelines the Joint Staff were to develop.3

The Office of Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans offered numerous criticisms regarding the Kuwait Task Force during its existence: Army HQ resented the speed and authority which the inter-agency Steering Group committee intervened in Army business; they felt they were denied the opportunity to contribute – they believed that they were “railroaded”4; they thought that civilian agencies should be used in lieu of CA Reservists; they gave the ever-popular "diversion of finite and valuable resources from more important projects" excuse for inaction; and they affirmed that the plan was not required by General H. Norman Schwarzkopf. Finally, they expressed doubts about the competency and dedication of Reservists, with one senior USSOCOM officer openly stating that "the Reserves is just another name for waste, fraud, and abuse."5 These doubts were never explicitly raised but were certainly acting as the context for Army HQ’s stalling.

Authorization to activate the CA needed to go through the Army, which gave them a further opportunity to prevaricate. In fact, the Director of Joint Staff, Lieutenant General Michael P.C. Carns, flip-flopped on activation, which resulted in the 352nd CA Command being alerted for activation twice, and ordered to stand down twice, in four-day period from 17-20 November 1990. Eventually Carnes gave his approval, and a message was sent by the chairman of the JCS to activate a CA task force.

As the standing-up of the Kuwait Task Force proceeded, the commander of the 352nd, Brigadier General Howard Mooney, was relieved of command of the Task Force on 3 December, and he returned to command of the rest of the 352nd. The Army raised another objection: they didn’t want active duty officers reporting to flag-rank Reserve officers.

Control of the Kuwait Task Force then moved to COL Elliott. He manned the task force with individuals who had experience in Panama reconstruction efforts; his deputy was the Director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance of the USAID; and Elliott was able to work with numerous federal agencies in Washington, where he was located.

Meanwhile, the USCENTCOM and the US Army Central Command (ARCENT) were developing their own plans for reconstruction, and Kuwait Task Force plans were not coordinated with them. Three reasons were given for this: security (Kuwait Task Force operations were scrutinized by foreign nationals6); Schwarzkopf tended to rely on Kuwaiti and Saudi officials for civil affairs issues, instead of his own staff; finally, the Kuwait Task Force reported to interagency officials outside the USCENTCOM command, control, and communication hierarchy.

Nevertheless, the Kuwait Task Force was deployed in theater, so they would come under command of USCENTCOM and ARCENT – but the Task Force would also fall under the recently deployed 352nd CA Command which was headed by… Brigadier General Mooney. Mooney merged the Kuwait Task Force (renamed to Deputy Chief of Staff for Reconstruction7) into the Combined Civil Affairs Task Force, which became part of Task Force Freedom, which allowed Mooney and the Task Force to complete their mission.

They did indeed complete their mission:

By the time the KTH and Task Force Freedom departed, the Ministry of Health had become operational and the Kuwaiti medical community was carrying 98% of its pre-war workload. The international airport reopened and the Kuwaitis resumed operational control in April, 1991. Police forces were operational within the first 30 days following liberation. A major Kuwaiti port was opened during the first two weeks after liberation, and two others were being swept for mines. All major roads had been restored to service, with most able to sustain convoy traffic.8
Indeed, “not one Kuwaiti died of thirst, starvation, or lack of medical attention after the liberation.”9

Analysis and Conclusions

In reading Barlow’s description of events, one must be impressed by the sheer number of federal agencies and the levels of hierarchy that were needed for the Kuwait Task Force to become operational. Further, Mikesh, Barlow, Elliott, and Mooney had to endure internal criticism coming from the Army itself. For them, the amount of bureaucracy they encountered must have been like "swimming through molasses.”

The source of their difficulties was that USSOCOM and USCENTCOM denied the importance of Reserve CA (either completely or until combat operations concluded), and getting results required them to go outside USCENTCOM, to non-military federal agencies. USCENTCOM also doubted the competency of Reserve units in general. It is interesting to speculate on the source of those doubts: were the Reserves demonstratively incompetent, or did the Regular Army ascribe to itself an artificially inflated level of competency? The explanation is not given in either Barlow10 or Brinkerhoff11.

