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The Persian Gulf War, the Use of Force in Kosovo, and Analogical Reasoning: Presidential Use of Analogies with Adversaries

Michael F. Cairo

Southern Illinois University at Carbondale

International Studies Association
41st Annual Convention
Los Angeles, CA
March 14-18, 2000


Only a short time ago the vast majority of Americans had never heard of Saddam Hussein or Kosovo. Now, nearly all Americans are aware of both. The dust from the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the 1999 action in Kosovo is still settling and may not settle for some time. In military terms, both actions were decisive. To the American administrations and their allies, the "lesson of Munich" was most applicable in both cases. The bitter experience of attempted British appeasement of Adolf Hitler in the years before World War II produced the lesson that world-wide "bullies" cannot go unchallenged by the international community. Such aggressors must not be permitted to sustain their behavior. From this perspective, Iraq’s August 1990 invasion and subsequent occupation of Kuwait could not be allowed to stand. Similarly, Serbian actions against Kosovar Albanians could not be permitted.

However, American use of the "Munich analogy" failed to reverse the behavior of either Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator, or Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian leader, without the use of force. In both cases, the adversary relied on different analogies in order to support the persistence of its behavior. In the Gulf case, Hussein relied on the perceived American lessons in Vietnam. According to the "Vietnam analogy", American military intervention must inevitably become an unwinnable quagmire with escalating costs, badly damaging American credibility and domestic cohesion. In the Serbian case, Milosevic relied on the "lesson of Jerusalem", arguing that his nation must maintain control of the cradle of its culture. As Israelis insist that Jerusalem, the site of the Wailing Wall, is an integral part of Israel, so Serbs insist that Kosovo, the site of important cultural shrines of Serb origin, is an integral part of Serbia.

In both cases, the American administration signalled its allies and adversaries using the "lesson of Munich". However, the credibility of the "lesson of Munich" was met with alternative perceptions of reality by the adversary. Neither Hussein nor Milosevic were able to see the true seriousness of the crisis and American intentions because they relied on alternative lessons from history.

Bush, Saddam, and the Persian Gulf War

The Bush Administration inherited its initial Iraqi policy from the Reagan Administration. According to Herbert Parment, a Bush biographer, as Vice President, Bush had played an important role in the Reagan Administration’s Iraqi policy. 1 Reagan’s Middle East policy aimed to deter Iranian aggression and expansion by supporting Iran’s major enemy, Iraq. At the end of the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq emerged in dire economic straits and the Bush Administration decided to continue to pursue Reagan’s policy of support, engaging Iraq in dialogue and diplomacy. Domestic considerations mattered heavily in the decision to continue pursuing Iraqi engagement. The Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Credit Corporation had dramatically expanded its grain credit guarantees to Iraq so that Iraq could purchase American agricultural products and "[b]y 1989, Iraq had become the ninth-largest purchaser of U.S. agricultural products." 2 In fall 1989, President Bush signed National Security Directive 26 (NSD-26), which concluded that normlacy between the United States and Iraq would serve long-term American interests; the directive also considered tougher measures if the engagement policy failed. 3 American policy, then, was initially aimed at trying to make Iraq an ally. 4

NSD-26 reflected the administration’s projection of American interests into the Middle East, aiming to strengthen ties with Iraq against the rising power of Iran and the still looming power of the Soviet Union. The logic of accomodation was that persistent threats to American interests remained in the Middle East and that Iraq could be a source for stability against those threats, as well as a source for economic gains through increased trade. In addition, renewing the Middle East peace process was an important concern of the administration; gaining Iraqi support was vital to furthering peace negotiations.

Early efforts at engagement, however, were questionable. Saddam Hussein criticized American policy and threatened America’s long-time ally, Israel. National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft argued that there was a shift in Iraqi policy: "In early 1990, it gradually became apparent...that Saddam had made an abrupt change in his policy toward the United States. The relative moderation he had adopted earlier...was abandoned." 5 The failure of accomodation culminated in Hussein’s ominous invasion and annexation of Kuwait on August 2, 1990, seizing Kuwait’s vast oil reserves and liquidating billions of dollars of loans provided by Kuwait during the Iran-Iraq War.

