Since the beginning of the crisis precipitated by Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, the threat posed by Iraq’s arsenal of ballistic missiles has been the focus of international attention. In the opening days of the U.S.-led military counteroffensive beginning on January 16, 1992, Iraq launched ballistic missiles against population centers in Israel and military bases in Saudi Arabia. The attacks intensified the terror of the war and prompted renewed efforts by the multinational force to destroy Saddam Hussein’s military machine.
The countries aligned against Iraq were prepared for attacks by chemically armed missiles, but Iraq’s missile force proved to be of little military consequence. The missiles that survived the opening hours of Operation Desert Storm were conventionally armed, inaccurate and unreliable. Most of those that were actually launched either were intercepted by American antimissile defenses or failed to hit vital targets.
But the political impact of the missiles was inestimable. The strikes symbolized Iraq’s determination to prosecute the war no matter what the cost. By threatening to involve Israel, they created severe tensions and posed the risk that multinational military coalition would be dissolved, and they underscored the potential vulnerability of all the states in the region to Iraqi aggression.
In this book, Janne E. Nolan argues that the use of missiles is a harbinger of the altered international security environment confronting the Untied States and its allies in the late twentieth century. Long believed to be a distant prospect, the adoption of technological resources to missile development is already occurring in over a dozen developing countries, many of them long-standing regional antagonists. These capabilities present complicated challenges to American interests and foreign policy, challenges that have only begun to be explored as a result of the Iraqi crisis.
The author examines the evolution of the international technology market, surveys third world missile programs, and analyzes the military significance of ballistic missiles in potential third world combat. She also discusses the way in which domestic and international policy decisions are made to promote or restrain the export of military technology, and assesses the strengths and weaknesses of current policy. Finally, she emphasizes the need for institutional reforms to balance the requirements of protecting the technological edge on which the United States relies for its own security against the growing pressures of international miniaturization.
Janne E. Nolan is a professor of international affairs at the Elliott School at George Washington University and the chair of the Nuclear Security Working Group. She has published several works on American security, including Global Engagement: Cooperation and Security in the 21st Century (Brookings, 1994).