Does JP 3-0, Joint Operations, address the problems they encountered? By that doctrine, joint forces must view the operational environment from a systems perspective to include other-than-military systems such as political, economic, information, etc. This joint interdependence does not entail the merging of services, however.12 The expected result of this perspective is that the joint force commander can collaborate with these other systems (embodied as interorganizational or multinational partners) to achieve results that are beyond the capability of joint force commander’s (JFC) authority13. Thus, Mikesh, Barlow, Elliott, and Mooney’s work with various federal agencies as well as the Kuwaiti government-in-exile is explicitly not forbidden. JP 3-0 directly mentions that JFC should grant Civil Affairs the authority to coordinate with other-than-military organizations such as the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security.14

Collaboration is not to extend to any and all partners, even the irrelevant ones, as it is to be understood that "synergy must be available at the lowest echelon at which it can be managed effectively”14 – the idea is to collaborate with outside agencies only to the extent that it is practical.

JP 3-0 also advocates a mission command philosophy15, which “is the conduct of military operations through decentralized execution based on mission-type orders” and demands that subordinate leaders act aggressively and independently to accomplish the mission.”16 Mikesh, Barlow, Elliott, and Mooney demonstrated these traits in support of making the Kuwait Task Force a reality.

The current form of JP 3-0 did not come into force until long after the Kuwait Task Force’s mission was completed, but the Kuwait Task Force was created and operated in a manner consistent with those future guidelines. The Task Force used a systems approach to achieving results; it worked with agencies that would be later absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security to extend its range of ability – but it worked with those agencies only up to the point they could be effectively managed; and it used a mission command philosophy.


  1. The following account is based on Barlow, D. “The Kuwait Task Force: Postconflict planning and interagency coordination.”
  2. This is the same Dennis Barlow that authored Ibid. Most aspects were confirmed in Carlton, “The Kuwait Task Force.”
  3. This is not a typo – they developed guidelines for the guidelines!
  4. Brinkerhoff, J. “United States Army Reserve in Operation Desert Storm”
  5. Barlow, “The Kuwait Task Force: Postconflict planning and interagency coordination,” note 40.
  6. Barlow states that this criticism would be valid for combat operations but was irreverent since the Task Force would be operating post-conflict. This ignores the fact that departing Iraqi forces laid booby traps for the incoming Coalition forces, such as placing mines around burning oil wells. Knowledge of the Task Force’s plans would allow the Iraqi to place booby traps to maximize damage.
  7. Carlton, in his “Kuwait Task Force,” attributes this name change to the desire to soothe hard feeling within ARCENT and USCENTCOM.
  8. Carlton, “Kuwait Task Force.”
  9. Barlow, “The Kuwait Task Force: Postconflict planning and interagency coordination.”
  10. Ibid.
  11. Brinkerhoff, “United States Army Reserve in Operation Desert Storm”
  12. Johnsen, “Land power in the age of joint interdependence”, pp. 224-226.
  13. JP 3-0, IV-3 – IV-6.
  14. Ibid. II-10.
  15. Ibid. IV-7.
  16. Ibid. IV-5.
  17. Deployable Training Division Joint Staff J7, “Mission Command.”


Barlow, D. “The Kuwait Task Force: Postconflict planning and interagency coordination.” In Understanding Complex Military Operations: A case study approach. Edited by Guttieri, Franke, and Civic. Routledge, 21 March 2014. DOI: 10.4324/9781315881577-12

Brinkerhoff, J. United States Army Reserve in Operation Desert Storm: Civil Affairs in the War with Iraq. Department of the Army. 9 October 1991. Retrieved 30 May 2024 from

Carlton, P. “Kuwait Task Force: A Unique Solution to Kuwait’s Reconstruction Problems.” Public Policy and Leadership Faculty Publications. Retrieved 29 May 2024 from

Deployable Training Division Joint Staff J7, “Mission Command” January 2020. Retrieved 29 May 2024 from

Johnsen, W. “Land power in the age of joint interdependence: toward a theory of land power for the twenty-first century.” Defense & Security Analysis, 35:3, 223-240, DOI: 10.1080/14751798.2019.1640417

Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 3-0, Joint Operations. 17 January 2017.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Operation Desert Storm – an Analysis


“Conventional warfare” is a relative term: what counts as conventional warfare depends on the time the war was fought, and frequently depends on the weapons or tactics used. Still, lessons learned in previous conflicts are applicable to subsequent wars: The Greeks at the Battle of Thermopylae used phalanx formations which have not withstood the test of time, but they also used delay tactics, feign retreats, and use of geography to constrain the enemy, all of which are timeless. So, while the phalanx eventually became obsolete, the other aspects were fundamental in all future military operations.