The administration’s response was almost immediate. Bush explained that he was optimistic about resolving the crisis, but

was not yet sure what to expect....I was keenly aware that this would be the first post-Cold War test of the Security Council in crisis....Soviet help in particular was key, first because they had veto power in the Security Council, but also because they could complete Iraq’s political isolation. What we would try to accomplish ran counter to Moscow’s traditional interests and policy in the region. 6

He personally encouraged the world community to resist Iraqi actions, arguing that Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait constituted "naked aggression". 7 He added that resisting Iraq was nothing less than resisting evil: "It’s good versus evil; we have a clear moral case here; nothing like this since World War II; nothing of this moral importance since World War II." 8 Bush’s rhetoric was decisive and emphasized the correlations between the current crisis and World War II. Bush regretted appeasing Hussein and equated the Iraqi dictator with Adolf Hitler recalling, "I knew what had happened in the 1930s when a weak and leaderless League of Nations had failed to stand up to...aggression. The result was to encourage the ambitions of [Hitler]." 9

Bush’s experiences in World War II had taught him the importance of remaining resolute against aggression and he was determined to make his intentions clear to Hussein. The Cold War had further proved the value of firmness in dealing with an adversary. In response to the threat, Bush ordered the forward deployment of substantial forces into the region. Two squadrons of F-15 aricraft, one brigade of the 82d Airborne Division and other elements of the armed forces began arriving in Saudi Arabia on August 8. Additionally, the United States deployed air, naval and ground forces equipped for combat. Bush made clear that these forces were meant to deter Hussein from further aggression and reverse his action in Kuwait: "I do not believe involvement in hostilities is imminent; to the contrary, it is my belief that this deployment will facilitate a peaceful resolution of the crisis. If necessary, however, the Forces are fully prepared...." 10

With this objective in mind, the administration demonized Hussein and continued to signal the administration’s seriousness by emphasizing the "lesson of Munich". In an address to Department of Defense employees Bush argued that this deployment was "one of the most important deployments of...military power since the Second World War...let no one underestimate our determination to confront aggression." 11 Bush went on to argue that the United States would stand against aggression and evil, as it always had.

It is Saddam who lied...Saddam has claimed that this is a holy war of Arab against infidel - this from the man who has used poison gas against the men, women, and children of his own country; who invaded Iran in a war that cost the lives of more than half a million Moslems; and who now plunders Kuwait. Atrocities have been committed by Saddam’s soldiers and henchmen....Our action in the Gulf is about fighting aggression and preserving the sovereignty of nations....
We are striking a blow for the principle that might does not make right.... century ago our nation and the world paid dearly for appeasing an aggressor who should and could have been stopped. We’re not about to make that same mistake twice....No one should doubt our staying power or our determination. 12

Bush persisted in describing Hussein’s actions as pure evil and equating them with Hitler’s actions in World War II: "I took this action not out of some national hunger for conflict but out of the moral protect our world from fundamental evil." The United States has a "moral obligation to defend [inalienable] rights" and "confront staggering aggression" as it did during World War II. And in a reference to Hitler, Bush added,

The world is now called upon to confront another aggressor, another threat made by a person who has no values when it comes to respecting international law, a man of evil standing against human life itself. 13

And Bush continued to make clear American intentions to deter further Iraqi actions and persuade Iraq to reverse its actions in Kuwait:

[T]he basic elements of our strategy are now in place....[O]ur to persuade Iraq to withdraw, that it cannot benefit from this illegal occupation, that it will pay a stiff price by trying to hold on and an even stiffer price by widening the conflict. 14

Secretary of States James Baker reiterated the administration’s stance in early September in a statement before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Baker argued that the world faced a choice between appeasement or action, and action was the proper strategy.

