Unlike earlier wars, this one has no Jerries or Charlies, no commies or cocaine kings. For Desert Storm, the enemy is personified in a single hated visage: Saddam Hussein.
For most U.S. troops, their war is not about oil or ideals but rather a lone megalomaniac. The heavily armed Iraqis across a desert no man's land are viewed by many as reluctant victims of their common nemesis.The commander in chief, President George Bush, calls it "the war against Saddam." In almost every interview, servicemen echo his sentiment, describing their foe in the singular.
"This is about Saddam," said Chief Warrant Officer Roy Lester of the 82nd Airborne Division. "It's like when you see a snake in the grass. You kill it. The Iraqis are just following orders."
Another paratrooper put it succinctly: "We're gonna kick his butt, sir."
Focusing on Saddam fits into the American penchant for identifying foreign entanglements with a single leader, as with Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran, Moammar Gadhafi in Libya and Manuel Noriega in Panama.
But the Iraqi despot is considered in a class by himself, a symbol of evil incarnate unmatched since Adolf Hitler poisoned himself in a Berlin bunker nearly 50 years ago.
Even seasoned analysts of world affairs lay the blame for Iraq's deadly power play squarely at its leader's feet.
Saddam, in turn, has blamed the war on the aggression of "the Satan Bush." Perhaps the residents of Baghdad and the Iraqi troops, pounded from above day after day by the U.S.-led forces, have the same singleminded hatred for the U.S. president that Americans are concentrating on Saddam.
Saddam is known as a man who began as a teenage assassin, a ruthless and cunning opportunist who rose to the top by murder and deceit.
As president of Iraq, he quietly amassed chemical weapons and used them not only on Iranians but also on Iraqis, recalcitrant Kurds in the north of his country.
He purified his officer corps with summary executions. Last year, he hanged as a spy a British journalist of Iranian extraction.
In the Desert Storm rear echelons, hostility toward Saddam has an edge of black humor.
At Christmas time, the hot item among U.S. information officers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, was a cheap day-glo plastic bust of Saddam suitable for smashing with a stick like a Mexican pinata.
T-shirts and baseball caps proclaim "Saddam Busters." Caricatures of the familiar mustachioed face decorate walls.
Out in the desert, or on flight lines, however, Saddam is no joke. At least one tank is rolling north with "Hussein's Nightmare" painted on its cannon barrel. More than one bomb has Saddam's name on it.
Men hold him responsible not only for endangering the world but also for condemning them to leave their families for months of anguish and hardship.
When the war moves from the air to the ground and contact with the enemy becomes more personal, the hatred many U.S. warriors focus exclusively on Saddam likely will extend with more intensity to his soldiers.
But, for now, as Marine Lt. Col John Himes said, "This is no longer a conflict between world powers and Saddam Hussein. This has become a personal thing."
Himes, a battalion executive officer from Dayton, Ohio, explained:
"You coop Marines up, deprive them of their freedom, liberty, families and special occasions, and how could it not become something personal? When we come to get him, he's got to understand that."