Thousands of years after Thermopylae came the trench warfare of WWI, followed by the mechanized warfare of WWII, with its blitzkriegs and tanks. The Gulf War was primarily a technological war, with weaponry so advanced that those used in previous wars appeared to be as anachronistic as the phalanx formation. Thus the Gulf War became the “conventional” war of the day.

This paper examines the operational components of the Gulf War and the interpretation of that war by American military analysts as well as by near-peer competitors.

Goals of the Gulf War

The Gulf War had both strategic goals and strategic constraints. The goals were to remove the Iraqi invasion force from Kuwait, and to degrade the military to prevent it from attacking Saudi Arabia, Israel, and other nearby countries. The constraint was to not degrade the military so far that it wouldn’t be a credible deterrence to Iranian invasion.

To accomplish this, combined air and ground operations were employed. The air operation was designed to destroy Iraqi air power, weaken its ground forces, and prepare the way for the ground invasion.

The precursor to Operation Desert Storm was, of course, Operation Desert Shield. Desert Shield allowed the George H. W. Bush administration to assemble the Coalition forces, and to position those forces for what would come next, should Saddam not withdraw from Kuwait. It gave time for the economic sanctions placed upon Iraq to have an effect. Finally, it allowed Coalition forces to train in a desert environment.

Demolished vehicles line Highway 80, also known as the "Highway of Death", the route fleeing Iraqi forces took as they retreated from Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Joe Coleman, 18 April 1991.

Operation Desert Storm was divided into four phases1. Phase I was to be a strategic air campaign designed to disrupt Iraq’s command and control over their forces, and to destroy NBC weapons research and production facilities. Phase II was to establish air supremacy over Kuwait. The goal of Phase III was to isolate Iraqi forces in Kuwait from reinforcement and resupply. Finally, Phase IV was to evict Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

The first three phases were air campaigns and will be treated as a whole.

The Air Operation

The air operation lasted from 17 January 1991 to 23 February 1991, during which Coalition forces performed over 100,000 sorties and dropped 85,000 tons of bombs.

The air campaign began with the destruction of enemy radar sites near the Saudi-Iraqi border by American Apache and Pave Low helicopters. If left intact, those sites would warn Iraq of upcoming attacks. Following this, the weapons of choice were Tomahawk cruise missiles launched by ships positioned in the Persian Gulf, stealth bombers dropping “smart” bombs, and F/A-18 Hornets carrying anti-radar missiles. These latter homed-in on radar antennas, destroying them. This completed the destruction of Iraq’s radar system, thereby degrading their air capability. It further blinded Iraq from observing and responding to Coalition activities. Bombing continued using television-guided and laser-guided missiles.

At the time, Iraq’s air force was the sixth largest in the world. This changed due to three factors: first, aerial combat in which 36 Iraqi aircraft were downed; second, destruction of 254 aircraft while on the ground (either in standard or underground hangers); and finally, relocation of military assets into Iran.

It was originally thought that this movement of aircraft was a result of pilot desertion, but it was later proven that this was Saddam’s attempt at preserving Iraqi air power. This was confirmed from documents captured during the occupation of Iraq following the 2003 invasion2. The US did not capture all the documents, however – some fell into the hands of Iran or Iranian-backed groups; these documents included the names of Iraqi pilots from the Iraq-Iran War, and those pilots were targeted for execution3.

Commercial aircraft were moved into Iran as well. Iraq’s deal with Iran for sheltering aircraft covered only civilian and transport aircraft, so it came as a surprise that Iraqi military aircraft were crossing into Iranian airspace.

When questioned over this, Iranian officials promised to keep Saddam’s aircraft until the conclusion of the Gulf War. Many of the aircraft would be incorporated into the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Aviation Division and would never be returned4.