[W]e face a simple choice: Do we want to live in a world where aggression is made less likely because it is met with a powerful response from the international community, a world where civilized rules of conduct apply? Or are we willing to live in a world where aggression can go unchecked, where aggression succeeds because we cannot muster the collective will to challenge it?...The line in the sands of Arabia is also a line in time. By crossing into Kuwait, Saddam Hussein took a dangerous step back in history. Maybe he thought the world would consider Kuwait expendable, that we would think of its as just a small, faraway country of which we knew and cared little. Possibly he remembered the 1930s when the League of Nations failed to respond effectively to Mussolini’s aggression against Abyssinia, what is today Ethiopia. Clearly, Saddam Hussein thought his crime would pay. But the world has decided otherwise. He must not be allowed to hold on to what he stole....Stand firm, be patient, and remain united so that together we can show that aggression does not pay. 15

Despite the strong rhetoric coming from the administration, and the clear signals of the seriousness with which the administration took this crisis, Saddam Hussein refused to believe that the United States would use force to compel the removal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Why? The answer lies in perceptions of reality. While the United States maintained the crisis applied the "lesson of Munich", Hussein insisted the crisis applied the "lessons of Vietnam".

Hussein should have had serious misgivings about Iraq’s capacity to sustain a war against coalition forces led by the United States. The Iran-Iraq War had seriously damaged the Iraqi economy and Hussein had survived the protracted war by shielding its consequences from the Iraqi public. During the war, Iraqi defenses had been repeatedly breached by the ill-equipped Iranians. The invasion of Kuwait was a serious mistake made out of an attempt to reverse dire economic problems in Iraq. Hussein relied on his defenses around Kuwait and the perceived cost that could be imposed on coalition forces if they could be drawn into conflict. Hussein failed to distinguish between the coalition forces led by the United States and the ill-equipped Iranian forces, believing that Iraq could use a strategy similar to the one which sustained Iraq throughout the Iran-Iraq War. This, he believed, would result in a protracted conflict which the Western public, mainly the American public, would not withstand.

Hussein’s strategy was predicated on threatening the United States with a "second Vietnam". He clearly believed that the Vietnam syndrome would undermine American resolve and pressured the United States to back down from conflict. On August 16, Hussein sent an "open letter" to Bush calling him a "liar" and arguing that American resolve would falter in the face of battle. He told Bush that if the United States continued with its current course of action

thousands of Americans whom you have pushed into this dark tunnel will go home shrouded in sad coffins....You are going to be defeated....Even American public opinion will stand on the side of justice....The wrath of the American people against you will [cause you to] fall from your seat after the defeat of your criminal forces. 16

And in September, Hussein’s Revolutionary Command Council issued a belligerent statement arguing, "There is not a single chance for any retreat....Let everybody understand that this battle is going to become the mother of all battles." 17 It was clear early in the crisis that Hussein was not basing his strategy on World War II analogies, but rather the analogy of Vietnam.

And yet, the Bush Administration continued to persist in drawing correlations between the current crisis and the "lesson of Munich". In an address before a joint session of Congress, Bush again enunciated the importance of standing firm against aggression and tyranny.

The test we face is great - and so are the stakes. This is the first assault on the new world order that we seek, the first test of our mettle. Had we not responded to this first provocation with clarity of purpose, if we do not continue to demonstrate our determination, it would be a signal to actual and potential despots around the world....In the face of tyranny, let no one doubt American credibility and reliability. Let no one doubt our staying power. We will stand by our friends. One way or another, the leader of Iraq must learn this fundamental truth. 18

And as the crisis dragged on, the administration did not change course. Into late autumn, Baker continued to argue that appeasement was not the answer.

