Accession Number:



Desert Storm's Siren Song: Examining Revolution in Warfare

Descriptive Note:

[Technical Report, Monograph]

Corporate Author:

School of Advanced Military Studies

Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



This study refutes the claims by many air power advocates that Operation Desert Storm stands as a revolution in warfare. According to their logic, the success of the Gulf War air campaign proves air power has become the dominant force in modern warfare. As this study demonstrates, these arguments promoting Desert Storm as a revolution in warfare are based more upon emotion than logic. After evaluating the Gulf War on a cognitive level, one finds it only appears a revolution when viewed as a single event. However a true revolution requires a sample size larger than one. Unless the Desert Storm victory is validated through time and repetition, talk of revolution is premature. Worse yet, inaccurately labeling the Gulf War a revolution could lead the U.S. military to develop a force structure which is unable to deal with the full gamut of twenty-first century threats. To evaluate Desert Storm on a cognitive level, this study uses Ulysses S. Grants 1864-65 American Civil War campaign to establish criteria against which to measure the Gulf War. By examining this campaign, one finds a revolution in warfare is marked by an enduring change in the fundamental elements of warfare time, space and mass. Air power devotees make a compelling argument that technology and intellectual advances allowed planners to utilize a strategy of paralysis which did indeed alter the basic elements of warfare in the Gulf. While this may be true, this paper reveals Desert Storm still will not satisfy the full criteria for revolution in warfare until it passes a test of time. Since this criterion can only be judged through historical retrospection, it will be many years before one can determine if Operation Desert Storm represents a true revolution.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

Distribution Statement:

[A, Approved For Public Release]