The general responsible for US victory in the 1991 Gulf War, Norman Schwarzkopf, died on Thursday, December 27th from pneumonia. He was 78. Dubbed “Stormin Norman,” Schwarzkopf defeated Saddam Hussein and cemented US power over Kuwait. The battle also marked a shift in which the US began to actively remake itself as a Middle East hegemon, above and beyond other regions and theatres of war.
The US-led war killed up to 205,000 Iraqis during the invasion and its aftermath and decimated Iraqi infrastructure. In one of the war’s most notorious incidents, Schwarzkopf ordered US forces to fire on retreating and disarmed Iraqi forces along Iraq’s Highway 80, causing hundreds of casualties and prompting the name “Highway of Death.”
News of Schwarzkopf’s death comes as former President George H.W. Bush, who ordered the first Gulf War, is in a Houston hospital in intensive care after suffering bronchitis.
While the US played an active role in the Middle East from WWII onwards, the Gulf War defined its position as a Middle East hegemon. In deciding to push Iraq back out of Kuwait and guarantee the status quo ante in the Gulf, George H. W. Bush and his Centcom commander Gen. Schwarzkopf took the fateful step that would lead to the US replacing Britain as the Great Power in the Gulf. Schwarzkopf is said to have helped convince (together with then US Defence Secretary Dick Cheney and Secretary of State James Baker III), Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd to allow the pre-positioning of hundreds of thousands of US and allied troops on Saudi soil in advance of the January 1991 invasion of Kuwait. The Gulf War also redefined US-Saudi partnership, transforming Saudi Arabia’s role from de facto US colony and oil pump, into a key military ally.