Saddam Hussein is trying to drag us all back into the 1930s. And we know what that means: The tempting path of appeasing dictators in the hope that they won’t commit further aggression. The self-defeating path of pretending not to see what was really happening as small nations were conquered and larger nations endangered....In the 1930s, the aggressors were appeased. In 1990...[t]his aggression will not be appeased. 19

The administration’s rhetoric had little affect on Hussein as he continued to refer to Vietnam in explaining the ramifications of the crisis. As late as January, a few weeks before the war, Hussein addressed his troops on the seventieth anniversary of the Iraqi Army, again stating that a war in the Gulf would be the "mother of all battles". 20 The speech, broadcast on state-controlled radio and television, sent an internal message to the Iraqi Army to prepare for a war that would drag the United States and its allies into a quagmire.

Hussein turned out to be wrong. On January 16, allied forces began a ferocious aerial bombardment of Iraq and Kuwait. United States planes led the majority of attacks but were accompanied by British, Italian, French and Kuwaiti forces. They inflicted terrible losses on Iraqi forces, military installations, and cities. Five weeks of nonstop aerial bombardments devastated Iraq and the morale of Iraqi forces. On February 23, the United States and allied forces mounted a ground assault attacking Kuwait and eastern Iraq. Despite Hussein’s boasts that a ground war would become the "mother of all battles" in which Americans would suffer high casualties and deaths, Iraqi forces put up virtually no fight and surrendered en masse. On February 27, Bush announced the liberation of Kuwait and the end of the war. A few days after the war ended, Bush spoke to the American people.

Kuwait is liberated. Iraq’s army is defeated....Seven months ago, America and the world drew a line in the sand. We declared that the aggression against Kuwait would not stand. And tonight, America and the world have kept their word. 21

In his memoirs, Bush wrote that this marked the end of the Vietnam syndrome.

Many of those who had served in the previous thirty years had been "beaten up" largely because of the way the Vietnam War had been fought. A generation of Americans had been acclaimed for refusing to serve. Those who did serve often returned home, not to gratitude and praise, but to ridicule - even while the draft-dodger and the protestor were considered by many to be courageous, even heroic. Now this had been put to rest and American credibility restored. 22

Clinton’s "Little War": The Use of Force in Kosovo

The Clinton Administration, too, relied on the "lesson of Munich" in its fight against "ethnic cleansing" in the Balkan province of Kosovo. Kosovo, a southern province of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, was autonomous within the former Yugoslavia from 1974 until 1989, when new Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic took control. During its period of autonomy, the ethnic Albanian population of Kosovo enjoyed a measure of cultural freedom. That freedom ended with the absorption of Kosovo into the new, Serbian-dominated state in 1989. Since 1989, many have called for full independence for the province. The Serbs, however, claim that Kosovo is an important cultural territory in Serbian history. As the site of the Serbian defeat by the Ottoman Turks in 1389, the Battle of Kosovo Field figures prominently in Serbian poetry and has great national significance as the cradle of Serbian civilization.

While the issues at the center of the fighting in Kosovo date back hundreds of years, the recent tension heated up after the emergence of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in 1996. In 1997 the KLA was active against Serbian domination of Kosovo, targetting Serbs in the province and killing many Serbian officials, mainly police officers. Through its campaign, the KLA was able to establish control over areas within the province. In February 1998, Milosevic sent Serbian troops into the region to take back KLA-controlled areas. Eighty people were killed, including woman and children. The Serb government then sponsored violence against Albanian civilians which sparked rioting by the Kosovars and marked an escalation in the conflict. The "ethnic cleansing" that ensued gave cause for intervention, as civilians were being forceably removed from their homes and killed.

The United States government became particularly concerned about the crisis in early 1999 and urged NATO action to protect human beings from crimes against humanity. As the Clinton Administration prepared to attend a dipolmatic conference in Rambouillet, France and discuss America’s role in implementing a peace settlement in Kosovo, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke at the United States Institute for Peace. Albright explained Amercia’s fundamental interest in seeing peace and stability in Southern Europe and argued that there was a great deal at stake in Kosovo, citing the "lesson of Munich".

