ABSTRACT

From the earliest strategic air attacks of World War I to the heavy emphasis USAF planners placed in 1990–91 on the Iraqi electric power system as a key strategic centre of gravity in Operation ‘Desert Storm’, air forces have frequently considered enemy electric power systems as vital strategic targets.1 Some have seen the primary value of such attacks in the degradation they cause in the enemy’s industrial and military capability, while others have emphasised their potential influence on the enemy’s morale and political resiliency.2 Targeting electricity has not been without controversy, however, and the destruction of the Iraqi electric power system during the Second Gulf War raised questions about the results, both intended and unintended. The intent of this essay is threefold. First it will trace the historical development of targeting electricity; next it will attempt to assess the effectiveness of attacks on the Iraqi electric power grid during the Gulf War; and finally it will project the potential utility of such attacks in the future.