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The impact of the Gulf war

1st April 1991 Socialist Action 0

First published: April 1991

The Gulf War was an overwhelming military victory for the United States. But what relation of international class forces did it create? And what conclusions flow for the coming class struggles?

On the military level the Gulf War was an overwhelming victory for the United States. In one sense this was inevitable. That the superior armed force of the imperialism, above all US imperialism, cannot be defeated by purely conventional military confrontation was a standard point made during the heyday of the colonial liberation movements of the 1950s and 1960s – it was the backbone of the military ideas of Mao-Tse Tung, Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara, the African liberation movements against the Portuguese empire or in the struggle against Ian Smith’s ‘Rhodesia’. The original idea was that the imperialist enemy could not be defeated on the purely military level but had to be ground down by prolonged social mobilisation to which military action was subordinate – it was no accident that the NLF’s major military offensives during the Vietnam war coincided with US presidential election years. Only at the final stage, when the imperialist enemy had been ground down by political and social mobilisation, and localised armed action on that basis, could relatively conventional military struggle be engaged with a chance of success.