Twice before in this century, American soldiers in huge numbers have been drawn to Europe to fight wars that either began in the Balkans or that sparked bitter fighting there. After World War I, America withdrew from Europe and ignored the storm that was gathering. An entire generation of brave Europeans and Americans paid the price. After World War II, we had learned our lesson.... We know that the longer we delay in exercising our leadership, the dearer it will eventually be - in dollars lost, in lost credibility, and in human lives....There should be no doubt...that the consequences of failure to reach agreement or to show restraint on the ground will be swift and severe....This reflects a general recognition that we have reached the stage where diplomacy, to succeed, requires the backing of military force. 23

But American warnings went unheeded and the Serbian government continued its actions against Kosovo. On March 19, the administration was preparing NATO and the American public for action, again citing lessons of the past. During a press conference, President Clinton argued, "Unquestionably, there are risks in military action....But we must weigh those risks against the risks of inaction. If we don’t act, the war will spread." 24 On March 22, two days before NATO forces led by the United States would begin a bombing campaign against Serb forces, the president argued that Kosovo was a reminder of the "lesson of Munich".

Seeking to end this tragedy in the right thing to do....We have learned a lot of lessons in the last 50 years. One of them surely is that we have a stake in European freedom and security and stability. I hope that can be achieved by peaceful means. If not, we have to be prepared to act. 25

Two days later, on March 24, the United States and its NATO allies began aerial bombardments of Serb forces and military targets to prevent further atrocities against the Kosovars. The president’s statement to the nation was clear.

We act to prevent a wider war; to defuse a powder keg at the heart of Europe that has exploded twice before in this century with catastrophic results.... Ending this tragedy is a moral imperative....All the ingredients for a major war are there....Sarajevo, the capital of neighboring Bosnia, is where World War I began. World War II and the Holocaust engulfed this region. In both wars Europe was slow to recognize the dangers, and the United States waited even longer to enter the conflicts. Just imagine if leaders...had acted wisely and early enough, how many lives could have been saved...inaction in the face of brutality simply invites more brutality. But firmness can stop armies and save lives. 26

On March 27, Clinton addressed the American public again, citing again the "lesson of Munich".

I explained why we have taken this step - to save the lives of innocent civilians in Kosovo from a brutal military offensive; to defuse a powder keg at the heart of Europe that has exploded twice before in this century with catastrophic results; to prevent a wider war we would have to confront later, only at far greater risk and cost; to stand with our NATO allies for peace....Through two World Wars and a long Cold War, we saw that it was a short step from a small brushfire to an inferno, especially in the tinder box of the Balkans. The time to put out a fire is before it spreads and burns down the neighborhood. 27

The president hammered away at Milosevic and the Serbs, arguing that the United States must be resolute against brutal aggression and equating Milosevic’s actions with Hitler’s.

If Mr. Milosevic does not do what is necessary, NATO will continue an air campaign....We are prepared to sustain this effort for the long haul....We know we are up against a dictator...who [recognizes] no limits on his behavior....We have seen this kind of evil conduct before in this century....[L]et me be clear: The ethnic cleansing in Kosovo cannot stand as a permanent event. 28

The administration continued to cite the "lesson of Munich" as the crisis continued, although more subtely than the Bush Administration had. In late April, Clinton reaffirmed the administration’s and NATO’s stand against aggression.

We’ve reaffirmed our intensify our actions...until we achieve our objectives in Kosovo....If Mr. Milosevic threatens...we will respond. 29

[W]ith the crisis in Kosovo...[we see] the old choices between state stability and being consumed by ethnic hatreds. 30

Albright, too, continued to defend American actions, drawing analogies to "Munich" in her testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 20.