The Ground Operation

Following the destruction of Iraq’s radar and communication facilities, their command-and-control ability was thereby lost. This included Iraq’s logistic capabilities, leaving their ground forces in and around Kuwait unsupported. The ground operation began on 24 February 1991 when Marines began heading towards Kuwait City. Within the first 24 hours of the ground operation, 10,000 Iraqi troops surrendered (by end of operation, a total of 50,000 prisoners were taken). The large number of surrenders were caused by the incessant bombing operations of the Coalition forces, the inability of Iraqi ground troops to communicate with their commanders, and the shear lack of logistical support.

The opening hours of the land operation would also see the creation of a forward operating base (FOB Cobra) deep within Iraq territory. FOB Cobra would serve as a staging base for the tank war that followed.

Approximately 1,900 tanks, mostly M1A1 Abrams were brought in to battle Soviet-built T-72s, manned by Republican Guard members. Coalition forces destroyed over 3,300 of these tanks through air and ground attacks in what were some of the largest tank battles in American history. At least 100 tanks were destroyed by AH-64 “tank-killer” helicopters, which challenged the prevailing belief that the best weapon against a tank was another tank.

Iraq withdrew from Kuwait almost immediately, but not before setting fire to 700 Kuwaiti oil wells, some of which they surrounded by mines.

All Coalition military operations were halted 100 hours after the start, but under four conditions: all Iraqi military operations must stop, including Scud missile attacks; all Coalition military prisoners and Kuwaiti civilian hostages must be immediately released; Iraq would comply with all relevant UN resolutions; and the Iraqi army must assist in locating and removing all land and sea mines.

On 27 February Saddam surrendered, and on 3 March 1991 Iraq signed the official cease fire agreement.

Consequences – Interpretation by American Analysts

Taken together, the air and land operations achieved the war’s strategic goals: it removed the Iraqi occupation forces from Kuwait, it degraded Iraq’s military so that it could no longer attack Saudi Arabia and Israel, but it didn’t degrade them to the point where they were unable to defend themselves against Iran.

Operation Desert Storm has been described as an “effects-based operation” (EBO) in that the purpose was to neutralize the enemy without necessarily destroying their forces. While this is true at face value, EBO was reformulated as a “software approach to warfare” when it was systemized by the United States Joint Forces Command (JFCOM). This introduced considerable baggage: computer-modeling software, operational net assessment, and system-of-system analysis.

The EBO doctrine was criticized by Lt. General Paul Van Riper and General James Mattis5 because operational control moved from commanders to staff; it entailed centralized decision-making along with consequent micromanagement; and that the doctrine gave the illusion of complete knowledge of the enemy’s present and future states. Finally, it overemphasized the importance of air power and minimized the usefulness of ground forces.

The EBO interpretation of the Gulf War was rejected, as was the entire concept of effects-based operations.

The “naïve” formulation of EBO was retained, however, and is now called “effects-based approach to operations” (EBAO) in Air Force doctrine6. EBAO is no longer a strategy but instead a “way of thinking.” While annihilation and attrition are still viable options, “the ultimate aim in war is not just to overthrow the enemy’s military power but to compel them to do one’s will.”7

Interpretation by Near-Peer Competitors

The success of Operation Desert Storm was noted by our near-peer competitors. Both China and Russia realized that it was impossible for them to compete against America in conventional conflicts, so they began considering alternative means of warfare.

Russia pursued what Kilcullen called “liminal warfare”8 which involves covert actions operating below the threshold which a military response would be warranted… until it was too late. It is a refined version of gray zone warfare. A good example of this strategy was the Russian take-over of Crimea9: Russians created and supported sympathetic unions and political parties; Cossacks and Serbian paramilitary groups were imported, which appeared to destabilize the region. Russia responded with “relief columns” in response to this “humanitarian crisis,” but the true goal was to support pro-Russian forces already inside the country. By the time the true purpose of Russia’s “relief” became clear, a military response from NATO was not possible because there apparently was no military invasion.

For China, the new warfare was called “unrestricted warfare” (UW) which consists of cultural, economic and political moves as forms of warfare10, either applied individually or in combination. UW is founded on the belief that “everything that can benefit mankind can also harm him.”11 Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, the authors of Unrestricted Warfare, the text that gave us the name UW, state that “the best way to achieve victory is to control, not to kill.”12 The similarity of goals with the Air Force’s conception of EBAO is striking.

