Life from above? An investigation into the genesis and deployment of no-fly zones during the 1990s

Thumbnail Image
O'Brien, Liam David
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
University College Cork
Published Version
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
This thesis examines how the “no-fly zone” emerged as a distinct and recognisable foreign policy tool in the years immediately following the Gulf War. Based primarily on a close reading of archival sources collected from the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, and the British National Archives at Kew, London, it provides a detailed analytical narrative of how key officials in the George H.W. Bush administration, along with their British and French allies, came to “invent” no-fly zones over Iraq as they grappled with Saddam Hussein’s post-Gulf War survival and resurgence. By providing the first monograph-length, primary source-based investigation of these events, this thesis demonstrates that the creation of the first no-fly zone over Kurdish-held northern Iraq in April 1991 was not a conscious, humanitarian decision by Bush and his advisers, as often claimed, but instead the first, initially self-serving act in the untidy, gradual emergence of a concept now frequently discussed, but rarely understood, by observers of US foreign policy. As this thesis documents, from the beginning the relationship between the ban on Iraqi flights over northern Iraq and the Kurdish people on the ground was more complicated, and less altruistic, than many assumed, and by the Bush administration time had decided to create a second no-fly zone, over southern Iraq, in August 1992, its motives had shifted entirely. Frustrated with Hussein’s stubborn endurance, Bush and his advisers planned the new no-fly zone as part of their effort to “win back the peace” in post-war Iraq, cynically using humanitarian rhetoric to sell an operation premised on punishing the Iraqi president with military force. As will be shown, a rushed, heedless planning process ensured the wider plan faltered, leaving behind the no-fly zone over southern Iraq as a vain, long-lasting reminder of the Bush administration’s failure.
No-fly zones , US foreign policy , George H.W. Bush administration
O'Brien, L. D. 2022. Life from above? An investigation into the genesis and deployment of no-fly zones during the 1990s. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
Link to publisher’s version