We have all seen the...images of families uprooted and put on trains, children crying for parents they cannot find, refugees recounting how loved ones were separated and led away, and ominous aerial photos of freshly upturned earth. Behind these images is a reality of a people no different in their fundamental rights or humanity than you or me....And make no mistake, this campaign of terror was...a Milosevic production. Today, our values and principles, our perseverance and our strength, are being tested. We must be united....Kosovo is a small part of a region with large historic importance....The region is a crossroads where the Western and Orthodox branches of Christianity and the Islamic world meet. It is where World War I began, major battles of World War II were fought, and the worst fighting in Europe since Hitler’s surrender occurred in this decade....NATO’s decision to use force against the Milosevic regime was necessary and right....By opposing Slobodan Milosevic’s murderous rampage, NATO is playing its rightful role as a defender of freedo and security....Because our cause is just, we are united. And because we are united, we are confident that this confrontation between barbaric killing and necessary force; between vicious intolerance and respect for human rights; between tyranny and democracy; we will prevail. 31

And yet, as with the Persian Gulf War, the adversary was not cognizant of the same reality.

Throughout the crisis, Milosevic and the government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia relied on the "lesson of Jerusalem". Despite the impact NATO attacks were having on Milosevic’s options and capabilities, his government refused to cease its actions. The clearest explanation for Serbian actions was its declaration on terrorism in the province of Kosovo.

The Serbs have been living in the territory of Kosovo...since the 6th century. That territory is of exceptional importance for...Serbian history and for the cultural-civilizational identity of Serbia - it was the centre of...Serbian statehood and it is important for the Serbs just as the Wailing Wall is important for the Jews. Many Serbian cultural monuments are situated in Kosovo...(200 medieval churches). There are no historical data saying that the Albanians populated that territory in the Medieval Ages. The Albanians in Kosovo...are mainly of Islamic religion, with a small number of Roman Catholics. The question of Kosovo is not only a question of territory or...population: it is an inalienable national treasury, indispensable to the identity of the Serbian people. 32

The Serbs argued that they were defending their nation and its culture from terrorism and separatism, both violations of domestic and international law.

The high degree of autonomy and of national rights did not satisfy the Albanian nationalists. They organized a separatists’ rebellion in 1981, with "Kosovo Republic" as their main slogan....[This] represents the main strategy of... Albanian separatism - the transformation of the Autonomous Province of Kosmet into a Republic which would have the right of secession. The Albanian separatist leaders...never mention the question of the rights of national minorities, let alone the question of human rights and liberties. They request openly and unequivocally an independent state....Such...behaviour represents a violation of... provision 37 of the Final Document of the 2nd Meeting of the Conference on Human Dimension of the OSCE (Copenhagen, 1990), and of...Para. 9 of the Preamble, of...articles 20 and 21 of the Framework Convention of the Council of Europe on the Protection of National Minorities. 33

And the Serbian government suggested that they were the victims and the Kosovar Albanians were threatening their way of life, in contrast to the Clinton Administration’s view.

The political and [terrorist] activities of the present separatists...follows consistently the project of the Prizren Ligue from 1878, which envisaged the unification of...Albanians...and the creation of Great Albania. This programme of unification is still a generally accepted national ideal and political objective of the Albanian extremists. Over...several decades...Albanians...present themselves to the world as..."part of [a] nation in jeopardy" and try to prove..."injustice".... 34

As in the Gulf War, American leaders were relying on a different analogy than their main adversary. The United States insisted that the crisis in Kosovo was about preventing aggression and appeasement of a vicious dictator, while the Serbian government and Slobodan Milosevic insisted that the crisis was about preserving national identity and culture, and protecting history. This difference in perception led to the American use of force to compel the Serbians to cease their actions against the Kosovar Albanians just as the difference in perception led to the use of force in the Persian Gulf.