The clearest example of UW in action is the Belt and Road Initiative, in which China loans money to a host country to build infrastructure in that host country. These loans included predatory interest rates and backed by unconvertible Chinese currency. The actual construction requires that only Chinese labor be used so no local jobs were created. If the country defaults on the loan, ownership of the new infrastructure goes to China; if the host country does not default, the country must repay the loan to China. Either way the host country becomes a vassal state.

The direct correlation between the results of the Gulf War and unrestricted warfare is explicit: the text Unlimited Warfare has an entire chapter describing the Gulf War and the lessons Americans learned and what we did not learn. The connection between the Gulf War and liminal warfare is not so clear, though the ease at which American M1A1 Abrams tanks destroyed Soviet-made T-72 tanks surely made an impression on the Russians.

Both liminal warfare and unrestricted warfare build upon elements of past techniques. Liminal war is similar to Soviet attempts to undermine Western institutions, and unrestricted warfare – in particular the Belt and Road Initiative – is like the tributary system practiced by the Chinese during their dynastic era. Much as the tactics used by the Greeks at the Battle of Thermopylae served as the foundation for future battles, these historical precedents underly Russia’s and China’s new approaches to warfare.


The Gulf War left Saddam Hussein in place – regime change was not part of the UN mandates and it was expected that he would be toppled by internal rebellions. Insurgencies by Kurdish and Shiite groups within Iraq lead to crackdowns by Saddam, and in response, US and British forces established two no-fly zones: one in the north to protect the Kurds and one in the south to protect Shiite Muslims. These no-fly zones would remain in place until the 2003 Iraq War.

Something else that remained in place were the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the US and the UN. Because they were still in effect at the time of the later invasions, those sanctions could not be used to pressure Saddam to leave office.

The Gulf War became the model of conventional warfare due to its success, speed of execution, and relatively small number of Coalition casualties. It was a “textbook” war, but that textbook was studied by Russia and China. In response, they devised their own counterstrategies: liminal warfare and unrestricted warfare, respectively. If these are the future forms of warfare, then what counts as “conventional warfare” must be updated.


  1. Snow & Drew, From Lexington to Baghdad and Beyond: War and Politics in the American Experience.
  2. Michael Brill, “Remembering Desert Storm and the Gulf War(s) Odyssey of Iraq’s Air Force, Part 1”
  3. Ibid.
  4. Michael Brill, “Remembering Desert Storm and the Gulf War(s) Odyssey of Iraq’s Air Force, Part 2”
  5. James Mattis, “USJFCOM Commander’s Guidance for Effects-based Operations.”
  6. John T. Correll, “The Assault on EBO.”
  7. U.S. Air Force, AFDP 3-0 Operations and Planning, p. 19.
  8. David Kilcullen, The Dragons and the Snakes: How the Rest Learned to Fight the West.
  9. Robert Leonhard, Little Green Men: A Primer on Russian Unconventional Warfare, Ukraine 2013-14.
  10. Dean Cheng, “Chinese Lessons from the Gulf War.”
  11. Qiao Liang & Wang Xiangsui, Unrestricted Warfare.
  12. Ibid.


U.S. Air Force, AFDP 3-0 Operations and Planning, 4 November 2016. Retrieved 23 November 2024 from

Brill, M. “Remembering Desert Storm and the Gulf War(s) Odyssey of Iraq’s Air Force, Part 1” Wilson Center Sources and Methods. 14 January 2021. Retrieved 22 May 2024 from

Brill, M. “Remembering Desert Storm and the Gulf War(s) Odyssey of Iraq’s Air Force, Part 2” Wilson Center Sources and Methods. 15 January 2021. Retrieved 22 May 2024 from

Cheng, D. “Chinese Lessons from the Gulf War.” November 2011. Retrieved 22 May 2024 from

Correll, J. “The Assault on EBO” Air Force Magazine, January 2013. Retrieved 23 May 2024 from

Kilcullen, D. The Dragons and the Snakes: How the Rest Learned to Fight the West. Oxford University Press, 2020.

