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George Bush and the Gulf War of 1991

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Abstract

On August 2, 1990, Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait. Within 24 hours they controlled that small country. On January 16, 1991, President George Bush ordered U.S. military forces into battle to undo the Iraqi conquest and liberate Kuwait. The president's decision for war came in several stages. In the first stage, which lasted hardly longer than it took for Saddam Hussein's troops to subdue Kuwait, Bush determined that Iraqi soldiers must be expelled from Kuwait and that country's sovereignty restored. In announcing this decision on the third day after the invasion, he did not say explicitly that force might be used to accomplish this goal, but the implication was obvious and deliberate. In the second stage of the decision process, which lasted from early August until late October, Bush deployed American forces to Saudi Arabia and orchestrated sanctions against Iraq. The deployment of forces, initially designed to defend Saudi Arabia against further Iraqi adventurism, increasingly afforded the Bush administration the capacity to wage war against Iraq; this capacity, together with the sanctions, was intended to signal the seriousness of the United States and its allies. The role of allies became more explicit during the third stage of the decision process, in which the administration pressed for, and in late November received, explicit authorization from the United Nations Security Council for the use of force to evict Iraq from Kuwait. In the final stage of the decision process, Bush focused on the home front, seeking—and, again, finally receiving—congressional endorsement of war against Iraq. Days after the vote, the president ordered American forces, in conjunction with those of several allies, to war.

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