Conclusions: Analogies and Perception

What does this analysis tell us about the use of analogies by statesmen? First, it is evident that most statesmen, American and others, have turned to the past when dealing with current events, particularly crises. Their use of the analogies, however, has ranged from signalling an adversary or ally, to justifying foreign policy actions. The Bush Administration used the "lesson of Munich" to signal the American public, allies, and the adversary. The administration’s pronouncements were meant to demonstrate American credibility and determination in the crisis. However, it became clear that Saddam Hussein relied on the "lessons of Vietnam" in making strategy. Hussein never seemed to accept the credibility of American pronouncements, relying instead on America’s last major conflict and the lessons he believed Americans learned from that experience. World War II was a part of a distant past that most Americans did not know. Hussein believed that the "scar" of Vietnam would prove more powerful than any other lesson. The Bush Administration’s rhetorical use of the "Munich analogy", then, lacked the necessary credibility to reverse Hussein’s actions without the use of force.

The Clinton Administration was also signalling the American public, allies, and the adversary. The administration made clear that the use of force would be necessary if Milosevic’s government persisted in its actions. This threat was credible since the United States and NATO had used force against Serbian forces before. Milosevic understood the potential for the use of force was high. But he and his government relied on the "lesson of Jerusalem" to justify Serbian actions to the outside world, particularly Western publics which perceived the Serbs as villains. The "lesson of Jerusalem" was meant to appeal tot the Western communities’ sensitivities toward Israel and equate similar feelings toward the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Milosevic’s strategy failed. The Serbs continued to be deemed the enemy and Western publics generally supported NATO action.

Second, the use of analogies by statesmen demonstrates that leaders learn different lessons from history. Hussein relied on his perception of the last twenty years of American foreign policy as evidence that the United States was timid about using force, while Bush aimed to "kick" the Vietnam syndrome by relying on the powerful "lesson of Munich". Milosevic relied on altering public perception with a rather poignant analogy, but was not effective at reaching Western publics. Clinton understood, politically, the successful use of force in the Gulf War and followed that pattern in garnering internal and external support for American actions.

Third, based on these two cases, the use of analogies does not appear to be an effective method of signalling adversaries. In both cases, the United States had to resort to the use of force to reverse the actions of the adversary. If, indeed, the intention was to reverse Iraqi and Serbian actions without resorting to force, both administrations failed. But, while some signs point to this possibility, it is not entirely clear that either administration believed that force could be avoided. If this was the case, it suggests other possibilities for employing analogies.

The most obvious and most probable reason that leaders employ analogies is that leaders, particularly in democracies, are using analogies to signal their publics and their allies regarding their actions. In both cases, the American public needed convincing that force was the proper course of action. Also, it was imperative to have allied participation. Another possibility, and one that was clearly employed by Milosevic, is that leaders use analogies to justify their actions to the world.

Still another possibility is leadership proclivities. Leaders, like all individuals, learn from experiences and their experience often guides them in future actions. This is a plausible argument with regard to Bush, in particular. Bush’s participation as a fighter pilot in World War II left an indelible mark on him. He had strong beliefs about the use of force, preventing the appeasement of dictators, and using strength to achieve peace. However, the argument does not hold with Clinton, for example. Clinton did not experience World War II and, in fact, one of his major life experiences was the Vietnam War. If leadership proclivities explain the use of analogies, one should have expected Clinton to rely on the "lessons of Vietnam" and avoid using force.

It is likely that analogies serve numerous purposes and often are employed by different leaders for different reasons. With this in mind, it is important for analysts to examine each case carefully in an attempt to understand why a leader or group of leaders is employing a certain analogy. In most cases, leaders will use analogies for mulitple purposes. And while the analogy may fail in achieving one goal - for example, the removal of Iraq from Kuwait without the use of force - it may be quite successful in achieving another - gaining allied and public support for action.


Note 1: Herbert S. Parmet, George Bush: The Life of a Lone Star Yankee (New York: A Lisa Drew Book/Scribner, 1997), p. 292. Back.

Note 2: James A. Baker, III, with Thomas M. DeFrank, The Politics of Diplomacy: Revolution, War and Peace, 1989-1992 (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995), p. 263. Back.