Leonhard, R. Little Green Men: A Primer on Russian Unconventional Warfare, Ukraine 2013-14. United States Army Special Operations Command, 2015. Retrieved 21 May 2024 from

Mattis, J. “USJFCOM Commander’s Guidance for Effects-based Operations.” Parameters 38, no. 3 (2008), doi:10.55540/0031-1723.2437. Retrieved 23 May 2024 from

Qiao L. & Wang X. Unrestricted Warfare. PLA Literature and Arts Publishing House, Beijing, 1999.

Snow, D. & Drew, D. From Lexington to Baghdad and Beyond: War and Politics in the American Experience. Routledge, 2009.

Spalding, R. War Without Rules: China’s Playbook for Global Domination. Sentinel Press, 2022.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Legal and Moral Authorization to Conduct the Gulf War

Introduction: Historical and Operational

On 2 August 1990, the Iraq military, under command of Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait. The invasion not only left Iraq in possession of Kuwait’s people, land, and mineral resources, it also left Iraq in a position to attack Saudi Arabia, which Saddam had threatened to do. This led to the Gulf War of 1990-1991 in which the United States and her allies fought to restore Kuwait’s independence and to protect Saudi Arabia’s territory.[1] [2]

There were two phases to the Gulf War: Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. Of the two, Desert Shield is most relevant here.

Operation Desert Shield was primarily an operational stage in that military resources were positioned and coordinated so that they could be used to accomplish specific political goals. The idea is, to quote Clausewitz, “that war is not merely an act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse, carried on with other means.” In the Gulf War, the political objectives were to liberate Kuwait and to protect the sovereignty of Saudi Arabia[3].

USMC patrol near a burning well close to Kuwait City on March 7, 1991. (AP)

Legal Authorizations of the Gulf War[4]

Immediately following the invasion, President George H. W. Bush issued executive orders[5] banning trade and financial transactions with Iraq as well as implementing a travel ban. He further ordered that Iraqi assets within the US be frozen. Two days later, the House and Senate separately passed legislation supporting those executive orders, but neither of these were signed into law.

These executive orders were mirrored by the UN Security Council when it passed Resolution 661 on 6 August 1990 which imposed numerous economic sanctions on Iraq. These sanctions included bans on trade and financial transactions, except for medicines and food; a freezing of Iraqi government assets abroad; embargos on oil and arms; and so on. Approximately one hundred and ten countries took part in the embargo.

Bush began building an international coalition to isolate Iraq both militarily and diplomatically. The coalition was (at the time) unique in that it had a single purpose and was not meant to be long-term. Bush and his ambassadors were even able to alienate Iraq from members of the Arab League. Israel was kept neutral to avoid destabilizing the coalition, even though Iraq launched Scud missiles targeting Israel during the last month of Desert Shield.

Meanwhile, coalition military assets were being positioned in the region in readiness for Desert Storm.

On 29 November 1990, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 678, which authorized coalition members to use all necessary means to secure peace, giving Iraq a deadline of 15 January 1991 to withdraw from Kuwait.

On 14 January, the day before the UN deadline, the 102nd Congress passed H.J.Res.77, the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution, which was the closest Congress came to an actual declaration of war. George H. W. Bush signed it into law (Public Law No: 102-1), and in his signing statement, Bush announced that

…[M]y request for congressional support did not, and my signing this resolution does not, constitute any change in the long-standing positions of the executive branch on either the President's constitutional authority to use the Armed Forces to defend vital U.S. interests or the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution.[6]

Saddam Hussein ignored the UN deadline for withdrawal, and Operation Desert Storm began on 17 January 1991.

Just War Theory and the Gulf War

Just War Theory (JWT) is a tradition of military ethics that uses criteria to ensure that a war is ethically justifiable. Western JWT began with Saint Augustine and was refined and extended by Saint Thomas Aquinas. The tradition continues through the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church. Contemporary JWT, as espoused by Michael Walzer[7], for example, is secular but maintains several Christian attributes, notably an altruistic ethical foundation.

In either the Christian or secular forms, JWT has two primary components: criteria for when to justly begin a war (jus ad bellum) and criteria for just conduct during war (jus in bello)[8]. Of the two components, jus ad bellum would be most relevant here.

