Air superiority has always been a central part of why the American military prevails in many conflicts. From World War II to Vietnam to our current conflicts, the heart of our strategies for establishing dominance in a conflict is to quickly establish and maintain control of the skies. America is also well known for possessing a massive arsenal and military that nobody would want to get into a conflict with. That is why when Saddam Hussein did find himself facing down the American military in the first gulf war in 1991, it was the superiority and massive firepower America and her allies could bring to the conflict that meant victory against Iraq.
The reasons for the conflict are both complex and simple. Simply put, in August of 1990, Iraq invaded and occupied neighboring Kuwait. Kuwait is and was an American ally. That meant that President Bush had no choice but to use our military to go in and liberate Kuwait and reverse the occupation of Iraq using whatever military power we could bring to bear. The operation was named “Operation Desert Storm”. It was correctly named because the firestorm of military power that was brought to bear against the Iraqis was nothing short of overwhelming.
The reasons why Iraq invaded Kuwait are the complicated part. Whether it was a battle over water rights, over oil exploration or just a move toward world domination, the hostile invasion of an allied country could not stand. And when it became clear that the Iraqi army was making preparations to extend their military conquest into another American ally, Saudi Arabia, the need to retaliate and push the Iraqis back was not only the correct thing to do, it was urgent.
On January 15th, Operation Desert Storm got underway with a suddenly explosion of fire from the sky brought to bear from the American aerial assault that was positioned off the coast on warships and supported from strategic locations in Saudi Arabia. Over ten thousands missions were executed in a short, ten-day period of time. Those missions were not only utterly overpowering, they were carried out with pinpoint precision targeting Iraqi military control infrastructure, its air defense system, its ability to attack by air or using ballistic missies and the Iraqi chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs.
In just a few short weeks, the force of the American and British onslaught proved irresistible. Kuwait was liberated on February 25th, 1991. We cannot discount the value of ground forces and the ability of navel military forces working in close coordination with aerial combat units to deliver this crushing blow to the Iraqi military. Before summer, the Iraqi military was totally defeated and order had been restored to the region.
Operation Desert Storm was a textbook example of how a superpower could bring its massive military to bear to reverse an unacceptable act of aggression but to do so with precision attacks that accomplished our military and political goals with very few casualties and in record time. While there has been much debate since the first Iraq War whether we should have captured Baghdad or not, there can be no question that the liberation of Kuwait is a shining example of how effective aerial combat can be when the strategy is clear and the might of the military is properly deployed.