Note 3: Ibid., pp. 263-264. Back.

Note 4: See Bruce W. Jentleson, With Friends Like These: Reagan, Bush, And Saddam 1982-1990 (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1994), pp. 15, 95-105. Back.

Note 5: George Bush and Brent Scowcroft, A World Transformed (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998), p. 307. Back.

Note 6: Ibid., pp. 303-304. Back.

Note 7: George Bush, "Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters in Aspen, Colorado, Following a Meeting With Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom, August 2, 1990", Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States 1990/2(Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990), pp. 1,087-1,088. Back.

Note 8: George Bush, "Remarks at the Aspen Institute Symposium in Aspen, Colorado, August 2, 1990", in ibid., p. 1,093. Back.

Note 9: Bush and Scowcroft (1998), p. 303 Back.

Note 10: George Bush, "Letter to Congressional Leaders on the Deployment of United States Armed Forces to Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, August 9, 1990", Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States 1990/2(Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1991), p. Back.

Note 11: George Bush, "Remarks to Department of Defense Employees, August 15, 1990", in ibid., p. Back.

Note 12: Ibid., pp. Back.

Note 13: George Bush, "Remarks at a Republican Party Fundraising Luncheon in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, August 20, 1990", in ibid., pp. Back.

Note 14: George Bush, "Remarks at a White House Briefing for Members of Congress on the Persian Gulf Crisis, August 28, 1990", in ibid., p. Back.

Note 15: James A. Baker, III, "America’s Stake in the Persian Gulf", U.S. Department of State Dispatch 1/2(September 10, 1990), pp. 69-71. Back.

Note 16: See "Iraqi, Calling Bush ‘a Liar’, Warns of U.S. Combat Toll", New York Times (August 17, 1990), p. A11; "Excerpts From ‘Open Letter’ To Bush by President of Iraq", New York Times (August 17, 1990), p. A11; and "Excerpts from TV Interview With Iraqi Official", New York Times (August 17, 1990), p. A11. Back.

Note 17: Bob Woodward, The Commanders (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991), p. 297. Back.

Note 18: George Bush, "Toward a New World Order", U.S. Department of State Dispatch 1/3(September 17, 1990), p. 92. Back.

Note 19: James A. Baker, III, "Why America is in the Gulf", U.S. Department of State Dispatch 1/10(November 5, 1990), p. 235. Back.

Note 20: Woodward (1991), p. 359. Back.

Note 21: George Bush, "Address to the Nation on the Suspension of Allied Offensive Combat Operations in the Persian Gulf, February 27, 1991", Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States 1991/1(Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1991), p. Back.

Note 22: Bush and Scowcroft (1998), p. 486. Back.

Note 23: Madeleine Albright, "The Importance of Kosovo", U.S. Department of State Dispatch 10/1(January/February 1999), pp. 4-7. Back.

Note 24: Bill Clinton, "Press Conference by the President, March 19, 1999", Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States Back.

Note 25: Bill Clinton, "Remarks by the President on the Situation in Kosovo, March 22, 1999", Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States Back.

Note 26: Bill Clinton, "Statement by the President to the Nation, March 24, 1999", Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States Back.

Note 27: Bill Clinton, "Radio Address on NATO Air Strikes for Peace in Kosovo, March 27, 1999", Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States Back.

Note 28: Bill Clinton, "Statement by the President, April 5, 1999", Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States Back.

Note 29: Bill Clinton, "Remarks by the President at the Close of the Washington Summit, April 25, 1999", Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States Back.

Note 30: Bill Clinton, "Remarks by President and Other Participants in Democratic Leadership Forum - The Third Way: Progressive Governance for the 21st Century, April 25, 1999", Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States Back.

Note 31: Madeleine Albright, "U.S. and NATO Policy Toward the Crisis in Kosovo", U.S. Department of State Dispatch 10/4(May 1999), pp. 5-8. Back.

Note 32: Back.

Note 33: Back.

Note 34: Back.