To justly enter a state of war, the war must satisfy all of the following criteria: war must be publicly declared by the appropriate authority; it must be for just cause and just intentions; it must be a last resort; the means used must be proportional to the provocation; and there must be a reasonable chance of success.

As the sole power to declare war is granted to Congress by the Constitution, the Gulf War does not satisfy the jus ad bellum criterion that a just war must be publicly declared by the proper authority.

The “just cause” and “just intentions” criteria are highly subjective, but these are usually taken to mean that the goal of a war is to redress harms, address human rights violations, and reestablish a just peace. The Gulf War could pass those criteria.

The “option of last resort” criteria was also met, since both the US and UN imposed economic sanctions on Iraq immediately following their invasion of Kuwait, and the UN gave an explicit deadline for Iraq to withdraw along with a clear statement of what would happen if they didn’t. Between the first imposition of sanctions by the US and the UN’s deadline for withdrawal, 166 days elapsed, which was more than sufficient time for economic sanctions to hit home. Diplomacy failed; economic sanctions failed; war thus became the last resort.

The “reasonable chance of success” criteria was also satisfied: between the far larger American military and the operational and logistical preparations made before Desert Storm began, success was highly likely.

Finally, the “proportional response” criterion is met, presumably: the coalition forces were used against Iraq’s to evict them from Kuwait and to prevent excursions into Saudi Arabia all while leaving Iraq able to defend itself from Iran. Others would point to the large number of casualties together with harms caused by the economic sanctions as proof that the response was not proportional.

JWT requires all these jus ad bellum criteria to be met for a nation to justly enter a state of war. There never was a declaration by the appropriate authority[9]; whether the proportional response criterion was satisfied is debatable; and the just cause and good intentions are extremely subjective. The Gulf War violated the proper declaration condition, so it cannot be considered a just war.

It must be noted that (besides pacifism) there is at least one other ethical theory of war, which is usually called “realist.” This theory holds that a war must be declared and executed only in a nation’s best interest. The goal of JWT is to minimize the brutality or war; a side effect of the realist position is to shorten the duration and frequency of wars. Unfortunately, realist war theories are presented only as a straw man[10], and the theory currently lacks a holistic exposition.


In the case of the Gulf War, the legal and the moral justifications were at odds: the war was certainly sanctioned by the United Nations and (while stopping short of a full declaration of war) it was approved by Congress; according to Just War Theory (either biblical or secular), it was an unjust war.

There is an additional justification that must be considered: popular support. This must be considered under Clausewitz’s people-military-government trinity, and it explains the incessant and fawning media coverage the Gulf War received, making it into what was sometimes called the “video game war.”

In reviewing the buildup to the war, one must wonder why George H. W. Bush went through the media and the UN as opposed to petitioning Congress[11]. The answer lies in his signing statement for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution – he explicitly doubted the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution. Instead of addressing that directly or addressing the problems the WPR was meant to correct, he ignored it. This is something all subsequent presidents would do.


[1] Westermeyer, Liberating Kuwait.

[2] Stewart, War in the Persian Gulf.

[3] Snow, D. & Drew, D. From Lexington to Baghdad and Beyond.

[4] The chronology of events in this section follows Englehardt, “Desert Shield and Desert Storm”

[5] EO 12722 and 12723.

[6] Bush, Bush, Statement on Signing the Resolution Authorizing the Use of Military Force Against Iraq.

[7] Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars.

[8] A third component (jus post bellum) that addresses justice following the conclusion of a war, was added relatively late in the Just War Tradition.

[9] This is disputed in O’Brien, “Desert Storm: A Just War Analysis.”

[10] Frowe, The Ethics of War and Peace.

[11] Burgin, “Rethinking the Role of the War Powers Resolution.”


Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 1991, Public Law No: 102-1, Retrieved 16 May 2024 from

Burgin, E. “Rethinking the Role of the War Powers Resolution: Congress and the Persian Gulf War.” Notre Dame Journal of Legislation 21 (no. 23) (1995). Retrieved 15 May 2024 from

Bush, G. H. W. Statement on Signing the Resolution Authorizing the Use of Military Force Against Iraq. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: George H. W. Bush (1991, Book I), 14 January 1991. Retrieved 16 May 2024 from

Englehardt, J. P. “Desert Shield and Desert Storm: A Chronology and Troop List for the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf Crisis.” Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 25 March 1991. Retrieved 13 May 2024 from

Frowe, H. The Ethics of War and Peace. Routledge, 2022.

