As U.S. forces deployed to Saudi Arabia in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, anti-military groups in the United States began rallying to the cry “No more Vietnams!’’
For once, they were right. Planning for and execution of Operation Desert Storm to date bear no resemblance to the U.S. experience in Vietnam, with one exception: enemy abuse of U.S. and allied prisoners of war. For rules of engagement, the contrast with Vietnam is significant.
The 1965-1968 Rolling Thunder bombing campaign against North Vietnam provides stark contrast to Desert Storm. In August 1964, responding to a request from Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) developed a graduated program for aerial attack of military targets in North Vietnam. The JCS war plan was to sever the North Vietnamese lines of communication used for the import, export, and internal movement of war materials, while simultaneously establishing air superiority. The next step was to attack war-related industries and storage. To this end, the JCS identified 94 fixed targets requiring attack.