O’Brien, W. “Desert Storm: A Just War Analysis.” St. John’s Law Review 66 (no. 3), Fall 1992. Retrieved 16 May 2024 from

Snow, D. & Drew, D. From Lexington to Baghdad and Beyond: War and Politics in the American Experience. Routledge, 2009.

Stewart, R. War in the Persian Gulf: Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm August 1990 – March 1991. Center of Military History, May 2010. Last retrieved 12 May 2024 from

Walzer, M. Just and Unjust Wars. Basic Books 2015.

Westermeyer, P. Liberating Kuwait: U.S. Marines in the Gulf War, 1990–1991. History Division USMC, 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2024 from

Transport-Related Spread of Christianity

We usually think of transportation systems as carrying people and freight. Transport systems can carry other things such as viral pathogens as well as ideas. A prime example of an idea that is distributed by transportation networks is Christianity.

I. Roman Roads

The Roman roads should be considered one of the engineering marvels of the ancient world. The road system spanned over 250,000 miles, of which 50,000 miles were stone paved (Crawford, 14 March 2023). It spanned Europe as far north as Britain, from Portugal in the west to the Euphrates River in the east. It also extended across the Mediterranean coast of Africa and ran from Alexandria along the Nile River to the Red Sea. Tunnels and bridges were also built, and road signs were used to provide directions.

Since the Roman Road network included branches into Jerusalem and Galilee (Roll, 1983), these roads must have been used by Christians not only to escape persecution but also to spread the Gospel. Paul the Apostle apparently made use of those roads as shown by modern reconstructions (Knecht, 2014) of his three missionary journeys.

II. Ocean Routes

Christianity came to America via another transportation system: ocean routes. Traveling on the Mayflower, Pilgrims arrived in New England in 1620 to practice their faith away from the Church of England. Ten years later, the Winthrop Fleet of 11 ships arrived in Massachusetts carrying anywhere from 700 to 1000 Puritans, including future governors of Rhode Island Colony and the Province of New Hampshire.

The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) would leave England and settle in New Jersey, Delaware, and of course Pennsylvania in the 1670s - 1680s. Catholicism came to Florida from the Spanish, and to the Gulf Coast through the French. In addition, the Russian Orthodox Church established missions and churches in Alaska starting in 1794.

Once these colonies and missions were established following long sea voyages, transmission of Christianity into the interior continued via overland transportation methods. This continues to the present day: truck stops along all major US highways sometimes have trailers providing places of worship for over the road drivers and other travelers. (Pierce, 26 August 2020).

OTR Truck from Schneider Website

III. Modern Communication Networks

Communication networks are also transportation systems. Instead of thinking of transportation systems as roads, shipping routes or air traffic routes, the Internet itself is a communication network that not only connects most of the world (Long, May 2023), but it is also connected to other networks such as the phone systems.

Christianity has spread on the internet through blogs and online videos. Further, social media has allowed the formation of virtual communities that allow discussion of theological issues by geographically dispersed individuals as well as evaluation of current and historical events from a Biblical worldview.


As seen from these examples, the spread of Christianity was thus multimodal: it started by first using Roman roads, switching to ocean routes, continuing overland through road networks on other continents, and now transmitted using communication networks such as the Internet.


Crawford, M. (14 March 2023). “5 Engineering feats from the Roman Empire”. American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Retrieved 15 May 2024 from

Knecht, F. J. (2014). A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture. Aeterna Press (Original work published 1923).

Long, M. L. (May 2023). “Information warfare in the depths: An analysis of global undersea cable networks”. U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 149(5). Retrieved 16 May 2024 from

Pierce, S. (26 August 2020). "Outreach over the road: Truckstop Ministries has been serving truckers for nearly 40 years." The Trucker. Retrieved 16 May 2024 from

Roll, I. (1983). “The Roman Road System in Judaea.” The Jerusalem Cathedra. Retrieved 16 May 2024 from